HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Waianae Boy Max Holloway defended his world title against Jose Aldo this past weekend. He says a lot of credit goes to his coaches because of what they taught him about fighting and about life in general.
"I was just this rascal Waianae kid, just thinking like, 'No, no, F-this. F-that. I'm just a bad boy.' And it changed my mind when I came towards them," Holloway said.
Holloway always finds a way to thank his coaches: Rylan Lizares, Ivan Flores and Darren Yap.
"I'll always go to Rylan, Darren and Ivan and give them the situations and be like 'this, this and this.' And they'll be look, look, look Max. Now let's look at it from their point of view," said Holloway.
Max won't say what specific areas of his life they helped him with, but he does point out his nickname changed from 'Little Evil' to 'Blessed.'
"A lot of people might think like hey you're not my Dad, you can't tell me how to spend my money or what to do with my relationship." Lizares said. "But the fact that you can listen, you can take it in and find your own way, just like he does with the techniques, again - ultra coachable and becomes the total package."
Lizares is the owner of Gracie Technics Jiu Jitsu Academy. He says about six years ago another fighter brought Holloway into the gym. But he didn't really notice Max until March of 2011, when he fought locally for the X-1 title.
"I saw that he was fighting Harris Sarimento and he's like a Hawaii MMA veteran and Max had only three fights at the time," said Lizares. "And in my head I'm thinking like wow man, they're just gonna feed this kid to the sharks. He eventually put on an amazing performance, he got a unanimous win and the X1 title. So, at that point I already knew there was something special about him."
In 2013, Lizares introduced Holloway to Flores, a muay thai striker. Ivan helped him train on short-notice for a fight with eventual UFC champ Connor McGregor.
"I think he got a four week notice or something like that. So, I came in and he got the call I'm a southpaw - McGregor's a southpaw and I got like two weeks of sparring in with Max to give him some looks as a southpaw and a couple of other southpaws here," Flores said.
Granted, Holloway lost that fight. But that was the last time. And remember - that was more than four years ago. So, what is it about Max that makes him great? For starters - he's coachable and he learns fast.
"Maybe, for most of us it takes 500 repititions of a technique in a sparring setting - Max can probably do it 20 times and then do it. Maybe it takes a hundred repitiions and he can do it like in a world title fight," Lizares said.
"I tell people that he's like a box like a fight computer, his processor gets stronger every training camp, every single fight. He's not just out there training and then he leaves and flips the switch off," said Flores. "He turns the switch off when he has to, to give himself some downtime but he's an absolute fan of the game. So he's out there studying on his own - he's watching fights, breaking down people as well."
Knowledge is great, but the fight game is grueling - and that's where Max stands out. Whether he's in or out of camp, he's always training.
"Every single year in a row, this case being, we're in fight camp," Lizares said. "There's a fight coming up - you can't enjoy. Almost every single year, he gave up Christmas, New Year's and even the coaches because we're all together."