It's not everyday you get to train with a UFC fighter, but we got that opportunity when Max "Blessed" Holloway visited Manila last week.
Holloway is one of the UFC's elite at 145 lbs. He's currently riding the division's longest active win streak at nine-straight wins, and he's ranked No. 3 amongst UFC featherweights, behind only Jose Aldo, Jr. and Conor McGregor. His tenacity in the Octagon and dynamic fighting style have made him a force to be reckoned with; in fact, he's having trouble finding opponents as they're all too happy to call out anybody but him.
"Blessed" is one bad dude, making it all too surreal when we found ourselves training with him last Friday at CrossFit MNL at the SM Mall of Asia.
Holloway took us through some MMA basics and made time to answer our questions. It didn't turn us into MMA badasses just like that, but we felt like we were and we learned plenty. Here are some of the lessons we picked up that apply both inside and outside the Octagon:
You gotta keep pace
Whether you're learning a new grappling technique, fighting in the Octagon, or trying to secure that office promotion, you gotta keep with the times and not get left behind.
"Look at this sport two years ago and today: it's different," said Holloway. "You need to grow with the sport or you get left behind. And I'd be damned if I'm getting left behind. I want to be the front leader of this sport. When I got into mixed martial arts, I was a striker. I lived and breathed my striking. But I ain't no dummy. You gotta be smart. There's wrestling, jiu-jitsu, judo, and the list goes on. And you gotta be smart and respect every discipline."
Think of the long run
In this day and age of instant messaging and instant everything, it's easy to fall into habit of looking for instant gratification: Give a little, gain a little. But that mentality in fighting or in life won't pay off in the long run.
"I like Muay Thai fighting," Holloway says. "But Muay Thai fighters, their style is to hit someone, get hit, and then return the hit. I don't know about you guys, but I don't wanna to be the guy when I'm 40 years old, crying about how banged up my body is and being almost a vegetable, almost like a noodle. I want to hit someone and not get hit. It's about being smart."
Holloway knows what his end goal is. It's not just a UFC title; it's sound health even after fighting. Because of that goal, he fights smarter and avoids 67 percent of significant strikes thrown his way. Obviously, Holloway is on the right track towards his end goal.
Get rid of your excuses
When he was just starting out, "Blessed" would often run to his gym that was almost seven miles away just so he could learn MMA. Now, he's touring the world as one of the UFC's top fighters, and he owes it all to the fact that he didn't let circumstances dictate his actions.
"If you want to be the best doctor, you don't gotta go to the best doctor school," says the Hawaiian fighter. "I came from a garage gym. In my first pro fights, I was [fighting] out of a garage gym. But it's not about where you train; it's about how you train. If you want something bad, then you can go out and get it, go do it. Stop using excuses. The world ain't against you. No one owes you shit. And if you want a certain life, go and live it."
Don't listen to the haters
The 24-year-old may have plenty of fans now, but he had to get past a lot of haters along the way. He says that even some family members doubted his dream of becoming a true UFC contender, but he worked through that doubt and is now at the cusp of a potential title shot.
"People who tell you that you cant do it are people who listen to other people who told them that. And they believed it. If you have a dream, go and get it. If you want something, get it. If you want it bad enough, go outwork the competition."
"I want to tell my future kids that daddy tried," he adds. "I gave it my all, I didn't be like, 'I could've did this; I could've did that.' Cuz those types of persons irritate the shit outta me. Cuz if you coulda did it, you shoulda did it."