UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway may be from Hawaii, but his connection to Toronto remains strong.
The 27-year-old captured the interim title more than two years ago in Toronto, defeating former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis at UFC 206. He returned to “The Six” at the end of last year, successfully defending his featherweight title against Brian Ortega at UFC 231.
Along the way, Holloway became a massive Toronto Raptors fan. He recently posted a reaction video,hem on this postseason as the team advanced to its first NBA Finals.
Much of the credit for the Raptors’ success has gone to Kawhi Leonard, and Holloway says the forward has had an impact on him.
“(Leonard) said one of the most awesome things I’ve heard an athlete ever say,” Holloway told theScore. “Someone told him, ‘Do you feel like you’re the best player in the NBA right now?’ he said, ‘I don’t care, I want to be the best team.'”
That’s what I believe. Everybody sees me fighting one guy and I win the belt. But they don’t see the team that’s behind me. I got so many guys who sacrifice so much for me. My coaches, my training partners, my own family. They all sacrificed a lot for me and it’s a team thing. When I hear that, it’s very inspiring. Not only is his court stuff inspiring, but off the court too.”
Holloway has also kept in touch with Raptors general manager Bobby Webster throughout the playoffs, who hails from Hawaii too.
“I texted him throughout every game, harassing him. The guy’s just a good dude, I’m happy for him, I’m happy for the organization. I can’t wait. I’m happy for (superfan Nav Bhatia), I think that guy’s a legend. So it’s going to be sick.”
Even though the Raptors may not be favored to win their NBA Finals matchup against the Golden State Warriors, Holloway didn’t hesitate to make a bold prediction.
“I got six games again. Why not beat them in Golden State? I think we take the first two, we might win one away, and they might win one at ours. That’s the plan.”
Holloway (20-4) enters his July 27 title defense against Frankie Edgar coming off a loss.
He moved up a weight class aiming to become a two-division champion, fighting Dustin Poirier at UFC 236 for the interim lightweight title. Holloway wound up losing a decision and didn’t want to give any excuses for the defeat. Now returning to 145 pounds, Holloway said he’s working with the Toronto Raptors’ nutritionist for his weight cut.
“We’ve been in talks with them and this Raptors thing is deep,” he said. “It’s deeper than (on the surface). My manager (set this up), and I’ve got the best manager in the game, he’s been killing it.”
Edgar (23-6-1) hasn’t competed since an April 2018 victory over Cub Swanson, securing a title shot despite this matchup falling through twice. Through 30 career fights, the New Jersey native has only been finished once.
That’s why Holloway predicts we could see a five-round war when the two square off in Edmonton.
“(Edgar) is super durable. That (loss against Brian Ortega) he got finished, he got caught with a punch. It is what it is, it happens to the best of us. He got caught with a punch he didn’t see and put him out” Holloway said. “That ain’t me. How many times do you guys see me catch with punches and put them out. I’m a different type of guy. I’m just going in there to try and best him. If I get a finish, I get a finish. If not I’m going to be in there for five rounds. I’m in for the marathon.”
UFC 240 takes place July 27 at Rogers Place in Edmonton. Tickets go on sale this Friday.
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