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For his last title bout, a rematch against current UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski, Max Holloway was in COVID-19 lock down for most of his preparation.
In what may have been the first Zoom training camp for a UFC championship fight, Holloway used the video conferencing platform to liaise with his coaches. He didn’t actually see his team in person until a week before the fight, when they met up in Las Vegas to board a flight for Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.
“Everything we were doing [was] through Zoom,” Holloway told ESPN’s Ariel Helwani. “If you got caught at the gym, because there was lockdown and stuff, we all could have gotten arrested.
In between Zoom sessions and media interviews leading up to UFC 251, Holloway also had to homeschool his son, Rush, which led to a “challenging” and “difficult” training camp, but a successful one nonetheless. The ex-champion told Helwani that it was one of the best training camps he’s ever had and helped open up his eyes to new methods.
“I love sparring,” Holloway said. “But this camp actually opened my eyes. We don’t really have to spar that much anymore. We’re at that point in my career, I know how to punch, I know how to kick. I know how to apply it.”
Holloway ultimately lost the rematch against Volkanovski in a very close decision that many observers felt he won. To Max’s credit, he never once thought of delaying the fight despite the difficult circumstances.
We’re true fighters. Everybody likes to call us modern-day gladiators. A lot of fighters like to call themselves modern-day gladiators. But when it’s time to fight, it’s time to fight. I didn’t see no gladiators back in the day being like, ‘Oh wait, the lion I was training with was weak, so I need to go find a stronger lion.’Max Holloway heads to UFC 251 after ‘challenging’ no-sparring training camp | ESPN
Max Holloway’s training routine & diet
During pre-COVID times, Holloway’s fight camp looked completely different. Training usually started at 10.30am with a 2-hour wrestling session at Gracie Technics, a Honolulu-based Jiu-Jitsu gym managed by Rylan Lizares, one of Holloway’s coaches. From there, he headed to Tactical Strength & Conditioning where he works with Darin Yap, focusing on core work, plyometric exercises, cardio and sprints.
A typical weekly routine for Holloway’s strength & conditioning involves weight training, focusing on muscular endurance, on Mondays and Thursdays. Exercises include: squats, pull ups, lunges, hamstring curls, deadlifts, bench press, kettlebell swings and push ups. For Tuesdays and Fridays, Holloway works on training his hip mobility and shoulder stability, then finishes up with core work and conditioning.
“After his work at Tactical is done, he heads back to Gracie for two additional hours of work. The first comes with Lizares, who traveled with Holloway to Los Angeles for the week of the upcoming fight,” describes Ian Scheuring in a 2016 profile piece for Hawaii News.
“The two spend the first hour working on the gameplan Holloway intends to use against Lamas on Saturday. When that’s finished, Holloway joins a larger group to practice more on his jiu-jitsu, a work-out that won’t finish until after 7 p.m., more than eight hours after his first one started.”
To fuel his 8-hour long training days, Holloway started working with a nutritionist, Tyler Minton, in 2018 to better prepare for his fights. Minton joins the team during the last four weeks of each training camp so that Holloway can focus on his training without worrying about his nutrition.
Holloway described his typical daily meal plan in an interview with GQ:
I always eat before I go into a training session. It depends on how hard the workout’s going to be. A little harder workout, more carbs; not too hard a workout, a little more protein. It really changes. On a sparring day, I have these protein pancakes that Tyler makes for me, which I love. For lunch, we maybe do a lean protein—some fish or some type of 90-percent lean steak—and some potatoes. Dinner is kind of the same as lunch. We just change up the protein and the carbohydrates. That’s it. Anytime I do anything, he’s feeding me something—giving me that extra boost so I can push through those workouts.The Real-Life Diet of Max Holloway, Whose Top-Secret Recovery Shakes Keep Him in Fighting Shape | GQ
For Holloway, who’s well-known for his sweet tooth and love of Baked By Melissa cupcakes, cutting out junk food is usually the toughest part of training camp. Thankfully for the fighter, Minton has some tricks up his sleeves to help him get through the days.
“He’s been trying to step up his baking game this time around. He made this cheesecake thing,” Holloway said. “He also does an açaí bowl, and some dark-chocolate-and-peanut-butter stuff for me. I’ve got a sweet tooth—I’m probably the worst sweet-tooth fighter in the business, and he knows that.”
When it comes to his weight-cut, Holloway is already a big 145-lb fighter, but for UFC 223, it was at another level. After the total fiasco that was the planned headliner – Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson – Holloway volunteered to step in against the Dagestani fighter on 6 days notice, with no training camp.
As though facing arguably the greatest lightweight of all time was not enough of a challenge, Holloway had to cut down from over 180 pounds to 155-lbs. George Lockhart, his nutritionist at the time, described their strategy to meet the audacious goal in an interview with ESPN.
“You can’t lose that much weight — but you can cut that much weight. Losing weight is losing calories and your body leaning out. In this case we need to do both: lose weight and cut the water,” Lockhart explained.
“We’ll cook his food in coconut oil, sesame oil. We’ll get him seared ahi. He’s from Hawaii, he’ll like that. No carbs. We’ll give him some spinach or something like that, but no carbs that will fuel him. We want his meat portions to be the same. Let’s say I go from six ounces of chicken breast to four ounces. I may lose 40 to 60 calories, but if I increase the meat content and he’s able to run an extra 20 minutes, not only did I burn those calories, but also the water attached to it.”
When you talk about grind, this is what grind looks like. That’s what makes people champion, that’s what makes people different. You either want it or you kind of want it, and I want it all. I go out there, this kind of stuff needs to be done, you know, one step at a time. I’m not gonna let it conquer me, it might beat me down physically, mentally, but it’s never gonna break my will.A Day in the Life: Max Holloway’s Pre-UFC 199 Training Camp | Hawaii News
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