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Max Holloway brought back sparring for UFC 300, says fighting Justin Gaethje ‘like going through the gates of hell’

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Max Holloway had his long-term health in mind when he decided to cut out hard sparring from his training camps, but that changed for UFC 300.

“For Justin Gaethje, this is like going through the gates of hell,” Holloway said Monday on The Pat McAfee Show. ”We had to bring sparring back. I had to cut the hair. We had to go back to the old ways. We did sparring. We got after it. Shout out to my teammates, shout out to my coaches. We did the damn thing with this one.”

In the past, Holloway said sparring just caused too many issues, especially when he was going to war with his teammates during those sessions. According to Holloway, he wasn’t learning or preparing as much as he was just throwing down with a fight in the gym, rather than doing anything to actually help him get ready for a specific opponent.

“Before, we gave up sparring. Just like how you said, because we have so many wars,” Holloway said. “I’ve been training so long that I felt like we just needed to be able to move with some of these guys. Even with my training partners, if we start going hard and they’ve got to give me a certain look, or me, if I’ve got to give a certain look to someone and I start getting beaten up and I know my look is going to be better than the look that I need to give, I’m going to go to that because no one likes to lose, at the end of the day.

“We were doing this sparring where it’s like [at a certain speed], so these guys could give me the look that I needed.”

The new approach paid off after Holloway produced one of his best performances to date with a largely dominant performance against a top lightweight contender in Gaethje.

Despite being up on the scorecards and cruising toward a unanimous decision win, Holloway still risked it all by stomping his way to the center of the cage, pointing toward the floor, and inviting Gaethje to throw down with him.

It turns out that was the plan all along, no matter if he winning or losing on Saturday night.

“You’re fighting for the ‘BMF’ title,” Holloway said. “None of us are stepping back. We’re just throwing, coming to each other. It’s the ‘BMF’ title. What did you expect? I think it’s understood, especially with Gaethje. I was telling myself, whoever [is winning in] that last 10 seconds, I was going to point down and swing for the fences.

“Just being able to share the octagon with him, he’s a legend. I don’t know if I’m ever going to share the octagon with him again, and UFC 300, the biggest card for probably the next decade, the ‘BMF’ title — if this is not ‘BMF’ worthy, I don’t know what is.”

In the end, Gaethje got the worst of it as Holloway scored a dramatic, last-second knockout to end the fight, however the new “BMF” champion didn’t walk away unscathed.

UFC CEO Dana White noted post-fight that Holloway’s leg had some gnarly swelling from all the kicks he absorbed from Gaethje. Holloway confirmed Monday that was what hurt most.

“His kicks, the guy kicks like a donkey,” Holloway said. “I don’t know what, a kangaroo. The guy kicks hard.”

Holloway has no problem dealing with a limp for a few days given the results in his fight, which also afforded him a $600,000 bonus as a reward for his performance.

At this point, Holloway confessed that he’s probably seen the knockout hundreds of times because it’s just unavoidable. As much as he loves that moment, Holloway may have enjoyed the reaction he witnessed from other fighters watching the event even more.

“It’s just amazing,” Holloway said. “Amazing to see people react, and then to see my peers react is even more crazy. Watching fighters geek out like fans, it’s a pretty cool thing to see. To hear Joe Rogan talk about it like that. Even Dana White — Dana White said that’s the craziest holy s*** moment ever he’s probably going to see for a long time.

“Hopefully we can top it. Everybody always thinks that there’s one moment, but hopefully we can replicate it and do even better.”

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