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At 22-years-old, most of us weren’t doing a whole hell of a lot. Some were in school trying to get a meaningless degree, while others were finding their way in the workforce. It’s that odd age where you’re still evolving from an adolescent into an adult, while trying to figure out what kind of person you want to be.
For some, the transition is easier than for others. The UFC’s Max Holloway just took part in his fourth fight of 2014 (a considerably high workload for any professional fighter), his 10th UFC bout, and the 14th bout of his professional MMA career. He doesn’t turn 23 until December. That takes dedication.
Fighting often at a young age is a strategy many young fighters take part in, both to improve their skills and show off what they`ve learned in the gym.
From a fan’s perspective, seeing fighters constantly improve is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the sport. Unlike an established star with an established move set, young fighters like Holloway are still finding themselves as a fighter, which means they are bringing an advanced move set to the cage with each bout.
With his September win over Akira Corassani, Holloway upped his winning streak to four straight fights, launching himself into the UFC’s top 15.
His losses in his career have been rare, with his only UFC defeats coming at the hands of top contenders Dustin Poirier, a split decision loss to Dennis Bermudez and a decision loss to rising star Conor McGregor, who no one else has seen the second round with inside the Octagon.
He’s a fighter who uses his tools to his advantage. He is 5’11” and has a wingspan of 70 inches. By those measurements, you’d expect him to weigh closer to 185lbs. His thin frame and discipline allow him to keep the weight down, which gives him an advantage over most opponents.
For young fighters, competing often has become the only proven method to improving. Although gym time is helpful and sharpening new techniques will make someone more dangerous in the cage, there are many things which take place in the Octagon that simply cannot be emulated in practice.
If you’re a young fighter and you’re healthy, why not compete? The prime of a fighter’s life is so short, it seems illogical not to compete as often as possible.
Poirier is a great example of a young fighter competing often, and improving for his efforts. Although coming off a loss, he’s shown a significantly improved skillset. Only 25, he’s likely to emerge as a star in the featherweight division in the coming years.
Although a little older, lightweight Donald Cerrone has also shown advanced skills thanks to competing frequently. In 2011, Cerrone competed five times. In 2013 and 2014, he fought four times. It’s a heavy workload, and although his motives might be more financially based, he’s shown a more well-rounded striking game and finishing ability thanks to his frequent cage time.
Holloway is on much the same path. He has his eyes set on potentially competing one more time in 2014, which would make it five appearances in the calendar year.
You can’t teach a fighter to be relaxed, and there’s not much a coach can do to help them calm their nerves. Ring time is the only thing that can help. Competing as many times as possible before reaching their prime will only help a fighter be prepared for the bigger fights that come later in a career.
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