Max Holloway Reveals Bout with Depression Following Turbulent 2018

UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway dealt with a bout of depression following a string of events that cost him two different fights in 2018 and left him searching for answers

Max Holloway didn’t really know what depression was until just recently.

While the reigning UFC featherweight champion isn’t alone in having misconceptions about depression, he was caught off guard by his own bout with the illness after enduring a tough stretch during his career in 2018.

Last year was arguably the best for Holloway after he finally became UFC featherweight champion with a TKO against Jose Aldo and then he topped that performance with a second win over the Brazilian legend to solidify his spot atop the division a few months later.

It appeared that 2018 was going to be even better but Holloway suffered an injury at the start of the year that stopped his first planned title defense against Frankie Edgar in March. Holloway then accepted a short notice bout against Khabib Nurmagomedov that would have allowed him the opportunity to become a two-division champion but he was pulled from the fight just a day before it took place due to concerns over his weight cut.

Then in July, Holloway was ready to defend his title against Brian Ortega but this time a mystery condition that had him exhibited concussion like symptoms struck during fight week and he was once again pulled from the card.

Holloway then spent weeks trying to get answers from his doctors about what caused him to fall ill just before his fight but perhaps the most frustrating part was no one being able to figure out what happened.

Obviously, Holloway was happy to receive a clear bill of health but to this day, no physician has been able to diagnose what afflicted him during that fight week. Between that situation and everything else that compounded throughout the year, Holloway faced depression for the first time in his life and he finally understood what that illness finally meant.

“It took a little while to shake. I don’t know what it was exactly. I’m not too sure,” Holloway said when speaking to the UFC Unfiltered podcast. “I try not to think about it too much cause these last couple times is kind of crazy. I was actually talking about depression. I didn’t even know what depression was before. I thought depression was stop feeling bad for yourself. Then I kind of went through it, having the year I had last year and then this year, it’s kind of crazy.

“I’m here to say, the only way to get out of that is to bless yourself. You bless yourself and it’s you, keep continue to bless yourself, you can climb out of it. You can get out of it and don’t be scared to ask people for help.”

According to Holloway, he never underwent any kind of medical treatment to deal with his bout of depression but he eventually found the help he needed from those closest to him.

Holloway found out that shutting himself off from the people he loved the most was only exacerbating the situation he was facing.

“No medication at all. More, my medication was just being with my son,” Holloway explained. “Everybody was trying to reach out to me. If I didn’t want to talk to you, I wouldn’t talk to you unless I called you. People blowing up my phone or whatever, I didn’t talk to no one. I just had my son and my family. I was like what the hell am I doing?

“This is not something you fight alone. You’ve got to bless yourself for sure, it will get you to that point where you realize you need other people and I got great people in my life.”

Holloway found out that depression is an illness that can hit anybody — and especially when you least expect it, which is what happened to him earlier this year.

It gave him a whole new perspective on mental health and now Holloway is speaking out about his own story to let people know that it can happen to anybody.

“That was my first time. I didn’t know what depression was,” Holloway said. “I saw people depressed, I’d be like ‘what are you sad for, you’re living, you’re happy’. Then smack.”

Holloway has since turned the corner with his personal bout with depression and he’ll look to cap off his year in a positive way when he faces Brian Ortega in the main event at UFC 231 this Saturday night in Toronto.

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Damon Martin is a veteran mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the industry since 2003 with bylines on FOX Sports, CNN, Bleacher Report and numerous other outlets.