There is often a race in the mixed martial arts media to tag a fighter as the “Next Big Thing” to watch in the sport. MMA newcomer Maximilian Bohanan is due to make his debut at Ring of Combat 48 on Friday, May 16 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where he will attempt to ignore the pressure of being tagged with such a label because of his martial arts lineage. MMA Ratings writer Raphael Garcia had the opportunity to sit down with Bohanon to discuss his first contest and development in the sport:
How did you get into the sport of MMA?
Max Bohanan: It all started because of my interest in boxing. I used to watch the show “The Contender,” and after a while of watching that I stumbled onto MMA while watching TV. This was around the start of my freshman year in high school and I felt that this is something I could do.
Who are some of the names that you've trained under?
MB: I've been lucky to train under some great people. I started boxing with Goss and Goss in Trenton and then Master Lawrence in Tae Kwon Do. While in high school I started wrestling and then I had the opportunity to begin working with Ricardo Almeida, where I've been since.
In being a part of Ricardo Almeida's camp, who are some of the people you get to train with?
MB: I wouldn't say I have one specific group of training partners, but everyone at the academy helps me out. I get to train with Professor Almeida, Frankie Edgar, Frankie Perez, Chris Matakas, and Pete McHugh, but everyone helps me out at the academy in some form or fashion.
In leading up to your professional debut you've competed on a number of levels. What types of success have you had?
MB: I've competed a lot in Jiu Jitsu and boxing. In 2010 I won Worlds as a blue belt in the gi. In 2012 I came in second as a purple belt in the gi then won the competition in no gi. I've won a few other BJJ competitions as well. I'm also a Golden Gloves state champion.
How has competing at such a consistently high level helped you get ready for this fight?
MB: Being on so many big stages and competing against such opponents has helped me feel confident and comfortable while building up for this fight.
Do you feel any pressure?
MB: I would be lying if I said no. I get to train with some big names in the sport and they will be in my corner when it's time to fight. I deal with it basically by trying not to think about it.
How have you adapted to your first camp as a pro?
MB: Even though this is my first official camp, I've always felt like I've trained very hard. I work on my technique a lot, and working with Cornerstone Health and Wellness has me feeling great.
Why did you decide to wait for such an extended period of time before taking your fight?
MB: I wanted to have a more solid base in BJJ before taking the fight. I wanted to have that background and feel more comfortable within other competitions before taking a fight. When I got to that point, I felt like MMA would be the next step for me.
Even though it's early, what are some of your goals in the sport?
MB: Right now, my first goal is to get this fight over and done with. Eventually I'd like to make a mark in the sport as a representative for the BJJ aspect of mixed martial arts.
Who are some of the people in sports that you look up to?
MB: Obviously I look up to Ricardo and Frankie. Beyond them I've always liked Allen Iverson, John Stockton, and Magic Johnson. I always liked their style when they were playing basketball. They made it look like fun when they performed. In the end I want to be thought of the same way. I want to win for sure, but I want to remind people that this is an art form at the same time.
What were some of the other sports that you've played?
MB: I played basketball but that was way before MMA. I've also tried soccer, football, and ran track. I was a pretty athletic kid growing up.
What do you do outside of training?
MB: I enjoy going for bike rides, it helps get my mind off of a lot of things. Spending time with my mother and girlfriend also helps me relax and focus at the same time.
What would you like your legacy in the sport to be?
MB: I want to be known as someone who went in there and put on a show. Showed a lot of heart and displayed a lot of skill.
Years of training with some of the biggest names in mixed martial arts has helped Max Bohanan get prepared for the moment that is coming when he kicks off his professional career.