Max Holloway's 10-fight winning streak has been an arduous grind that has featured tests against a devastating puncher, a skilled mixed martial artist and an acrobatic former champion.
The journey leads Hawaii’s Holloway to Saturday night’s
"I'm not sure anything prepares you to walk into Rio [de Janeiro] in front of the Brazilian fans and do it," UFC president Dana White said. "I love the fact that Max was very into the fight being in Brazil."
Holloway's guile extends even beyond that.
At a recent meeting with reporters in Los Angeles, he pressed UFC officials to deliver more information about the most successful winning streaks in the company's history.
When told former light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones possesses the front-running active list of consecutive victories with 13, Holloway quickly wanted to know more.
"No, who has the all-time record?" Holloway asked. "That's the one I want."
Why not go after another Brazilian legend? Former middleweight champion Anderson Silva won 16 consecutive fights between 2006 and 2013.
"I'm a big believer that everything happens for a reason," said Holloway, 25, currently listed as the UFC's 12th-rated pound-for-pound fighter, even though he's only just now receiving his first title shot.
"It took 10 guys to finally get this title shot, and if it took 10 more, so be it. I'm a fighter. It's the way I make my living. I love it."
Holloway (17-3) hasn't lost since a 2013 UFC Fight Night bout against current lightweight champion Conor McGregor, a lucrative rematch he could build interest for by defeating the long-reigning champion whom McGregor knocked out in 13 seconds in late 2015.
Aldo responded to that humbling end to his 10-year unbeaten streak by impressively standing to outstrike former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar in a July meeting, then was given back his featherweight belt after McGregor took the lightweight belt in November by stopping Eddie Alvarez.
Holloway has revisited some of McGregor's mind games on Aldo in pressing for the match and daring to trek to Brazil, leaning on his winning streak for credibility.
During the run, he's defeated four of the top-eight featherweights, stopping former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis in December; previously submitting gritty, skilled martial artists Andre Fili and Cub Swanson; and beating veterans Ricardo Lamas and Jeremy Stephens by decision.
Holloway pointed to his statistics as the best explanation for how he plans to defeat Aldo. While Holloway lands 43% of his attempted strikes, he's avoided 67% of punches thrown at him while avoiding 83% of takedown tries.
"You need confidence in everything you do. You've got to believe in yourself," Holloway said. "I always wanted to be great, to stick out like a sore thumb, and I'm here doing it.
"Do the damn thing. No one owes you nothing. If you want something, work hard and use the hate as fuel. It's a great feeling to say to people, 'I told you so … .' I just can't wait to have fun in there."
Holloway tiptoed the line between title-fight preparation and languishing during his nearly four-year-long unbeaten run.
"I wasn't going to cry about it. I still had bills, a mortgage, a son," said Holloway, who was raised without an abundance of parental guidance in a self-described area of "outcasts" outside Honolulu. "It shaped me. … We came from warriors … [but] I saw a lot of people with great talent not using it, falling apart, giving up their dreams. I was like, 'No, that's not me. I've got God-given talent. I'm going to use it to my full potential.'
"Now, the timing is right. There's one person who has believed in me: myself. Now, the whole city is talking about me."
White said the waiting process has played out well.
"Max has faced all the best in the world over his streak and has been in big fights. I think it has definitely prepared him for his showdown … against the greatest featherweight of all time, Jose Aldo," White said.