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Cricketer to cage-fighter

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Sam Sheringham | 18:29 UK time, Wednesday, 18 April 2012

During his cricketing career with Surrey and England, Adam Hollioake faced up to some of the fiercest fast bowlers the game has ever seen.

Now, he's taking on a whole new breed of opponent, but one equally intent on inflicting physical damage.

Four years after hanging up his cricket spikes for good, the former England one-day captain is embarking on a career as a professional boxer and cage-fighter in Queensland, Australia.

Having already fought once as a boxer - knocking his opponent out in the fourth round on Friday - Hollioake will make his Mixed Martial Arts debut (the official name for cage-fighting) in the Days of Glory promotion on 5 May.

"I think a lot of people think 'why are you doing this?'" says Hollioake. "But there's nothing stranger that the fact that it's something that I love.

"I hate golf, which is what most cricketers play, so I've got to try to find something as a pastime that works for me."

Adam Hollioake

Adam Hollioake played four Tests and 35 one-day internationals for England before retiring in 2004. Photo: Getty

Hollioake, 40, has always had a passion for fighting sports, and had boxing lessons as a teenager, but the path to an unlikely career change began in 2010 when a broken ankle led him to fall out of shape.

"During the next four or five months I stacked on 15-20 kilos and although I tried going on diets the weight wasn't coming off," he recalls.

"My wife said to me 'you need a challenge'. She said I'm not vain enough to care about my appearance but I have a massive ego and hate losing so I needed to challenge myself into doing something to keep the weight off.

"So I got talking to a guy who does Jiu-Jitsu and is also a boxing coach. He said 'had I considered having a professional fight?'

"Another friend of mine is involved in the Mixed Martial Arts scene here on the Gold Coast. He said it wouldn't be hard for me to put it all together and fight as a pro."

Months of training and sparring followed, with Hollioake regularly rising at 5.30am to begin his strength and conditioning work.

"The training is really hard, but short," says Hollioake. "It's not like a 10km jog, where you feel comfortable the whole way through. In this, you blast yourself for 15 minutes, training at 100%. Stuff that is so intense that it makes you throw up.

"I've always been an impatient person. That's why I struggled in Test matches and preferred the 50-over stuff. And then when Twenty20 came along, I was like 'now we're talking!'"

Despite the training being a far cry from a gentle afternoon net session, Hollioake says cage-fighting and cricket have more similarities than may initially meet the eye.

"In fighting, as in cricket, if someone has the upper had on you it becomes a bit more daunting and you have to dig deep," he says.

"But if you are feeling confident in yourself and you are facing a fast bowler you are not physically scared and you just back your ability."

After captaining Surrey to three county championship titles and playing in four Tests and 34 one-day internationals, Hollioake retired in 2004 and moved back to Australia, the country of his birth.

He immersed himself in charity and media work and set up a property development business.

The recession hit his business hard, however, and Hollioake made the headlines last year when the collapse of his company led to him being declared bankrupt by a Brisbane court.

Nine months on and Hollioake says he is starting to get his finances back in order, although he insists the move into fighting is not financially motivated.

"I only got paid $1,000 Aussie (£647) for my first boxing fight which is probably about a week's food bill for me and my three kids," he says.

"I'm just trying to get myself back on my feet. I've got a little bit of property, some promotional products and some phone applications based on training which I'm about to launch.

"As for the fighting, I don't know where it's going to go. I might win and never want to fight again or I might lose and want to carry on fighting for the rest of my life.

"I'm not thinking any further ahead than tomorrow because I might wake up tomorrow and think I don't want to fight any more."


  • Comment number 1.

    Glad the BBC has finally started to acknowledge MMA, even if it is Australian MMA. Let's just hope he's not going down the Jose Canseco route.

  • Comment number 2.

    Adam Hollioake vs Sony Bill that is a fight that would sell!!

  • Comment number 3.

    Almost £650 a WEEK for one adult and 3 children for FOOD. What are they eating? Zebras and giraffes?!?! Crazy.

  • Comment number 4.

    I might declare myself bankrupt then. We manage on $600 a week and I feed the wife as well.

  • Comment number 5.

    Probably not the most common hobby to take up for a cricketer but fair play to him. I do think the £650 is a bit steep for a weeks shopping, I don't spend that in a month on food!

    Good luck with the fight though and hopefully the BBC will report on whether or not he wins.

    Also, hope that his brother's Memorabilia is all returned safely to where it belongs! Scum that took it!

  • Comment number 6.

    Never got the media fascination of these two. Tragic what happened to his brother etc. But both flattered to decieve imvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvho at cricket (says me!! :-) ) and now we should get excited about some 40 year old guy making an MMA debut??

    Hmm. Not sure.

  • Comment number 7.

    "I've always been an impatient person. That's why I struggled in Test matches.....'"

    This is the only reason, I can see, that Hollioake struggled in tests!!!

  • Comment number 8.

    The Aussie $ has gone from over 3 to the pound to 1.5 to the pound in a few years - mainly due to the foreign exchange brought in by mining companies. $1000 Aussie doesn't buy you any more in Australia now than it did when it was worth 300 quid. So comparison with sterling is pretty meaningless. Was it Hollioake who was sledged by Mark Waugh on his way to the crease "Mate, you're not good enough to play for England" and replied "Maybe not but at least I'm the best at cricket in my family !"

  • Comment number 9.

    Fingers crossed he gets sparked.

  • Comment number 10.


    That was one of the best cricket sledges ever - but it didnt involve Hollioake. It actually occured when little-known England batsman James Ormond (who?) arrived at the crease during a Test match in 2001. Mark Waugh said

    "Look who it is. Mate, what are you doing out here? There's no way you're good enough to play for England."

    Quick as you like, Ormond said:

    "Maybe not, but at least I'm the best player in my family."


  • Comment number 11.

    Jimmy Ormond was a bowler, and he really was quite rubbish..... anytime I think England are doing badly these days I think back to the early-mid nineties (well pretty much the whole of the nineties to be honest!!) and I realise it's not all that bad ;)

  • Comment number 12.

    Fat Jimmy was never an international but he’ll always be remembered for that line, fantastic. As I recall he did pretty well for the brown hatters when they were buying Championships a few years ago and Hollioake was a giant for them despite also being short of top class. A good example of how much central contracts and an independent coaching structure have done for the England team.

  • Comment number 13.

    £647 per week on food??? How much do they eat in his house?

  • Comment number 14.

    I think the line about food was a joke (Adam's a famously big eater) but has been lost somewhere over the pacific. I remember the first time I saw Ben play for Surrey and thinking he had everything. He was an athlete with so much natural ability. Adam was not as blessed but was a fantastic captain. Both had that laid-back, Aussie attitude to life. It comes across in what Adam says even about going bankrupt. Good luck to him.

  • Comment number 15.

    I don't think he spends a lot on food per week. Mind you, me and my family have a particular penchant for unicorn fillets.

  • Comment number 16.

    Blimey a cage-fighting blog!

    I think Tuffers ought to give it a go.

  • Comment number 17.

    Just wanted to add my 2pence worth about the Waugh sledge.

    All things considered it would have been an odd thing for Adam to say. His late brother Ben was far more gifted at cricket than Adam. If the sledge took place after Ben's death then it would've fallen very flat.

  • Comment number 18.

    13 & 17 - Read the responses before you comment, not that many of them!

  • Comment number 19.

    What is the great attraction with Hollioake taking up MMA. Australian cage fighting is the same as British cage fighting and American wrestling - fixed. It is not a sport it is "sports entertainment" (and not really very entertaining anyway).

  • Comment number 20.

    In the article, he made light of the fact he put on weight recently.

    It is fairly obvious to even the most hard of thinking observer that the $1000AUS feeding him and his three kids for a mere week was a self deprecating dig at his gastronomic propensity.

    And it's to his credit.

  • Comment number 21.

    19. - You clearly havent watched MMA? American Wrestling yes - but not MMA!

  • Comment number 22.

    19: Do you know what MMA is? American("Professional") Wrestling is fixed, but still very physical. MMA is a REAL fight and INCREDIBLY physical.

  • Comment number 23.

    650 pounds is a pretty average amount for food with a family of 5 in Australia. If you think that is bad, pints can be 7 pounds and a pub/restaurant standard meal is 15 pounds. Then again, Australian can't complain as students can earn 18 pounds an hour working in a bar.

  • Comment number 24.

    if he just started BJJ training last year he is still gonna be pretty vulnerable.

  • Comment number 25.

    It's sad to read that Hollioake has fallen on hard times. Perhaps Surrey could arrange some sort of benefit match for an ex-captain that did so much for the county.


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