From Test cricket to cage fighting for bankrupt Hollioake

BANKRUPT former England cricket captain Adam ‘‘Big Smoke’’ Hollioake says he will fight for love not money when he competes at the world premiere of Combat 8 at Newcastle Panthers on September 1.

The Australian-born 40-year-old, who skippered England’s one-day side and played four Tests, has agreed to fight Wollongong boxer Daniel Jones in the modified style of fighting developed in Newcastle.

The concept, which eliminates knees, elbows and kicks but allows limited ground fighting, will bring together mixed martial artists and boxers to discover who will prevail.

Hollioake, who lives on the Gold Coast with wife Sherryn and their three children, won his only professional bout as a boxer, knocking out Lee Blacka, but had a draw in his only MMA fight, against Queensland’s Joel Millar, in May.

He will not be the best fighter on the card at Newcastle Panthers, but he is sure to be among the most watched.

As well as making the leap from cricket to cage fighting, Hollioake has made headlines for his financial battles.

He was declared bankrupt a year ago in Queensland Supreme Court after Perth property development company Hollioake Group Pty Ltd, run by Hollioake, his father John and sister Eboni, collapsed owing $20million to more than 40 creditors. Among them is former England Test captain Alec Stewart, who is owed more than £400,000.

But Hollioake, who led Surrey to three County championships, said the shot at professional fighting had nothing to do with his well documented money troubles.

He said he was feeding an ambition he had held all his life.

‘‘I’ve pretty much boxed since I was 12,’’ Hollioake told the Herald yesterday from his Gold Coast home. ‘‘I wanted to be a professional boxer back when I was playing cricket but mum and dad wouldn’t let me.

‘‘They didn’t know I was actually fighting. I would sneak out when I was at boarding school and fight, but when they found out they pretty much put an end to it.

‘‘But I got away with it for three years, so that was pretty good.

‘‘I played rugby, cricket – like all kids I played all sports – just somehow or other I ended up playing cricket, which is what I least liked out of all of them.’’

The former all-rounder, whose brother Ben, also an English international cricketer, died in car accident in 2002, said his financial woes were not a factor in his fighting career.

‘‘It has been a tough time but that’s been more the view of other people – everyone else is more worried about me losing money than I am,’’ he said.

‘‘Everyone’s much more interested in it.

‘‘For me it’s just money. Money comes and goes. There’s been times when I’ve been wealthy, and other times where I’ve been poor.

‘‘Of course I’d rather be rich, but I’ve been through far worse things in my life, like losing a brother and my best mate.

‘‘It puts it in perspective. It’s a bit of a blip compared to that – they’re real problems.

‘‘My kids are healthy and I’m happily married, those things are great.’’

A self-confessed fighting tragic, he took up brazilian jiu-jitsu 10 years ago and has since moved into other realms of MMA.

Asked why, at 40, he would take on the brutal sport for little or no money, he said: ‘‘I just have a genuine love for it.

‘‘A lot of people who don’t know me, it must seem like the strangest thing in the world – a Test cricketer doing cage fighting.

‘‘But those who do know me, my personality and what I love, they’re like ‘why has it taken so long to do it’.’’

He was excited by the concept of Combat 8 and equated it to cricket’s modern spin.

‘‘I love the idea of anything new,’’ he said.

‘‘I was one of the few people who liked the idea of Twenty20 before it happened in cricket. I love change.

‘‘Combat 8 is the exciting version of MMA because they’ve taken out the bits some onlookers might think are boring – the holds and grappling – and made it more viewer friendly.’’

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