Holly Holm: The new bantamweight queen's rule begins at UFC 196
Holly Holm wants to turn the page. And she plans to do just that this Saturday night at UFC 196.
The former multi-time world champion boxer turned undefeated mixed martialist brought the sports world to a standstill on November 14, 2015 when she demolished UFC women's bantamweight phenom Ronda Rousey via head kick in the second round of their tilt at UFC 193. With "Rowdy's" exalted status and a persona previously believed to be invincible, Holm's devastating knockout immediately carved out what instantly became one of the most unforgettable moments in the 22-year-history of the promotion.
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The moment the former Olympian's body hit the canvas "The Preacher's Daughter" became a star before the women's 135-pound title could even could be strapped around her waist. And while Holm is quick to admit her epic performance in Australia isn't one she'll be forgetting anytime soon, the Albuquerque native is also a seasoned competitor and a newly crowned champion with a title to defend.
Years spent at the pinnacle of women's boxing provided a stern education that the proverbial show must always go on, and much like her approach inside the Octagon, Holm's focus is locked on always moving forward. She is the reigning queen of her division and what has been done in the past will do very little to help in her quest to keep that position intact.
"I don't want to feel like my career is defined by one fight," Holm said. "I don't want to be a one-hit wonder in this sport. Was it a huge victory? Yes. Was it the biggest moment of my life? Yes. But I can't be living my life off the memory of that one fight and have my mind stuck back in November. I have a very tough opponent in front of me now and another great fight directly in front of me. I'm prepared for the next step and ready for Miesha Tate.
"This is a huge fight for me against a very unpredictable opponent. She's a well-rounded fighter who is good in scrambles, good on her feet and has a strong wrestling background. She presents an entirely different game than Ronda or any other fighter I've ever been in there with. I need to be ready for her best game and I believe I am."
While Holm is slated to square off with the former Strikeforce women's bantamweight champion this weekend in Las Vegas, the road to UFC 196 came with a fair amount of twists and turns for the current title holder. Immediately following her victory over Rousey, UFC president Dana White publicly shared the organization's intentions to book an immediate rematch, which was news Holm and her camp weren't necessarily thrilled with.
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Not that the slick striker wasn't content for another go with Rousey—because she absolutely was—but Rousey's public struggles to deal with her first professional loss and a slew of obligations outside of the cage gave Holm and her team strong indications the Olympic bronze medal-winning judoka wouldn't be anywhere near ready to scrap in the timeframe Holm would be looking to return. Therefore, Holm's management pushed for a different opponent and the focus suddenly shifted to Tate, who had been champing at the bit for another shot at gold since her "promised title shot" faded into the ether at the end of 2015.
With her next fight set for March 5, Holm sets out to prepare for the dangerous weapons the former title challenger possesses, but her new role as champion created a few more obstacles the Mike Winkeljohn protégé had to juggle in the process.
"I wanted to keep moving and get back to work," Holm said. "The UFC was able to get a great opponent in front of me and that's where my focus is. It would have been great if Ronda [Rousey] would have been ready, but she has a lot of other things going on and other commitments. We figured that was going to be the case and started pushing for another fight right away because we didn't want to wait. Fighting is what I love to do and I'm passionate about so we had no interest in waiting around.
"I wanted to get right back to training and back to the gym. Yeah, it was kind of frustrating to keep being pulled away from training for media obligations but those things come with being the champion and I made the adjustments I needed to. I'm not sure if the media ever really stopped between fights because I went right from the victory tour to the on-sale tour, but I've remained diligent and I've definitely been able to get a lot of training in. I'm ready for this fight and to give a great performance on Saturday."
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And while Holm's focus is locked on what she will need to do to continue her reign over the women's 135-pound division, the reality of what she's accomplished thus far on her road to championship glory are finally starting to settle. Her rapid rise and an onslaught of cameras and flashing lights it has brought has made a large portion of her high-profile appearances blurred and dream-like, the one moment she was able to take in full was the day she returned to her home city after scoring the biggest victory of her career.
"I'm not sure if any fighter has ever been received the way I was when I returned to Albuquerque."
As an Albuquerque native Holm has always appreciated how much the people of the hard-scrabble New Mexico city have stood by her every step of her career, and in her mind, there wasn't anything better than to be able to share the ultimate goal their love helped her achieve.
"That day was one of those moments that is truly unexplainable," Holm said. "I'm not sure if any fighter has ever been received the way I was when I returned to Albuquerque and to feel all that love and warmth just made me feel so alive. It was such an emotional and overwhelming moment for me because those people have given me such tremendous support throughout my entire career and it felt amazing to be able to give something back to them. I want to keep making them proud of me."