Two weeks ago, Holly Holm was an unknown. That changed on November 15, when the former boxing champion knocked out Ronda Rousey at UFC 193, shocking the so-called experts who pegged her as a 16-1 underdog and taking the Bantamweight title in the process.
Now, Holm is everywhere. But in a lot of ways, she’s still living in that moment when her left leg caught Rousey’s head and sent the undefeated icon crumbling to the mat. The moment an unheralded fighter became the new face of UFC.
“It’s one of those moments you dream about: ‘If this is the big fight, how awesome would it be if I won in devastating fashion?’ And it happened,” she says. “It takes a minute to soak in; I can’t believe we’ve come this far, but I also think I’ve been working really hard – and hard work pays off.
“When I first heard I’d be fighting Ronda, I thought, ‘Really? Already? I didn’t think it would be this soon – my third fight in the UFC – but hey, lets do it,'” Holm continues. “My coaches told me the whole time, ‘Holly, you’re going to be able to time her, we know it…’ and, then during the fight, they stopped instructing me and said, ‘Stay focused, because the game plan’s working.'”
And work it did. Holm dominated Rousey throughout, and ended the fight 59 seconds into the second round – an upset to everyone but her and her team at Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA, a camp that has helped groom notable UFC champions like Jon Jones, Georges St-Pierre and Rashad Evans.
“I started doing MMA and boxing at the same time – I always wanted to try an MMA fight, to see what it was like. I had one fight and I was hooked,” Holm says. “I’d see people being really successful, whether it was my teammates or big-name fighters like Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson, and I’d think, ‘I want to be a legend like that.'”
Of course, before she can become a legend, Holm must first establish a legacy. She knows that starts by proving her UFC 193 win was no fluke, which is why she’s ready to defend her Bantamweight title against all challengers. And, yes, that definitely includes Rousey.
“Is [Ronda] going to come back hard? Ten times as hard. She’s going to want to avenge that loss, and I get that. But I’ve been on that side before, so I’m going to be ready,” Holm says. “I still have a lot to learn, and I still have a lot to prove. I’m constantly trying to get better – that fight’s in the past.”
Video by Ashley Maas.