Only a handful of athletes in the world have experienced the highest level of competition in both boxing and MMA. Former UFC Women's Bantamweight champion Holly Holm is one of them.
Holm (11-3 MMA, 33-2-3 boxing) was a longtime standout in the boxing ring, winning multiple world titles and losing just twice in her 38-fight fight career. She then moved over the MMA and reached great heights there, as well. She won the UFC title in her 10th pro bout with a legendary knockout of Ronda Rousey at UFC 193 in November 2015.
As someone who knows what it's like to step in to both the ring and the Octagon, Holm has a special type of insight when it comes to "The Money Fight" between undefeated boxer Floyd Mayweather (49-0 boxing) and UFC Lightweight champion Conor McGregor (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC), which takes place Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Holm spoke to Rolling Stone ahead of one of the most high-profile fights in combat sports history, addressing various factors which make the contest so intriguing.
What are your general thoughts on the fight between Mayweather and McGregor?
I'm excited to watch this fight. Some people think it's a joke, some people say it's the greatest thing they've ever wanted to watch. I know there's two fighters and neither of them are taking each other lightly and training really hard. I can guarantee you Mayweather is not overlooking McGregor and McGregor knows Mayweather is undefeated for a reason.
Most believe McGregor can't win by outboxing Mayweather of the course of 12 rounds and instead needs to turn it into a "fight." Do you agree with that assessment?
McGregor's going to make a fight out of it, absolutely, but Mayweather's a technician. He's very good. McGregor needs to pace himself a little bit, too. 12, three-minute rounds is a lot different from five, five-minute rounds like he deals with in the UFC. In MMA, there's kicking and punching and grappling. It's a different type of pace, a different type of fight, which I'm sure he's prepared for. But there's something to be said for ring experience. Mayweather has done this time and time again. He's very good at taking it to the later rounds. McGregor has to make it a fight, but he has to keep fighting and not only have six rounds in him.
Just over a week out from the fight the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) approved a change in glove size from 10-ounce gloves to 8-ounce gloves. McGregor believes this gives him a huge advantage and will allow him to knock Mayweather out quickly. Can it really have that big an impact on the fight?
Honestly, 8-ounce gloves are pretty small. They really are. They feel different on your hands. They're tighter, they're smaller, they find openings a little bit better. I've fought in both. The thing about boxing gloves compared to MMA gloves is 8-ounce on a boxing gloves – that's everything. That includes the padding over the thumb all the way down the finger and down to your wrist. There's not really a ton of padding over the knuckles in an 8-ounce glove. It's not a crazy amount of difference, but there is a difference and that will give Conor a greater chance.
What does McGregor need to do to win this fight?
Floyd's fast, and so is Conor, but Conor's going to have to really be able to get around Floyd's defense and land shots. That's all there really is to it. In order to be able to win the fight, Conor has got to be able to get around that. Mayweather has a very defensive style, kind of leaning over the shoulder and leaning over. In MMA that's really hard to fight like that. You'll get a roundhouse kick to the face and get knocked out. But in boxing, he's very good at those situations. Conor has to find the openings in order to land shots on Mayweather. Definitely McGregor has to make it more of a fight by finding those openings and landing those shots.
What does Mayweather need to do to win this fight?
On Mayweather's side, he has to be sure not to get too emotional. That's what McGregor does well. He gets in people's heads. Mayweather has to have a good game plan and that's what he has to stick too in order to win. He's got to get McGregor out of the fight and work on his own and control the pace of the fight. Mayweather's going to have to apply that technical game he has in order to win.
Your win over Rousey was a shock to many at the time and obviously you know what it takes to pull off an upset. Can McGregor realistically beat Mayweather and put an end to his 49-fight winning streak?
McGregor is a performer. It's almost like when the stakes are higher he does better. You can't ever count anybody out. I'm not going to sit here and say that McGregor doesn't have a chance, because he does and anybody has a chance. It's obviously possible. I always say that there's big moments in sports history and people remember them for a lifetime and there's a reason: Everyone thought one person would just dominate, but then it goes the other way. Whose to say that the unthinkable can't happen, that McGregor might be able to win? You never know.