A flawless career in mixed martial arts has earned Holly Holm a shot at the UFC title against bantamweight superstar Ronda Rousey, but that doesn’t mean Holm has never experienced a defeat as a fighter.
Months after making a successful transition from boxing to MMA with a pair of TKO victories in 2011, Holm took on Anne Sophie Mathis for the vacant International Boxing Association female welterweight title. Carrying a 30-1-3 boxing record into the bout, Holm was beat up and brutally knocked out by Mathis.
"I expected nothing. I was just facing the best one singular mission: victory," Mathis told MMAFighting.com of her first fight with Holm in 2011.
Holm was a big star in boxing, and finishing her in devastating fashion in the seventh round brought some attention to Mathis. She earned a shot at WBA, WBO and WBC welterweight champion Cecilia Breakhus, but had to enter the ring to give Holm a rematch first.
"The initial contract stated if I won there had to be a rematch in the same location," said Mathis. "The two fights were local for her, and I didn't have a choice other than to accept because we didn't have the means to get her to come to France. Everything was put in place to destabilize me so I make mistakes while we fight -- high altitude, the ring was much bigger, thicker apron and unstable, small locker room and continuously bothered by outside people, way too long of a wait before the fight."
Holm was able to avenge that brutal loss with a unanimous decision win, winning a couple more boxing matches before leaving the sport for good in 2013.
"I watched her do MMA on the internet via YouTube and on social media," Mathis of Holm’s success in mixed martial arts. "When I met her in 2012, she was debuting in MMA. She was starting her MMA career. She was coming to the end of her professional boxing career in Albuquerque where she was a star that had to evolve towards a discipline like MMA which is highly publicized."
And even though Holm has found success in MMA, racking up a perfect 9-0 record in the sport and 2-0 under the UFC banner, Mathis expects her Ronda Rousey to put an end to her rise at UFC 193.
"On November 14, Ronda Rousey will win via armbar in the second round," Mathis said.
Rousey entered MMA as a judo specialist, scoring eight armbar finishes before showing her knockout power and stopping Sara McMann, Alexis Davis and Bethe Correia with punches and knees. Mathis is impressed by "Rowdy’s" punching power, but can’t say the same about her technique.
"I have not seen her hands before," said Mathis, laughing when asked if Rousey’s hands can be compared to a professional boxer’s. "Anyway, she's a driven champion so I think she could also be a good boxer from what I've seen.
"I saw a video where Mike Tyson was watching her train and gave her advice. She is really interesting when it comes to power punching and speed but not technique."
Mathis also laughs at Rousey for saying she would beat boxing star Floyd Mayweather in a no-rule fight.
"Funny, it's a way to get people to talk about her," she said. "She would love to have his money, otherwise she would have provoked another boxer. Mayweather is the highest-paid athlete in the world."
Mathis hasn’t competed in boxing since Feb. 27, a day before Rousey and Holm beat Cat Zingano and Raquel Pennington at UFC 184, respectively. Looking back at 1995, when she made her professional debut in boxing, Mathis isn’t sure she would have found success in mixed martial arts.
The World Boxing Federation super welterweight champion had a connection with MMA in the past. Mathis, who has a daughter with UFC 2 semifinalist Orlando Wiet, followed the sport in its early days, when the Gracie family ruled the Vale Tudo world, but decided to build a career in boxing.
"Thinking about it media-wise and financially, it's more interesting, so I would have liked to try, but I'm not sure how I would have done on the ground," she said. "I tried judo at a young age, around 6 years old, but I only did four classes. It didn't interest me. It was boxing that was the best fit for me."