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Holly Holm: Women's MMA 'would benefit greatly' if Ronda Rousey lost

Wilson Fox

Ronda Rousey has been a dominant champion since coming to the UFC two years ago. She has finished all four of her opponents in the organization in relatively easy fashion and left UFC president Dana White basically wondering who to put in there with her next.

White joked on FOX Sports 1 after UFC Fight Night: Henderson vs. Thatch on Saturday night that if Rousey destroys Cat Zingano at UFC 184, "she's gonna have to start fighting men."

Obviously, that will not happen, but there is a scarcity of potential challengers for Rousey. Holly Holm, though, is one of them. The former women's boxing champion will make her UFC debut against Raquel Pennington in the co-main event of UFC 184 on Feb. 28 in Los Angeles. And she believes that a Rousey loss would be a positive thing for women's MMA.

"I think it would benefit greatly," Holm told in a recent interview. "I think when you see one person do well or kind of bring down the No. 1, then everybody thinks, well if she can do that, I can, too."

It's unclear what having a champion like Rousey who bullies every contender has done for the UFC. Obviously, Rousey has become a huge individual star, crossing over into Hollywood and more. She's one of the biggest names in the sport -- maybe even the biggest.

But ultimately, is it good for women's MMA to have someone so much better than the rest? Holm isn't sure. The Albuquerque, N.M., native thinks Rousey losing could be a boon to the rest of the women's bantamweight division.

"I think it kind of brings that person down to a normal level," Holm said. "Look at Anderson Silva. He almost seemed impossible to stop. When it happened, it was like, 'Well, he is beatable.' It's hard to beat him. He's seriously one of the greatest of all time. But it's possible."

The middleweight division has certainly gotten better since Chris Weidman knocked off Silva at UFC 162 in July 2013. Perhaps that would be the case for the women's bantamweight division if Rousey loses, too. If anything, just someone who could give "Rowdy" a fight would be more than welcome.

"Ronda has run through everybody in the division," Holm said. "So I think it's kind of hard when people get in there and stare across the ring and think, Wow, can I really beat her? And you really have to believe you can or else you're not going to be able to do it. She's going to be hard to beat. There's no bones about it. But you also can't put her on a pedestal so high that you don't believe you can do well also."

Holm, 33, is also undefeated in MMA with a 7-0 record. She won titles in boxing in three different weight classes. It might be too late in the game to call her a top prospect, but she's someone with serious promise. It's no coincidence that her bout with Pennington was moved into the co-main event slot when the planned main event of Weidman vs. Vitor Belfort was canceled and Rousey-Zingano took over as headliner.

The UFC is grooming Holm to be a future contender. Holm is not ignorant to that fact.

"I understand why it's been on the fast track and I'm fine with it," Holm said. "I like feeling a little bit of that. As much as I hate it, I like feeling a little bit of that pressure, because I feel like sometimes it makes me feel like I just need to rise to the occasion. Fighting is never easy, it's never pretty, it's never perfect. So I feel like if I would be so protective and just take these perfectly comfortable bay steps in a career, it's like well am I realty challenging myself? Do I really believe in myself? I feel like if people are pushing me, then they believe in me and that gives me strength."

Holm, who has finished all but one of her opponents by knockout, is 100 percent focused on Pennington. The bout was supposed to happen at UFC 181 on Dec. 6, but Holm had a herniated disc in her neck that kept her out. After treatment and rehab, she is better now and ready for Feb. 28 at Staples Center.

Of course, what she really wants is to beat Rousey, the woman fighting in the bout right after her. But she knows beating Pennington is an essential step in that process.

"That's my hope and that's my plan," Holm said of becoming the UFC women's bantamweight champion. "The goal is to get the belt, obviously. If you don't have that goal, then get out of the game."

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