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Holly Holm wants to get ‘feet wet’ in UFC before pushing talk of Ronda Rousey title fight

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Holly Holm wasn't even a UFC fighter when her name first started being thrown into discussions of potential challengers to Ronda Rousey's bantamweight throne.

Holm at least fixed that first part on Saturday, earning a hard-fought decision win over Raquel Pennington in UFC 184's co-main event. Her performance in her long-awaited Octagon debut, however, was less than spectacular, and after watching Rousey's 14-second masterpiece over Cat Zingano, the former world champion boxer acknowledged that a title fight may be a bit out of her depth this early in her young MMA career.

"Congratulations to Ronda, that was an impressive win," Holm said at Saturday's post-fight press conference. "Really, as a champion, you really just don't see that coming. Ronda, she's very impressive. So I'd like to get my feet wet. I finally got this first UFC fight over with.

"I didn't really sit down on my punches like I wanted to tonight. There's a lot of things that I want to do better, and I know I'm capable of more, so I'm not 100-percent satisfied with my performance. But I will take the things that I know I did well and take them with me and try to improve on all the others."

Throughout the fight, Holm (8-0) showcased the vaunted striking arsenal that made her one of the most decorated female boxers of her generation, peppering Pennington with an array of kicks and combinations en route to capturing a split decision. But the difference in skill level between Pennington and Holm's previous competition was clear from the outset, and Holm, who's only been focused professionally on MMA for two years, failed to secure a finish for just the second time of her brief career.

Holm admitted afterward that the lofty expectations for her UFC debut were hard to shake, and UFC President Dana White commended Holm for how she handled being thrust into the spotlight so early in her UFC run.

"Listen, a lot of hype came in around Holly," White said. "What people have to understand for Holly, it's her first time here. It's her first time in the UFC. I talked to her about this tonight, too.

"I don't care how many titles you've won, how many places you've fought -- when you come in here, it's a completely different ball game. You burn a ton of nervous energy, you dump some adrenaline. She went in there tonight and she performed. She slid right into the co-main event position and she did a great job. Let's let her get a couple of fights in and, you know, start to feel like the UFC is her house, it's home. Move up in the rankings and get some fights. She's got some time to get there."

Holm, 33, is currently the No. 13 ranked female bantamweight in the UFC's media-generated rankings, and that position is only likely to improve following her win on Saturday.

Though for the most part, Holm agreed with White's general sentiment, adding that the multiple injuries she suffered in 2014 made a tough situation even tougher.

"I felt good going in there," Holm said. "But I think it's just been, if I had to look at it as a whole, there's just a lot kinda going into this fight. I usually fight, my average is four times a year. In 2013 I had six fights in twelve months. Last year I had one, because in my fight I had a broken arm. Then when I had my UFC debut, I got a herniated disk in my neck.

"I've never had any injuries take me out of a fight in my entire career, so there's just been a lot (to deal with), and then moving to the co-main event. It's kinda been one thing after another, just really piled on. So I still felt good. I felt great. I felt healthy. I have no complaints. I had a great training camp and I felt good. The nerves are there, for sure. I mean, if I said they weren't, then I would just be lying to you. So they were there, and I think I dealt with them okay for how much I kinda felt coming in, but I hope to show something better for you next time."

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