UFC women's bantamweight fighter Holly Holm believes she's finally getting into a groove, slowly, but surely. The boxer-turned-MMA fighter is coming off of a successful effort against Marion Reneau at UFC Fight Night 71 in San Diego from last Wednesday, winning easily via unanimous decision.
This marked Holm's second appearance in the Octagon, one where she says she's feeling more and more at ease with everything.
"Absolutely, it was a little more comfortable in a lot of ways," she told Ariel Helwani on Monday's The MMA Hour. "Obviously, everyone saw the hype before the first one, but I've said it a lot already. I'm sure people are sick of hearing it, but coming off of two really big injuries was really a lot of my nerves for the last fight. Of course, it being my first UFC fight and then they bumped us to the co-main and then it kinda kept getting bigger and bigger, there were a lot of nerves.
"For me, personally, I'd say a lot of it was I was coming off of having my broken arm and having an herniated disc in my neck. I hadn't fought since then and it just happened to be on the biggest stage I'd ever fought in in my first UFC fight after all this hype and anticipation and expectation. So yeah, the first fight had a lot more nerves behind it, but I'm always nervous for a fight," she says. "But definitely I was more relaxed and a little more comfortable in there."
Holm believes the fight's relatively smaller stature on a smaller card actually helped her. Whereas some fighters want maximum attention and spotlight, this time she was happy to fly under the radar.
"I loved it," she says of the fight not getting much publicity. "In L.A. [her UFC debut], we were doing interviews from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. some days, between the interviews and photo shoots and all the media. This was, I had three things a day, so I could actually get up and go for a run. We were staying by the bay, so I just went and ran by the water, kinda had a little bit of mental time for myself. It was great. I loved it.
"It was sandwiched between some really big fights, which some people feel maybe they didn't get enough attention for it, but me personally, I think I just really want to go out there and fight. I don't really want to do it for all these other reasons. It was a perfect time for me to fight and a perfect way it all panned out. I really had a good week last week."
Still, while the smooth sailing continues, nothing takes place without some measure of criticism. Holm was dominant, but the fight was not action packed. Holm says she's the first person to acknowledge she could've done more.
"I'm happier with my performance this time than last time, but I'm a little upset with myself for not going forward a little sooner. I think I could've stopped her early. Part of our game plan was to feel her out and see what she was going to be doing. We always assume they're going to be coming trying to shoot or take me down or clinch to take me down.
"She had a lot more forward pressure in her past fights. Our plan was to kind of keep her at a kicking range and go when I wanted to. Yes, our game plan panned out perfectly to what we had planned for in the fight."
Yet, Holm admits she wishes she had "pulled the trigger a little sooner," but is generally pleased with the overall effort.
That doesn't mean, however, everyone else is as thrilled. Critics of the fight say it was boring at best, proof she has nothing for Ronda Rousey at worst. Holm says she's aware of the negative views, but can't bother to acknowledge them much.
"People are always going to be negative," she argues. "I honestly feel like the people that write negative things on Twitter, the Internet and all that, are people that don't do our job. It doesn't really ever bother me. I don't really care. I know what was put in. I know what's behind the scenes. I know what game plan was put together and one thing for me that is a positive thing I take away from this fight is she's never been dominated like that in a fight before. So, I take that as a positive thing for myself and our hard work paid off.
"There's a lot of ways to look at it from the outside that a lot of people don't understand and I really don't let it bother me because I don't want to get in there and think, 'Oh my gosh, I've really gotta show what I'm worth to all these people who are sitting behind a computer on Twitter.' I don't even think about that before a fight. I think about a victory and what I need to do to get a win."
Holm also says her progression is important. She's inching her way towards the place where she wants to be. She's not there yet, but she's glad her progress is gradual rather than sudden.
"Each fight, I definitely want to improve. My first fight in the UFC, if I had the best knockout of my entire life that night, that would've been worse because then it would've been a letdown after. I'm glad that I keep improving, I'm glad that I keep showing a little bit more each fight. Do I want to be more impressive? Yes, but that's what keeps me striving to go to the gym and to just get in there and have confidence in myself and go forward.
"It's a work in progress and I'm definitely learning as I go, getting better as I go," she confesses. "My plan is just to keep showing a little bit more each fight and eventually they'll maybe be happy with it, but not everyone will ever be 100 percent happy."
In fact, Holm points to her days in boxing as preparing her for this. Even in that sport, she says, her style of movement didn't always garner the most fan support. It's something she's used to, yet still believes the arguments against her are misguided.
"Even the whole time in my boxing career, I always have done a lot of footwork and a lot of movement. That's part of my style. Everybody has their own style. Even in boxing, sometimes they would call me a runner because I wasn't there to get hit. Yet, I was landing all the punches and that is the whole point of a boxing fight, to hit and not get hit," she notes.
More to the point, Holm says, is her style is good for her health and career longevity. Banging it out on the feet might be fun for the fans, but she thinks it's a terrible way to go through her professional career.
"Every fighter has a different style and that's just been a style that works for me. I feel in boxing or MMA, regardless of what i've done, I feel like I've been able to have a good, successful career because you kinda take a gamble when you go in there and just bang with someone. Sometimes it feels good because you're hitting them. It always feels good to hit them, but you're taking shots in return and I feel like a lot of people are just wanting Fight of the Night."
And that is the benchmark Holm says she hopes she never gets. Yes, she wants to dazzle audiences. Yes, she wants to get better and believes she is. Yes, winning UFC gold is important, but there's a way she wants to do all of those things and that means not winning a certain award.
"I tell people all the time I don't ever want Fight of the Night because that means I took too many shots," Holm says. "I want Performance of the Night. I want Knockout of the Night or Submission of the Night, but I do not want Fight of the Night because that means you don't even know who won. That means it's too close to tell. I want a dominating performance. That is me, personally."