In an odd sense, heading into her UFC 208 featherweight title bout, Holly Holm is in a very similar situation that Ronda Rousey is. She’s a former champion riding a two-fight losing streak. The biggest difference is that Holm is ready to get back on that horse and try again, and has fallen into an opportunity to fight for the inaugural 145-pound belt.
And, well, she owns that colossal victory over Rousey at UFC 193, the one that signaled the end to the UFC’s first truly transcendent star.
On Friday’s UFC 208 media call, Holm — who will forever be linked to Rousey — fielded a number of questions about the fighter she conquered back in November 2015. And after Rousey’s 48-second TKO loss to Amanda Nunes at UFC 207 in December, one of them was about whether Rousey was truly done fighting.
“I’m one of those that, I’m a firm believer in the fact that once a fighter, always a fighter,” Holm said. “She might not ever want to fight again. She might not fight for two years, and then she might say, ‘You know what? I’m really egging for it. I want to get back in there, I really want to fight. I’ve had enough of this regular life business.’ You know?
“I think that right now, I think that’s just an honest opinion, I bet she just kind of feels like you know what, maybe I’m going to focus on other things right now. Going from a big high to a big low, I have a lot of respect for her. I’ve never said any different. I hope she’s happy, and I hope she does what she wants to do, whether that be fighting, whether that be going to focus on other things. All I’m going to say is any fighter young enough, they might come back for another fight. You never know.”
Holm has lost back-to-back fights since the Rousey victory, beginning with Miesha Tate’s come-from-behind submission victory over her at UFC 196. She later lost a decision against Valentina Shevchenko, giving her the first back-to-back losses of her career (which extends to her extensive boxing résumé).
In Brooklyn, Holm will try to put her recent woes behind her against Germaine de Randamie for the first-ever UFC women’s featherweight title. For many, that is about as golden an opportunity as any fighter can have coming off of two losses in a row.
Yet the consensus on Rousey is that she is perhaps well past her glory days. Many have said that Holm “broke” Rousey in Melbourne with that head-kick knockout.
Holm herself said she wasn’t so sure, but she does think that being knocked out in general produces a lot of demons to wrestle.
“Here’s what I think about that, and a lot of people have asked me about that ever since she had that fight with Nunes,” Holm said. “Coming off of a knockout, [whether it’s] Ronda or anybody else — I’m not saying it’s just her, it’s just fighters — you come off of a knockout it is very, very hard mentally and emotionally. You second-guess yourself. I remember when I got knocked out, every time I would spar for the first two weeks, every time I would get hit, I would be like, am I OK? Yeah, I think I’m OK. Am I OK? Yeah, I think I’m okay. You really second guess yourself a lot.”
Holm was last knocked out back in 2011 against Anne Sophie Mathis, and that occurred in the boxing ring. She avenged the loss six months later with a 10-round decision.
“No matter what happens in training, it’s still different in a fight,” she said. “It’s still real in a fight. There’s stuff, I was in training all the time that I’d never done in a fight before, once you do it in a fight, then you’re more confident to throw it in a fight. But I’m telling you, the real moment and the real test is in the fight, and coming back from a knockout, there’s moments where you get those first punches landed on you, and it’s a make or break moment.”
Holm said the telltale sign of where Rousey was heading into the fight with Nunes would come quick.
“I knew that, going into that [Nunes] fight, everybody was asking me if I thought Ronda was going to win or not, and I said, you know what, I don’t know if she’s going to win,” she said. “However, I’ll be able to tell you who’s going to win in the first few punches of that fight. Because when I watched the fight, those first few punches that Ronda gets hit with, she’s either going say, ‘oh hell no, not [this time],’ or she’s going to think, ‘oh, hell no, this is happening again.’ There’s two mindsets she can go to.”
The 35-year-old Holm admitted that her KO of Rousey was the introduction to all that second-guessing, especially when you’re reminded of it time and again.
“It’s really hard to tell your mind differently,” she said. “Your mind is very powerful, and I think that that wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t already knock her out before, because her mind had been there. If her and Nunes fought before Ronda and I fought, I do feel like that fight would have gone longer than it did. I really do. And I don’t think anybody would argue with me on that. So with that being said, who knows if Ronda’s really done or not. Maybe she’ll come back in the future. Maybe she just needs a little time to really take time off. I know she just had a year off, but it was a year off and back into a title fight.”
“I guess I don’t really feel like I broke her, but I do know that coming off of a knockout, when I knocked her out, yes — that helped the fight with Nunes [end] faster. I don’t mean that in any rude way.”
As for whether or not she was ready to move past the Rousey KO, to distance herself from that one moment in building a far bigger body of work, Holm said it was time.
“I don’t to only have one big…I don’t want my career to be defined around getting the belt from Ronda,” she said. “I want my career to be defined by me being the best fighter I can be and accomplishing the biggest things I can, and whatever competition comes in front of me. So, I want this for me and my career.
“I want to be able to do a lot in this career still.”