Much of the criticism heading into UFC 208 is that the inaugural featherweight title fight between Holly Holm and Germaine de Randamie doesn’t outwardly lead anywhere. A champion will be crowned in a newly created division that doesn’t have any other contenders waiting in the wings.
As such, there’s a one-off feel to what could become a historic moment for Holm, who has already held the bantamweight title after dethroning Ronda Rousey at UFC 193.
Given that Rousey looks headed for retirement, and Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino — the greatest featherweight fighter in MMA right now — is embroiled in a USADA issue after testing positive for a banned substance, there’s not a lot of depth to the conversation at 145 pounds.
Yet count Holm among those who sees UFC 208 as the first step towards building a viable division.
“Here’s the thing, each division has to start somewhere, and when they first started the 135-pound division it was a title fight,” she said during a UFC 208 media call on Friday. “It was Ronda coming over. It built from there. I know right now as far as the division, there’s so many girls that want the opportunity I guarantee you they could build this division in no time. They just have to make some phone calls. Because there’s a lot of girls out there are that are very tough and their all — everybody’s goal is to be in the UFC. That’s the big thing.
“So I don’t know, I feel like yes, it’s just the start of it, but you’ve got to start somewhere. I think they’re going to start here, but I know they’re going to be signing girls here. I know that they’re already talking to other girls.”
The 35-year-old Holm is coming off of back-to-back losses for the first time in her career, which spans nearly 40 professional boxing bouts as well. In her last fight, she lost a unanimous decision against Valentina Shevchenko, who now looks poised for a title shot against current 135-pound champion Amanda Nunes.
Nunes was originally flirting with the idea of coming up to fight the winner of Holm-de Randamie, to challenge for the featherweight title and make her own history.
Yet the biggest name in the division is Cyborg, who was the reigning Strikeforce 145-pound champion, as well as Invicta FC’s featherweight titleholder. The division, in many ways, was created for Justino. And with her now at the mercy of USADA and a looming suspension — complicated with her 2011 hot test for an anabolic steroid — a lot of things remain uncertain.
Asked if she would feel comfortable fighting Justino, given all the red flags, Holm said that a potential fight with her remains completely abstract.
“You know I feel like, I’m going to wait and see what happens with that,” she said. “When I first signed with the UFC, I had two fights, one fight being Raquel Pennington and then Marion Reneau. And both of those everybody kept asking me, how long do you think until you fight Ronda. I was like, well I have these fights in front of me first, and I have to get through them.
“I know that Cris Cyborg is definitely the big name for the 145-pound division, but right now with the situation she has going on I think I’ll just let that pan out. Who knows what’s really going on. I don’t ever throw my eggs into one basket.”
Holm reiterated that she didn’t want to look past de Randamie, particularly in her position with having lost consecutive fights. She also said there were just too many “ifs” to sort through.
“I still have so much to do,” she said. “I have Germaine de Randamie right here in front of me who’s had so many Muay Thai fights behind her, a very seasoned fighter. If I don’t get through her, then there probably won’t even be talks of a Cris Cyborg fight. There has to have a lot happen for that fight to happen. She’s got to deal with whatever’s going on with USADA, who knows what’s going on with that. Obviously something.
“In order to even think about another potential fight I’ve got to get through this fight. So, to even think about a fight with Cris Cyborg right now it’s kind of like, if this then that, and then if this then that. So to me that’s kind of like to far-fetched. That’s too far out there. My goal right now is what’s within my vision and sight, and that’s just this fight.”