Before UFC 225, the immediate path forward for women’s title fights seemed simple: Neither featherweight champion Cris Cyborg nor bantamweight champ Amanda Nunes had a clear-cut, top-drawing contender, so matching the two in a superfight appeared to be the logical next step.
Then Holly Holm went out and ragdolled a larger opponent in former Invicta featherweight champion Megan Anderson at Chicago’s United Center, and all of a sudden, the only woman ever to hold both UFC and world boxing championships finds herself holding the key the future as the most sellable contender in two separate divisions.
Holm knows this, and perhaps that’s why she’s not in a rush to pick her path. But she admitted on a recent edition of The MMA Hour that the idea of getting back the bantamweight title she once held holds quite a bit of appeal.
“It’s hard not to want to get my 135-pound title back, I really really want that,” Holm said. “That’s as much thought as I put into it. We’ll see what happens.”
Holm has earned the right to take some time off after a fight which showed off her all-around progression as a fighter. Holm has always been known for her standup skills, which is understandable given her status in boxing and her famous knockout of Ronda Rousey to win the the bantamweight title at UFC 193.
But Holm took Anderson down four times in their UFC 225 bout and displayed a top game she’s rarely had the opportunity to show.
“Everything went how we had prepared to be ready for,” Holm said. “I really didn’t think that I would be going for four takedowns, I thought well maybe I’ll take her down once and see if it works out. Not that I hadn’t thought to take anyone down in my fights before, it’s just maybe I didn’t really just let it go. My coaches were always like ‘Holly you can take these girls down,’ and I did it in practice all the time.”
“I think I just finally let myself know that wherever it goes,” Holm later added. “I can deal with it, and that’s just kind of where the fight wound up going, and I thought you know what, let’s go ahead and try to see how far I can go with this, how much we can do with this. I don’t want to do anything stupid, get reversed or go underneath or anything like that, I want to get it good, be smart about it as well and not get overly anxious.”
If anything, Holm’s biggest battle that night at United Center was everything going on around her. Many past and present JacksonWink teammates were on the card, and for the most part, it didn’t go well, with Alistair Overeem and Rashad Evans suffering stoppages losses, Andrei Arlovski on the wrong end of a debatable decision, and Clay Guida losing in short order.
Holm had to push all that aside and focus on finishing the evening on a high note for her gym.
“There was Alistair’s fight and he’s a teammate and we were in the locker room together,” Holm said. “And there was Andrei, who used to be on our team but he’s still a good friend, and Clay Guida, and the same with Rashad, he used to be part of the team, and there are some people leave and it’s never really on bad terms, but some people leave you don’t keep in touch with any more, but all these fighters are friends of mine. Good friends, not just the teammates who come and go you never really connected. ... these are some really good friends. Rashad is a really good friend, Alistair is a really good friend, Andrei is a really good friend, but through the night it was heartbreak after heartbreak.”
Then there was the announcement that Rousey was going to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. The timing was a bit odd, and some have tried a little too hard to make a controversy out of it, but Holm said she didn’t even notice it as it was happening.
“I didn’t actually watch that,” Holm said. “I heard someone say ‘Oh Ronda is in the Hall of Fame’ and I just kind of, I didn’t think about it. Then afterwards everyone asked me about it and that was when I realized. I didn’t actually watch the part before I went out. I didn’t even, my head was in space when that was happening. I didn’t even really realize she was being inducted until after the fight.”
Holm, for her part, believes Rousey deserves the honor.
“I’m proud of her, I’m happy or her, I know that she was a dominant champion for a long time, so however they do things is something positive rather than negative. ... I don’t have anything controversial or different or negative to say about it, I think she did a lot and she is a household name for what she did for the sport, so she should be recognized for that.”
Which brings us back to the title picture. Holm followed her victory over Rousey with a fifth-round upset loss to Miesha Tate in a fight she was winning. Tate then lost to Nunes, who has been champion going on two years. The opening finally seems to be there for Holm to get another crack at the belt she once held, but for now, she’s not sweating it.
“I’m going to go to my team, talk to them,” Holm said. “I always like to know what they think going forward, go to 135, stay at 145, I’ll just kind of put my thoughts together there, it takes me a minute to decompress from the fight. Some people get really excited, oh what do you want next, as soon as the fight is over some guys are calling out their next opponent. I really like to sit down and digest and take in everything that happened.”