Holly Holm will make her long-awaited debut at UFC 184 on Saturday night, but despite the fact that she’s facing former "Ultimate Fighter" veteran Raquel Pennington, there’s only one name on everyone’s minds.
UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey.
Holm has been asked about Rousey non-stop for the better part of the past two years as she transitioned from boxing to MMA. Holm is a champion at multiple weight classes in boxing, and her striking has earned her six knockouts or TKOs in her seven wins since turning pro in MMA.
Many believe Holm’s style could be the perfect foil to Rousey’s high-intensity grappling game, but there have been no indications the fight will take place next or any time soon, even if both fighters win this weekend.
"It’s because people are excited and they want to see the fight," Holm said of the talk about her fighting Rousey. "I just figure if people are interested in me and what I’m doing then we’ve done something right."
I’ve never said no to a fight or picked an opponent so if they said that had to be my next fight, I would just have to change my whole chain of thought and just say OK, let’s do it. But if it were up to me, I’d like to have more experience.
— Holly Holm
Holm has been very smart with her career in MMA. She didn’t jump at the first contract offered to her by the UFC and instead opted to negotiate for a deal that made the most sense for her financially as she abandoned a lucrative boxing career.
She has the exact same approach in mind when discussing her fight career inside the Octagon. Holm knows she has a tough first test to pass this weekend at UFC 184, and even if she dominates and finishes Pennington, she’s not jumping the gun to start calling out Rousey.
Holm has seen the mistakes some fighters have made by getting into a title fight without being prepared to win. When she faces Rousey, Holm wants to know she’s truly ready to beat her and take the UFC women’s bantamweight championship home to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
"I’ve never said no to a fight or picked an opponent so if they said that had to be my next fight, I would just have to change my whole chain of thought and just say ‘OK, let’s do it.’ But if it were up to me, I’d like to have more experience," Holm said.
"I’ve only had seven fights total, and I’m just being honest: I’ve had some tough girls that give a good fight, but they haven’t been the highest ranked either. It’s not that I don’t believe in myself to know I can compete with these other top girls, but would I want a few more fights? Absolutely. Because when I go in there and face her, I want to do well. But if they said it had to be soon, I would definitely believe in myself to win."
When UFC 184 originally was announced, Holm’s fight with Pennington was the main event on the FOX Sports 1 prelims, but following an injury that forced the middleweight title bout between Chris Weidman and Vitor Belfort to get pulled from the card, the women’s fight got bumped up to the co-main event slot.
Naturally with that kind of spotlight, Holm already is being asked about facing Rousey in the near future, but the 33-year-old nicknamed "The Preacher’s Daughter" doesn’t expect that to actually happen.
"Honestly I don’t feel like that would be my next fight," Holm said. "I feel like I am a different fighter than I was a year ago. Even just in April breaking my arm and I had a year off and I was able to do some things and learn, but I feel like I am a different fighter (from) the last time when I was in there. They tell me whoever’s next and I go for it."
As for her debut this weekend, Holm isn’t oblivious to the expectations, but she also knows there’s a big difference between just getting your hand raised and leaving a great first impression.
She plans to do both on Saturday night.
"I want to be impressive, I want to show skill, I want to show power, I want to get out there and be aggressive," Holm said. "I don’t have an exact game plan. We have like three game plans. I definitely want to let the fight go and feel it as I go. There’s things I want to do, but I have to make sure I don’t get so fixated on those things. I have to adjust as it goes. When I see openings, I want to go forward and when I need to be patient, I’ll stay patient."