Former professional boxing world champion Holly Holm ascended to the top of the mixed martial arts world in 2015 with a stunning knockout of the woman considered at the time to be the greatest female fighter of all time.
Holm has a chance to do it again Saturday when she challenges Amanda Nunes for the women’s bantamweight title in the co-main event of UFC 239 at T-Mobile Arena.
“I understand people think this might be a shock, but we really believe I can do this,” Holm said Wednesday. “To win this fight isn’t going to be shocking to us, but for the people who don’t believe I can do this, I hope it shocks them.”
The bout is one of two title fights set for the pay-per-view card on Saturday night. Holm’s teammate Jon Jones will put the light heavyweight belt on the line in the main event of the five-fight main card, which begins at 7 p.m.
Holm rose to fame with a dismantling of then-undefeated Ronda Rousey in front of 56,214 fans in the main event of UFC 193 in Melbourne, Australia in 2015.
She has struggled a bit to produce a worthy sequel.
Holm dropped the belt in her next fight against Miesha Tate, then lost her next two fights and moved up to featherweight. She has gone 2-2 in her last four with both losses coming in 145-pound title fights.
Rise of Nunes
Nunes took the belt from Tate before sending Rousey into retirement with a 48-second knockout in December 2016. She defended the belt two more times, including a win over current 125-pound champion Valentina Shevchenko, before moving up to 145 pounds and knocking out superstar Cris “Cyborg” Justino in December.
Her current eight-fight winning streak includes wins over every woman to ever hold either the bantamweight or featherweight title in the UFC.
Nunes can cross her off the list on Saturday night.
“I feel like I’m ready for everything,” Nunes said. “I will prove it Saturday because I’m the best in this game and I’ll just keep proving it. I’m going to keep this belt for awhile.”
While Nunes can make a justifiable claim as best female fighter of all-time with a win on Saturday, Holm can show any doubters she’s far more than a one-hit wonder.
“I feel a lot of people like to talk about who’s the best pound-for-pound and who’s got the best legacy or whatever,” the 37-year-old Albuquerque, N.M. native said. “Really all I know is I’m just writing my own book and authoring my own legacy. That’s all I can control. I want to be proud of my accomplishments so I’m just focused on that. I’m not trying to put someone else so much up on a pedestal that I don’t feel that I’m capable. I’m here for me. This fight is for me.”
Advantage from boxing?
The matchup does figure to be a bit better for her on paper than the minus-400 odds on Nunes may indicate. Holm is a classic counter-striker with outstanding technique on the feet from her boxing days.
She’s also got a potent left foot as Rousey found out.
“Every fighter has their own strengths and weaknesses,” Holm said. “She’s a power puncher. It didn’t take her last fight for me to know that. I know power is one of her things. The one with Cyborg is the one that stands out the most and it’s the most recent and Cyborg is known for the same thing so it was an even bigger deal, but you can look at any fight the way you want.
“Here’s the biggest thing about that: I’m not Cyborg. I’m not Shevchenko. I’m not Miesha Tate. I’m Holly Holm and this is going to be a completely different fight.”
Holm certainly won’t be overwhelmed by the moment as she prepares for her fourth title bout in her last eight UFC appearances.
“Every situation helps you learn that you can deal with it,” she said. “The feelings start to get more familiar.
“The nerves can really get to you so when you go through those times when you’re so nervous and you know you made it through and made the best of it, the next time you feel it’s like you’ve been there before and it starts to get familiar, so each experience helps you for the next time.”