New champion Holm stayed cool under Rousey’s pressure

MELBOURNE, Australia — Holly Holm’s calm, calculated approach to fighting Ronda Rousey helped her shock the world and take the belt with a second-round knockout on Sunday afternoon in the main event of UFC 193 in front of an Ultimate Fighting Championship-record crowd at Etihad Stadium.

Holm wasn’t always able to hold it together as she prepared for the biggest fight of her life, though.

“This fight was a lot for me mentally,” Holm said. “I can’t tell you how many times I cried in the gym leading up to this fight. It’s a lot to take in. But these are the kinds of fights where a loss is that devastating, but a win is that sweet.”

A stunning victory and a shiny new belt proved to be the reward for all the hard work the 34-year-old former world champion boxer put in during training camp at Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA in her native Albuquerque, N.M.

Despite all of her striking experience and an unblemished professional mixed martial arts, Holm entered camp unsure she was ready to challenge the world’s most dominant female athlete.

“It’s hard to put yourself out there sometimes. A lot of people thought it was too early (for me to get the fight). I didn’t expect the phone call to come this early, but I always look at it as if you don’t take the opportunities that are in front of you, how are you going to expect to get anywhere?” she said. “As soon as the call came, I just said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

It’s a good thing she did.

Holm put a beating on Rousey that culminated with a head kick knockout just 59 seconds into the second round.

She immediately looked to Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn, her long time coaches, celebrating just outside the cage.

“I just looked over and they said, ‘We did it. We knew you could do this and you did it.’ That was the moment right there,” she said. “To look over and see their pride. They put so much hard work and time and belief in me. I know it sounds crazy, but I wanted it as bad for them as I did for me because they truly, truly want the best for me.”

His genius was on full display on Sunday. Holm let Rousey come forward and made her pay each time she overextended. Holm picked Rousey apart with left hands and frustrated Rousey into getting even more reckless.

Jackson said it was all part of the plan.

“She comes out pretty much the same way every time so the whole staff worked together and we had a good game plan. It went just about the way we thought it would,” Jackson said. “(Holly’s) one of the most mentally tough individuals I’ve ever met. We put her through hell and she’s always smiling. She’s a soldier straight up.”

Not every day went great in the gym for Holm. She knew what she was up against and that she would have to be at her best to beat the Olympic judo bronze medalist who had cruised through each of her 12 professional MMA opponents.

“There were days I got to the gym and didn’t perform well. I sat in my car upset and cried. I thought, ‘If I perform like that, it’s not going to get me the win. So I have to come back tonight and perfect those things I need to get better,’” Holm said. “Yeah, there’s moments in your mind where you doubt yourself and you know things can go wrong. There’s days everything flows and there’s days they don’t. You just pray that doesn’t happen the night of the fight.”

Everything went right on Sunday. Holm dominated on the feet, held her own in the clinch and even survived a spell on the ground.

She was sensational.

Now she might have to do it all over again.

UFC president Dana White indicated a rematch with Rousey is likely Holm’s next fight, though Rousey was taken to the hospital and not available to comment.

Holm is fine with the idea.

“I think a rematch makes sense for sure. I’ve been on the losing side of a fight like this and I wanted the chance to avenge my loss,” she said. “With a champion like Ronda, who has gone out of her way to do great things, absolutely she deserves a rematch. It’s kind of just common sense to me.

“I don’t look at this belt and think I’ve made it. I think I still have things I need to do.”

Holm might be even more dangerous the second time around now that she knows exactly what it takes to beat Rousey.

On Sunday, it was a notion she had to constantly stay focused on.

“I was worked up, but definitely relaxed. I kept telling myself to stay like that and not get too relaxed. ‘Be confident in your training and be confident in yourself. Now is the time to perform.’ I just kept running that through my head,” Holm said. “I didn’t want to look out and see all the people here and get too overwhelmed. I didn’t want to look across. I didn’t want to look across and think, ‘I’m fighting Ronda Rousey.’ I just wanted to look across and fight Ronda. I made it here for a reason through a lot of hard work. I think you can put yourself in a place to get mentally beat by getting worked up too much. I just wanted to stay really level-headed and know what I was up against, but believe in my training and my ability.”

It worked and now Holm is the first UFC women’s bantamweight champion not named Ronda Rousey.

She’ll get plenty of time to let that sink in. Then, she’ll go back to work with Jackson and Winkeljohn to figure out how to do it again.

Contact reporter Adam Hill at or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.

Covering The Cage Videos
Covering The Cage: Live Interview With Elias Theodorou
Covering The Cage host Heidi Fang talks with Elias Theodorou to preview UFC on Fox and becoming a ring boy.
Covering the Cage: Roy Nelson interview
Adam Hill and Heidi Fang talk about the world of MMA as well as interview heavyweight Roy Nelson.
Covering the Cage: Feb. 6 Facebook Live
Adam Hill and Heidi Fang discuss UFC Fight Night 125 as well as preview UFC 221 and UFC 222.
Covering The Cage: Ronda Rousey joins WWE; UFC on Fox 27 recap
Review-Journal reporters Adam Hill and Heidi Fang discuss Ronda Rousey’s move to WWE and recap UFC on Fox 27.
Covering the Cage: Jordan Rinaldi, UFC on Fox 27 preview
Review-Journal reporters Adam Hill and Heidi Fang talk to fighter Jordan Rinaldi about his upcoming fight and preview the rest of UFC on Fox 27.
Covering The Cage Live: UFC 220 and Bellator 192 Recap
Review-Journal reporters Adam Hill and Heidi Fang recap UFC 220 and Bellator 192.
Covering the Cage: Recapping 2017
Heidi Fang and Adam Hill go over their favorite moments of 2017 and pick their favorite fight, knockout and submission of the year.
Covering The Cage: UFC 219 Recap
Covering The Cage hosts Adam Hill and Heidi Fang recap tonights fights at UFC 219.
Covering The Cage: UFC 219 Picks
Covering The Cage hosts Adam Hill and Heidi Fang give their picks for the main card fights at UFC 219.
Covering The Cage: UFC 219 Preview
Covering the Cage hosts Adam Hill and Heidi Fang preview UFC 219 including Cris Cyborg and Holly Holm.
UFC 219 media day staredowns
Ahead of UFC 219's pay-per-view on Dec. 30, the stars of the main card faced off at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Cris "Cyborg" Justino will face Holly Holm in the main event for the women's featherweight belt.
Covering the Cage: UFC fighter Julian Marquez talks debut victory
Review-Journal reporters Adam Hill and Heidi Fang talk with UFC fighter Julian Marquez. They discuss the beard competition between Marquez and Tyron Woodley, and the unexpected passing of longtime MMA coach and trainer Robert Follis.
Covering the Cage: Julian Marquez interview
Adam Hill and Heidi Fang talk about all things going on in the world of MMA and talk to Julian Marquez about his upcoming fight in Winnipeg.
Covering The Cage Live: UFC 218 Recap, TUF 26
Review-Journal reporters Adam Hill and Heidi Fang recap The Ultimate Fighter 26 and UFC 218.
Covering The Cage: TUF 26 Recap, UFC 218 Preview
Review-Journal reporters Adam Hill and Heidi Fang recap The Ultimate Fighter and preview UFC 218.
Covering the Cage: UFC 218, TUF 26 Finale preview
Review-Journal reporters Adam Hill and Heidi Fang make their picks for the "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 26 Finale and UFC 218. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Covering the Cage: Kyra Batara interview
Adam Hill and Heidi Fang talk to Combate Americas Womens Atomweight Kyra Batara about her upcoming fight in San Antonio as well as Conor McGregor's potential incident at a bar and UFC 218.
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like