It’s been over seven years since Holly Holm’s historic head kick knockout victory over Ronda Rousey at UFC 193 in Melbourne, and yet “The Preacher’s Daughter” still finds herself amongst the Top 5 UFC bantamweights.
The No. 3 contender’s position in the rankings held steady over those seven years, where she fought her way to three additional title fights, both at bantamweight and featherweight.
One of the most impressive aspects of that incredible feat is how she’s kept up with new opponents in an evolving sport. Motivated newcomers continue to surge onto the scene, with different styles and greater athleticism that should pose problems to UFC veterans. Holm dealt with this pattern of evolution before during her prolific boxing career, however, and has the knowledge and tools to stay amongst mixed martial arts’ elite.
“I’ve been evolving,” Holm said. “When I first started [MMA] it was, let’s just work on get-ups. I’ve definitely learned along the way; I’ve tried to keep it simple but capitalize on different aspects of all martial arts. The sport is evolving, but I was in boxing for 10 years and I was the young up and comer for a while and then I was the veteran for a while, and I feel like that’s how it is in MMA now. I’ve seen changes in it, and sometimes I think fighters can let it get in their head like, ‘Oh, I’m on the other end of it,’ just because there’s new fighters coming. I see it as new challenges. I’m still learning, and when I go to the gym, I still try to be a sponge and keep wanting to learn, as well.”
Working in tandem with her robust knowledge of MMA is Holm’s eagerness for competition. In 2002, Holm made her professional boxing debut, winning via TKO in front of hometown fans in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Twenty-one years later, Holm carries that same passion as she prepares to step into the UFC Octagon at UFC Fight Night: Vera vs Sandhagen.
“I truly still get nervous for fighting and it reminds me that I’m still really passionate about it and that I care,” Holm said. “If I didn’t get nervous, that’d mean, win or lose, it’s whatever. That’s not how I feel. I still love this sport; I don’t know what I’d do without it and I’ll keep riding it as long as I’m healthy and passionate about it.”
Holly Holm | Crowning Moment
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Holly Holm | Crowning Moment
Last time out, Holm fought to a split decision loss against Ketlen Vieira, a fight that “The Preacher’s Daughter” thought she clearly won. After reflecting on that night last May, Holm knew that she can’t let judges sway results moving forward and vowed to make future outcomes more one-sided.
“It bothers me that anyone can look at the punch stats and see that I feel like [the fight] should’ve gone the other way,” Holm said reflecting on her bout with Vieira. “I learn from those fights and see what I could’ve done more. There’s nothing I can do about it but to do better and not let a fight be that close.”
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At UFC San Antonio, Holm welcomes a familiar face to the Octagon when she squares off against former teammate Yana Santos. While Holm was winning the bantamweight title in 2015, Santos was thriving on the regional scene, winning nine of her first 11 bouts, eight by finish. Three years later, Santos joined the UFC and began climbing her way into the division’s Top 10. Now she finds herself in prime position to defeat a former champion and get one step closer to title contention.
Holm recognizes that Santos’ skill set has evolved similar to her own, yet “The Preacher’s Daughter” believes she can exploit her former teammate’s tendencies better than Santos can, and wants to leave no question as to who’s the better fighter after 15 minutes or less on Saturday.
“I’ve felt her strengths and weaknesses and she’s also felt mine,” Holm said. “It’s all out of respect; we both signed to take on this challenge. You can still get a lot from watching film of someone else [but] we’ve had the real feel of each other before. We’ve both changed and evolved and gotten better since then, so this won’t be the same matchup that it was when we trained.
“Yana is tough. She’s one of those [fighters] where when she actually gets in there for a fight, she performs. She’s there to fight and she fights. I know I have a tough opponent in front of me, I know I have a tough fight in front of me, so I don’t look past her at all, but I have every intention on walking away with the win.”
UFC Fight Night: Vera vs Sandhagen took place live from the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas on March 25, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!