Everyone that steps into the Octagon does so for their own reasons, but next Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, headliners Holly Holm and Germaine de Randamie will enter the UFC’s eight-sided proving ground with the same motivations carrying them into battle.
The decorated combat sports veterans will close out the organization’s debut event at the home of the Brooklyn Nets in a fight to crown the inaugural women’s featherweight champion, but chasing gold isn’t the lone shared push propelling the pending opponents into the fray next weekend.
“I think if I win, that will solidify my career,” said de Randamie, who amassed multiple titles and a sterling 37-0 record as a kickboxer before transitioning to mixed martial arts. “I’ve had an amazing career so far already and I have accomplished things that in my wildest dreams, I couldn’t believe that I did all these things.
“In the past, a lot of people doubted me and told me I couldn’t do it and I’m a believer that you can do anything you want in life as long as you put your heart and soul into it. I want it – I want to win and I want to solidify my career. It would be amazing.”
While UFC 208 is a first opportunity for de Randamie to truly step into the spotlight on the biggest stage in the sport, Holm has spent the last year and change at the vanguard of the women’s bantamweight division, rocketing to stardom as a result of her championship upset win over Ronda Rousey at UFC 193 before suffering consecutive defeats in 2016.
That victory remains the defining moment of Holm’s mixed martial arts career and the benchmark everyone looks back on when discussing her accomplishments, but the Albuquerque native doesn’t want to only be remembered as the women that ended Rousey’s reign atop the women’s bantamweight division and getting a victory next Saturday night against de Randamie is a step in the right direction.
“I don’t want my whole career to be defined around getting the belt from Ronda,” said Holm, echoing her opponent’s sentiments about the importance of next weekend’s title clash in terms of her overall legacy in the sport. “I want my career to be defined by me being the best fighter I can be and accomplishing the biggest things I can against whatever competition comes in front of me.
“I want this for me, for my career. I don’t want it to be just around the one fight. I don’t want people to only remember that. I want them to remember everything after. I want to be able to do a lot in this career still.”
The competitors who will set the table for Holm and de Randamie are approaching their clash from very different positions than their female counterparts, as Anderson Silva’s legacy in this sport has already been etched in stone and his opponent, Derek Brunson, is still in the process of carving out his place in the UFC’s middleweight division.
“Middleweight is the best division in the UFC in my opinion,” offered Brunson, who sits at No. 8 in the 185-pound rankings heading into his clash with the former champion. “One through 15, so many historical guys, so many stacked and so many game guys. Everybody is competing at a top level, everybody is ready to fight; it’s a coin-flip in a lot of the fights whenever they’re made.
“Me looking at the situation, I throw all those losses out,” he added of facing the former middleweight champion at this stage of his career. “I’m looking at I’m fighting a guy that’s not as fast as he used to be, but this guy has all the skills in the world and is considered the best fighter of all-time, whereas everybody else is looking at his losses.”
Regardless of the outcome of his bout with Brunson, few will deny Silva a place in the pantheon of all-time greats, as the Brazilian standout still holds the record for most consecutive successful title defenses (11) and most consecutive victories (16) in UFC history.
Currently stationed one spot ahead of his UFC 208 opponent in the divisional rankings, the 41-year-old Silva’s motivations have shifted as he readies to step into the Octagon for the 22nd time.
“Now, I change a little bit my focus,” he said during Friday’s media conference call. “I have more time for my family, more time for my different jobs outside the UFC – but I think for me now, it’s no too much important how much fights I loss, how much fights I win.
“I just put in my heart to do my best and go into fights happy and when I stay happy, I think everything change and back to Anderson ‘Spider’ Silva.”
UFC 208 takes place on Saturday, February 11 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York and is available exclusively on pay-per-view.
E. Spencer Kyte is a freelance MMA journalist who covers the sport for The Province newspaper in Vancouver. Follow his work on Twitter @spencerkyte