Holly Holm has always wanted to take the biggest challenge, whether it was in her boxing career or now in MMA. That’s why she took the fight with former champion Ronda Rousey back at UFC 193 despite having only two UFC fights on her resume.
And that’s why Holm agreed to fight Miesha Tate at UFC 197 instead of waiting for a rematch with Rousey: it’s the biggest possible challenge.
“I was open to a rematch with Ronda,” Holm said at MGM Grand during the first official UFC 197 press conference on Wednesday. “I wanted whatever opportunity was going to come and this is more of a challenging way to go.”
That was no jab or shot of disrespect to Rousey, but Holm sees a lot in Tate that will present problems for her on March 5 at UFC 197.
Tate has fought nine more times than Rousey in their professional careers. She has title wins (in Strikeforce) and title losses – both coming against Rousey. Her career has left her battle-tested where she’s endured the highs and lows that many fighters experience.
Combine all that and it makes for a dangerous opponent.
“(Tate) has been through more battles and she’s got that experience where she’s been digging deep and coming out on top,” Holm said. “I think that’s more of a threat in a fighter.”
Tate’s motivation extends outside of the Octagon as well. On a four-fight win streak since her loss to Rousey at UFC 168 in 2013, Tate has been anxiously waiting her shot at the crown. So when the title fight at UFC 193 went to Holm instead, it left a hungry Tate.
“I don’t take a title opportunity lightly and when I think I’m going to get a shot I’m a hungry beast and when you take that steak away from me I’m pretty pissed,” Tate said.
But as Tate said, fate has a way of working itself out. Holm gets the opportunity to takedown another challenge, and Tate gets the title shot she has been longing for.
What’s left is a bantamweight title fight that doesn’t include Rousey for the first time since the UFC created the division. And there lies the other element that could weigh heavy: the pressure of Rousey’s name that surrounds both fighters.
For Tate, no Rousey can be a relief. Tate said it will be refreshing to not have to see Rousey all the time and deal with the drama in the buildup to a fight. Though she also said it will be a bigger challenge, as Holm’s pieces are an entirely new puzzle she’ll have to crack.
“If anything I’m more anxious for this fight than one with Ronda because this is a new puzzle and because Holly’s coaches are far better than Ronda’s,” Tate said.
For Holm, her undoing of Rousey brings an added pressure. Can she live up to the hype?
“There’s a lot of pressure and anticipation of what I’m going to do after my last fight,” Holm said. “Who wants to be a one-hit wonder?”
We’ll find out on March 5.
Jon Gagnon is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com Follow him on Twitter at @jgagnonUFC