If Germaine de Randamie listened to everybody else, she might have been fighting Holly Holm in a ring and not an Octagon. And it likely would have been just as intriguing as the clash between the two striking specialists that will take place in the main event of UFC 208 this Saturday in Brooklyn.
But timing is everything, and when de Randamie was wrecking opponents in kickboxing to the tune of a 46-0 (30 KOs) record and Holm was doing the same in boxing en route to three divisional titles, it just wasn’t in the stars for the two to fight.
“A lot of people asked me all the time, ‘Don’t you want to do boxing?’ And I truly love boxing. I just love it,” she said. “But instead of moving to boxing, I made a transition to MMA. I had choices in both, and the ultimate was fighting in a cage.”
She did know of Holm though, a passing knowledge that got greater when “The Preacher’s Daughter” made her full-time move to mixed martial arts in 2013. Now, this dream matchup had a chance to become a reality.
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“I really first started hearing about Holly when she started fighting MMA,” said de Randamie, who turned pro in 2008, but didn’t really get into an active rhythm until signing with Strikeforce in 2011. By 2013, she was in the UFC, and Holm joined her in 2015, but both took different paths to Saturday’s bout to crown the promotion’s first female featherweight champion.
Holm won two bouts and then shocked the world with a knockout of Ronda Rousey that earned her the UFC women’s bantamweight crown. She lost the belt to Miesha Tate and dropped a subsequent bout to Valentina Shevchenko.
De Randamie had her growing pains in the UFC early on, taking a split decision over Julie Kedzie before losing to current bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes in 2013. She wouldn’t return until 2015, but stoppages of Larissa Pacheco and Anna Elmose show her to be in prime form. But the 32-year-old from Utrecht admits that if told after the Elmose fight that she would be fighting for a world title on Feb. 11, she wouldn’t have believed it.
“No, I didn’t see it coming at all, absolutely not,” she said. “When I got signed by the UFC, I always said I have two goals. I want to get a bonus and I want to fight for the belt. Those were my two goals. And I got the bonus in my last fight, and now I get to fight for the belt. I didn’t see it coming, and when they called me, I seriously said, ‘Hold on for one second. Did you really ask me if I wanted to fight Holly Holm for the UFC belt?’ They were like, ‘Yeah.’ Well, hell yeah I’m gonna do that. (Laughs) Anybody that gets a title fight offered from the biggest organization in the world against such an honorable opponent as Holly Holm, it would be stupid to say no.”
And if the pressure of being a Pay-Per-View headliner is getting to de Randamie, it’s not showing in the slightest. In fact, she’s embracing the whole lead-up to the fight with an ear-to-ear smile and the realization that this is a moment to be enjoyed, not dreaded. Then again, as she explains, that’s the idea for every fight.
“A lot of times during fight week or on the plane, I’ll see fighters with grumpy faces because we have to cut weight and do all these other things and I’m like, ‘You better smile, because this is a journey and moment nobody can ever take away from you. Embrace it and enjoy it because at one point in your life, you’re not gonna be able to do it anymore. So you better enjoy it to the fullest.’ So every fight is as important as any title fight.”
It’s a great attitude to have, but even de Randamie has to admit that this one has a little something special attached to it.
If there's one woman who will gladly stand and trade, it's @IronLadyMMA #UFC208 pic.twitter.com/tnORES3uEh
— #UFC208 (@ufc) February 8, 2017
“Trust me, it will solidify my career, absolutely, especially because in the past a lot of people doubted that I could ever do MMA,” she said. “They always told me, ‘Stick to kickboxing, stick to what you’re good at.’ And it motivated me a lot.”
Yet despite the fact that this is a mixed martial arts fight and that both de Randamie and Holm know how to handle themselves on the mat, there’s been no secret that when the Octagon door closes, UFC fans want to see one of the world’s most decorated kickboxers stand and trade with one of the world’s most decorated boxers.
“The good thing is, the fights always start on the feet, so at least we’re going to show something,” de Randamie laughs. “I think after this fight, a lot of fans are going to look differently at me, like, ‘Oh wow.’ Holly is a tremendous athlete and I have accomplished a little bit in my style of fighting, so I believe, without any doubt, that this is gonna be one helluva fight. Anything can happen in this fight. When you have two standup fighters wanting to punch each other in the face – with friendly fire (Laughs) – with four-ounce gloves, there’s nothing greater than that. I think it’s going to be an amazing fight.”
And a historic one for the record books, as nobody can ever take away that title as the first women’s 145-pound champion from the winner. But win or lose, de Randamie expects to still be smiling on Sunday morning. I read back a quote she gave me before her fight with Pacheco.
“I always said I will write my own history, and I’m planning on writing a nice book for myself. There are a lot more chapters to go.”
So is this book about to get really good?
“This is gonna be a great chapter, definitely,” she laughs. “I feel great and, like I always said, it’s not about the outcome. There are a few things you cannot control and one of them is the outcome of a fight. But what you can control is the whole process up to that moment. For me, it’s just all about enjoying this amazing journey. I get to meet so many amazing people that have the same love as I do for the same sport and I get to share something with people. So it’s gonna be one helluva book, I can tell you that. It’s gonna be a bestseller.”