Holly Holm, the former UFC women’s bantamweight champion, gets the opportunity to make MMA history this weekend in the main event at UFC 208, yet admits she’ll be performing like it’s the last bout of her illustrious fighting career when the Octagon door closes in Brooklyn.
In the absence of the planet’s leading 145lb female mixed martial artist, Cris ‘Cyborg’, Holm, 35, will face off against fellow standout striker Germaine de Randamie for the inaugural women’s featherweight championship, despite arriving in New York after two consecutive defeats.
‘The Preacher’s Daughter’ accepts she’s somewhat fortunate to get another championship chance given her current form, but is determined to grasp the opportunity with both hands and reaffirm her position as one of the world’s leading female fighters. Her confidence in her championship ability hasn’t wained.
“I need to treat it like it’s the last fight of my career because who’s promised another opportunity?” Holm says. “For me, right now, just coming off of two losses, I feel like I really need to prove myself.
“I always feel like I need to prove myself in every fight, but I’m in a place I haven’t been before. And I just really want to make the most of this opportunity. It’s a very important opportunity and I don’t want it to pass me by and not do what I know I’m capable of.”
Before turning to MMA, former multiple time boxing world champion Holm boasted a 33-2-3 record in the sweet science, with those two defeats coming seven years apart. To lose two on the spin, as she points out, is unusually territory for a former champion with more than 50 fights across MMA, boxing and kickboxing.
“I just went back to the building blocks,” Holm says when asked about what she may have changed in this camp. “I know I have two losses but I also know that I didn’t get schooled in my last two fights. With Miesha Tate, I was winning until I got choked out. I got choked out – completely unconscious. She won the fight. But I know that I was being competitive.
“And my fight with Shevchenko, she’s up for the title bout right now and I know that it was still a close to fight. In my heart, I know that she won that fight. She was the better fighter that night. I do feel that, I believe that anybody can be beat and I still have that in me. I have confidence in me. So yes, I’m coming off of two losses but I still have confidence in my ability. I just need to perform it.”
When asked about the circumstances of the two defeats, Holm is astute in her assessment. “I lost because I didn’t perform and that’s that. And really, I just really wanted to dive into this training camp and I thought there is no room for losing focus. There is no room for not performing. That’s really just let’s get into this. And all this hard work, gosh I just want to make it worth it.”
Dutch striking star de Randamie, aka ‘The Iron Lady’, meanwhile, also accepts she has to perform on Saturday night to stand any chance of defeating Holm and claiming the new 145lb UFC belt.
Armed with a perfect 37-0 unbeaten record in kickboxing, she transitioned to MMA properly in 2010 – after losing a fight back in 2008 – and has found the road to the top rocky. She lost her sole outing at featherweight to date under the Strikeforce banner back in 2011, while the only other loss suffered was against current UFC bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes in 2013. Now 2-3 in MMA, she does at least arrive in New York riding the wave of back-to-back victories.
De Randamie says: “I’m fighting a top competitor in Holly. I mean, she’s a decorated fighter. And there’s no doubt in my mind that I have to be on top of my top game. I have to perform. February 11th, I have to perform. I cannot make a mistake.
“I understand that a lot of people do not know a lot about my kickboxing, probably because I’m also not from the United States. I live in Europe. And the kickboxing scene in the United States is not as big as it is in Europe. So, it’s okay. I mean, it’s always nice to be the underdog and be the unknown fighter. So, I kind of like my position right now, to be honest.
“I think if I win, it will solidify my career. I’ve had an amazing career so far already. And I have accomplished things that I could have in my wildest dreams I couldn’t believe that I did all these things. And yes, winning a UFC belt, I think that would solidify it.
In the past a lot of people have doubted me and told me I couldn’t do it. And I’m a believer – you can do anything you want in life as long as you put your heart and soul to it. And yes, I want it. I want to win and I want to solidify my career. It would be amazing.”