Former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Holly Holm has a new six-fight UFC deal signed and sealed, and she’s hoping that by the end of it, she’ll also be holding championship gold once again.
Holm, who famously stunned Ronda Rousey with a huge head kick to win the women’s 135-pound title at UFC 193 back in November 2015, will make the walk for her 14th UFC bout this weekend at UFC San Antonio, where she’ll face Russian contender Yana Santos in the co-main event.
For Holm, it’s the chance to continue on her path in MMA after initially transitioning to the sport following world title success in boxing. And, with her six-fight deal signed, it looks like she’ll be focusing on MMA for the foreseeable future.
“Yeah, I guess after my last fight, I wasn’t really sure, I was hopeful that we could still come to an agreement and be able to continue my career with UFC. So I’m very, very happy to be able to have that contract signed,” Holm told reporters during media day in Texas.
“My mind, of course, is just set on this fight ahead of me, but I’m happy to continue my journey with the UFC.”
With a long tenure already under her belt in the UFC, a six-fight deal would appear to suggest that 41-year-old Holm plans on finishing her career inside the Octagon. But, for “The Preacher’s Daughter,” her focus is on returning to the top of the women’s bantamweight summit.
“Absolutely, I think that’s the only thing you need to be focused on,” she said.
“If you’re in this game, if you don’t want to be the champion, what are you doing here? It’s a scary kind of path to really take because you know, that means you have to take the toughest fights, the biggest fights, and you have to be successful. And that’s where all that pressure kind of comes in on you. But … I want to do it all the way.”
Her next test comes in the form of a familiar face. Yana Santos (nee Kunitskaya) is a longtime campaigner in the division, and has trained with Holm in the past. Holm said she knows a lot about her opponent, and that she’ll need to be on her game against the Russian on fight night.
“She’s a big 135er, like me, you know? She might even be an inch taller than me. She’s strong, she’s got a gas tank on her. I used to train with her, she’s kind of unpredictable. You get in the clench, she might kind of surprise you with some things. On her feet, she definitely throws a bunch of punches. So there’s a lot of things that she has. I feel that I’m going to edge her out everywhere, but I’m not overlooking her at all.”
Now in the veteran stage of her combat sports career, Holm found herself at a crossroads as she reached the end of her previous UFC deal. Should she continue in MMA, or could she return to her first pro sport, boxing, and dive back into the mix during a time when women’s boxing is experiencing a boom in popularity? In the end, a six-fight deal from the UFC means she’s now fully focused on MMA from now on.
“I just had to change my mindset,” she explained.
“I went 10 years of boxing, and then 10 years of MMA, and you know, a lot of people were wondering if I should retire when I even started MMA, and I’m sure glad I didn’t listen to everyone else! I had a whole career in MMA that’s… I can’t even explain how amazing I it is, and how blessed I feel to have this journey. So I just got to look at myself and I know I’m still capable. And I know I still want to fight, I know I’m still passionate, so I’m just gonna keep going forward.”
With Holm now ready to embark on the final run of her UFC career, she isn’t content for it to just be a few fights tacked on at the end of her stellar combat sports career. She wants to fight her way back to the top and capture the UFC title again.
“That should be 100 percent on every fighter’s mind, you know?” she said.
“I don’t want to just be there to participate and be in the shadows of the big, big championship fights. I want to be the champion.”