At 39-years-old, former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Holly Holm is only interested in fighting for one reason.
Although she’s come up short in her two title fights since losing her 135-pound title in 2016, “The Preacher’s Daughter” remains fixated on once again reaching the top of the mountain. It’s not about money or fame for Holm, who’s achieved quite a bit of both in her lengthy combat career.
At this point, she simply wants to prove that she’s the best.
“What makes that even harder is that Amanda [Nunes] fights at two different weight classes,” Holm told MMAJunkie. “I want to show that I deserve to be there for the belt. … I want to fight the top girls because in order to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. I’m not just always waiting for the title fight. I want to fight to get there. That’s the whole goal. Otherwise, what am I doing this for? I’m not doing this just for the paycheck. I’m not doing this just to participate. I’m not doing it just to say I did it. I’m doing it for a purpose, because I want to be the best in the world.
“In order to be the best in the world, I have to fight the best in the world and beat them, which is for the belt, so whatever I need to do to get there. Obviously, make the right decisions for that. It’s not like I want to fight a (debuting fighter). I want to fight the top. Otherwise, how am I going to show that I’m ready for this title fight?”
Nunes holding titles in two divisions makes things a bit tricky when considering the title pictures at 135 and 145 pounds. Currently, the Brazilian is scheduled to defend her featherweight title at UFC at 259 against Megan Anderson.
Holly Holm has competed at featherweight as well, although she suffered a defeat to Cris Cyborg in her bid for the title in 2017. Nunes also finished her in a bantamweight title fight in 2019.
Given her setbacks, it’s understandable that a road back to a title shot would be difficult for Holm, especially considering that she’s likely nearing the end of her career. She’s still a big name, though, and as recent wins over Raquel Pennington and Irene Aldana indicated, she still has some gas left in the tank.
Back campaigning at 135 pounds, Holm will next meet fellow contender Julianna Pena in May. Coming off a submission victory over Sara McMann last month, Pena is also in the title hunt and could represent a stiff test for Holm.
However, it’s a matchup the former champion is confident about.
“I think she’s got some skill,” Holm said. “She’s got skill in each aspect of the game. I could see her scrapping on the feet or being tricky on the ground. I think that her style, she’s like a scrappy fighter. Some fighters can make a fight messy, she’s like that. I think she’s definitely like that. You can’t count her out. Her last fight I don’t think she was necessarily winning until she finished the fight. So you can’t count her out.
“She’s not going to be mentally beat. I think that she’s not scared. She gets in there with every intent to want to win. There’s a lot of things that give her strength in a fight. I just truly feel like I can do better in those situations, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
A win over Pena would make it three in a row for Holly Holm. Despite her history with Nunes, it’d be hard to deny her a title shot at that point. Perhaps “The Preacher’s Daughter” will earn one more chance to prove herself as the best, which, again, is all she’s fighting for at this stage.
Long Island-based sports writer covering MMA, Boxing, and the New York Jets.