Holly Holm wants to be in the UFC bantamweight title picture. | TJ De Santis/Sherdog.com
Holly Holm has been linked with UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey since before she signed with the Las Vegas-based promotion.
However, enthusiasm for the matchup has cooled considerably since Holm made her Octagon debut at UFC 184, the same card that Rousey needed a scant 14 seconds to dispatch Cat Zingano in the main event. Holm, meanwhile, looked out of sorts in taking a split-verdict over Raquel Pennington in the co-headliner.
The Jackson-Wink MMA product’s sophomore UFC appearance arrived with less fanfare, but Holm looked significantly better in dispatching Marion Reneau at UFC Fight Night "Mir vs. Duffee" on Wednesday. Holm controlled the cage while upping her overall output en route to a relatively dominant unanimous decision.
Though she was relieved not to face as much pressure as she did five months ago, Holm says the Rousey conversation does not bother her. After all, she does eventually have designs on making her way to the top of the division.
“She’s the one with the belt, so I like that people put me in reference with that because that’s the ultimate goal. Here in this sport, that’s what you want. Ronda Rousey’s paved the way for a lot of us,” Holm said at the post-fight press conference. “I have a lot respect for her. I don’t look at it and think, ‘Oh this is how I want to map out my future fights here.’ I want each fight to be more of a challenge.
“There’s a lot of boxers out there that are what we call paper champions because they just keep fighting the same skill level. They try to just build their record. I want it to be challenging. Because if it’s not a challenge, the victory’s not that great.”
Holm arrived with so much hype, in part, because of her background as a multiple time boxing champion. However, the lack of a spectacular knockout in Holm’s first two outings has created a sense a restlessness surrounding her fights. To wit: Even as Holm was in complete control against Reneau, her performance was met by boos in San Diego’s Valley View Casino Center.
For what it’s worth, Holm herself isn’t completely satisfied, either.
“I feel like I could’ve been a little more aggressive in the fight, and I could’ve done a little more and been a little more happy with my performance,” she said. “My goal is to keep improving.”
When it comes to Rousey these days, the MMA world is far more focused on Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino and her on-again, off-again journey to 135 pounds, which, if successful, would set up an eventual date with the Olympic judoka in the UFC. That’s probably just fine with Holm, who plans on gradually working her way to the top.
“My goal is to be there, otherwise I probably shouldn’t be doing this at all,” she said. “Just one fight at a time; whatever [the UFC] throws at me.”