Holly Holm may never be able to top her monumental upset of Ronda Rousey when it comes to shock value, but comfort in the underdog role could be beneficial for “The Preacher’s Daughter” as she prepares for a different kind of challenge at UFC 219.
Holm is as much as a +325 underdog against Cristiane Justino in their women’s featherweight title bout scheduled for Dec. 30 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. “Cyborg” is the most feared woman in the sport, with notorious punching power and an unbeaten streak that dates back to 2005.
Still, Holm was considered much more of a long shot heading into her clash against the then unbeaten Rousey at UFC 193 in November 2015. The Jackson-Wink MMA standout made history that night in Melbourne, as she knocked out Rousey with a head kick and follow-up punches 59 seconds into round two of their bantamweight championship tilt. The victory made Holm one of the most recognizable talents in women’s MMA even as a three-fight losing streak would follow.
Holm returned to the win column with a June knockout of Bethe Correia, but once again, she is facing long odds as she heads into a high-profile title fight. This time, however, the MMA community realizes what the 36-year-old former boxing champion might be capable of in such a situation. Even Holm herself can see why some might be comparing her fight with Justino to her monumental victory over Rousey.
“I think there are similarities with the feeling of it, and just knowing that people are having a little bit of doubt,” Holm said during a recent conference call. “But I think that because I’ve done this more than once now, in boxing and it’s probably even more seen with Ronda, to be the underdog and come in — I think that people think, ‘Oh, OK, well Holly is capable of doing some of [these] things,’ so I feel like there’s more of curiosity behind it. Not necessarily just thinking I can’t do it, but kind of, ‘Hmm, I wonder if she’s going to do it this time.’”
But at the same time, Holm recognizes that it will be difficult to replicate the events that happened at UFC 193. “Cyborg” is a very aggressive fighter, as Rousey was, but the Brazilian possesses a far different skill set than the Olympic judoka. Holm also has the ability to centralize her focus on the task immediately in front of her, and at the moment, nothing would surpass taking down Justino.
“I can’t ever compare the two because they’re two different situations,” Holm said. “In my life right now, this is going to be the biggest accomplishment that I can have, but nothing can take away the journey I had and the experience that I had in my fight with Ronda.
A victory against “Cyborg” would make Holm the first woman in UFC history to win belts in two different divisions, and when added to her extensive hardware collection in boxing, establish her one of the most decorated females in combat sports history. However, if Holm were to upset Justino, the win would not complete her legacy.
“I know that a win like this would definitely be a huge thing for my legacy and my career,” Holm said. “But it’s definitely not something that would just define it right now. Even with a win like this, I would still want to push forward and be succeeding after this fight.
“It would definitely be a huge win for me. It would definitely be huge, but each fight, I want to win just as bad. I know that this is going to be a huge fight – a very anticipated fight; one that a lot of people are excited to watch – but I want to win any fight no matter what.”
Even if Holm already owns a major piece of combat sports history, she has her sights set on adding another chapter to that story come Saturday night.
“One of my biggest things coming to MMA from boxing was to be able to hold world titles in both boxing and MMA because no male or female had done that yet,” she said. “Here we are, I was able to do that and here I am up against another opponent with an opportunity to get multiple world titles in MMA after boxing would be huge.
“Nobody has done that before and it’s a dream of mine to accomplish that.”