Holly Holm was just as surprised as the rest of the MMA community when she became the women’s bantamweight division’s next No. 1 contender.
The Jackson-Wink MMA product is coming off a clear-cut unanimous decision triumph over Marion Reneau at UFC Fight Night in San Diego on July 15. While the victory was an improvement over her debut, a split verdict against Raquel Pennington at UFC 184, it was generally assumed that Holm needed more seasoning at the sport’s highest level before she could ascend to the top of the division.
While after the Reneau bout Holm admitted that a Rousey fight was ”the ultimate goal,” she also seemed content with taking her time getting to that point. That all changed when the UFC made an offer she couldn’t refuse. Suddenly, Holm went from contemplating a fight with a training partner to the sport’s grandest stage.
“I’m so excited about the announcement [Friday],” Holm told “Inside MMA” in a brief video statement. “It was definitely unexpected. I was supposed to be fighting Sarah Kaufman, which is my friend and teammate, so this is definitely a turn of events. This is something totally new. I just want to make the most of it; I’m so excited.”
Kaufman, who is based at Canada’s Zugec Ultimate Martial Arts, has made the trip to Albuquerque, N.M., in the past to train with Holm. That potential matchup had not been announced by the Las Vegas-based promotion before plans changed.
Instead, Holm will face Rousey in the main event at UFC 195 on Jan. 2 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Oddsmakers initially established Holm as a 10-to-1 underdog, which is not especially surprising considering the Rousey’s reign of terror in the 135-pound division. At the very least, Holm has plenty of championship experience from her professional boxing days, and her competitive nature makes her eager to test herself against the UFC’s biggest star.
“I love when a challenge is thrown at me,” she said. “I really want to jump in. It just makes it exciting. I feel like I’m feeling [alive] and I’m just so happy.”