Even if Holly Holm didn’t come out and say it directly, the implication was obvious: Miesha Tate has persevered through more adversity in her MMA career than ex-bantamweight queen Ronda Rousey.
Holm will defend her title against Tate in the UFC 197 co-headliner on March 5 in Las Vegas. While Tate has never been as overwhelming as Rousey at her peak, “Cupcake” has repeatedly showcased a dogged sense of determination inside the cage. That by itself could mean that the sense of bewilderment that appeared on Rousey’s face as Holm tagged her repeatedly with counter left hands last November will be nowhere to be found if Tate absorbs some damage in the early going against “The Preacher’s Daughter.”
“She’s headstrong throughout an entire fight,” Holm said at a press conference on Wednesday. “She’s been through more battles. She’s got that experience in fights where she’s been digging deep and coming out on top. To me, I think that’s more of a threat in a fighter, when you know they’ve been in a battle.”
For a quite some time after Holm knocked out Rousey at UFC 193, it appeared that the two women were on a collision course for a rematch at UFC 200 in July. While Holm’s team requested a matchup with Tate in the interim, UFC President Dana White quickly shot down the idea. Tate was anointed the No. 1 contender only after Rousey informed the promotion that she would need more time off before returning to the Octagon.
“I was open to a rematch with Ronda. I just wanted whatever opportunity was gonna come. I think that this has been more of a challenging way to go,” Holm said. “There’s a lot of pressure behind it. I think there’s a lot of anticipation of what I’m going to do after the last fight. I think there’s a lot of high expectations. Who wants to be a one-hit wonder, right? I want to be able to still perform and do well.
“A lot of people are so excited like, ‘Holly you made it to the top.’ That’s one fight. Every fight still is something to want to get better and do well at. I still feel like I’m climbing. I don’t ever want to feel like I’m at the top. ...The whole thought of the rematch with Ronda isn’t on my mind anymore because it’s not where my focus should be anyway.”
Rousey will undoubtedly continue to loom large over the UFC 197 proceedings as the event draws near. There is currently no timetable for her return, although White claims that she will fight before 2016 draws to a close.
In the meantime, “Rowdy” figures to stay busy with a host of Hollywood obligations. Each week seemingly brings another movie opportunity for Rousey, which has only served to increase speculation that she might not be long for the UFC, no matter what she might say. If Rousey does leave before getting her return date with Holm, that’s no big deal to Albuquerque native. Holm’s enjoying what she’s doing -- with or without Rousey around.
“I want to keep fighting and if Ronda wants to come back and that’s her passion, great. If she wants to stay in movies, great. I would rather meet someone in the cage when they’re passionate about it. I don’t want it to be because they feel like they have to or it’s expected or people are curious about it. It’s Ronda’s life: I want her to do what she wants to do,” Holm said.
“In my boxing career, Laila Ali ended short of what a lot of people thought. They used to ask me, ‘What do you think about that?’ If she doesn’t want to fight, I don’t want to watch her fight. I don’t want to watch her fight if she’s not passionate about it. If Ronda wants to fight, awesome. If she wants to go on to different avenues of her life, great. Whatever.”