Holly Holm is drawing plenty of attention ahead of her UFC debut. | Robert Lopez/Sherdog.com
Over the course of a decorated boxing career, Holly Holm amassed a gaudy 33-2-3 record and garnered multiple titles. In the process, she established herself as one of her home state’s most beloved combat sports athletes and was widely regarded as one of the best female boxers of all time.
Still, by Holm’s estimation, she has received more interview requests from media outlets outside New Mexico since signing with the UFC than she did during her entire 13 years competing in the sweet science.
Holm is scheduled to make her Octagon debut against Raquel Pennington at UFC 184 at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Feb. 28. The bantamweight bout will serve as the evening’s co-main event; the pay-per-view bill is headlined by a 135-pound title tilt between Ronda Rousey and Cat Zingano.
It will be something of a showcase weekend for women’s MMA. In addition to those two matchups, Invicta FC 11 will take place one day prior in Los Angeles with a card headlined by featherweight queen -- and potential Rousey foil -- Cristiane Justino.
“I feel like women's MMA is at a point now you almost can't ignore it, and I think that it's great. I think that’s what the athletes deserve,” Holm said during a recent conference call. “They work just as hard and train just as hard as the men. I think it's great that the recognition is out there and these women have skill. It's not just a catfight out there, and I think the more that people watch it, the more people are even getting into it because they start to really see what these girls have.”
According to the Albuquerque, N.M., native, women’s boxing just never seemed to gather the type of momentum female MMA has now. Female boxers practice their craft out of love more than anything else, because fame and fortune are unlikely to follow.
Holm herself was a consistent draw in New Mexico, but she only boxed outside the state three times in 38 pro bouts. Many fans outside the Land of Enchantment were unfamiliar with Holm as she began her foray into the cage. The getting-to-know-you process is still ongoing: Ahead of UFC 184, the promotion has added a number of Holm’s fights -- both boxing and MMA -- to Fight Pass, its digital streaming service.
“You know, I'm super blessed and super proud of everything that I got to experience in boxing. But it is sad that there isn’t enough following behind it. If you're a female boxer you're in it truly because you just love it, and I feel like there should be more following behind it,” Holm said. “I feel like now that I am in MMA, my want to come to MMA was just the same as in boxing. I wanted to do it because I was passionate about it, and you know I did boxing because of passion and now I'm doing MMA because of passion.
“But it is amazing to see how much more attention and how much more following and support there is with women's MMA.”
Holm is 7-0 since making her MMA debut in March 2011. She doesn’t think that her latest endeavor is likely to experience the peaks and valleys that boxing has over the years.
“I'm so happy to be a part of it while it is at a high, and I think it's going to stay there. I don't feel like it's going to have its ups and downs,” Holm said. “I feel like women's boxing has had its ups and downs. I mean, they've had big fights on television before with women's boxing, and you just don't really see it anymore. But it's had some times where it's been high.”
Given her past credentials in the ring, the Jackson-Wink MMA product has already been mentioned as an interesting potential foe for Rousey down the line. That alone is enough to draw attention.
Holm doesn’t seem to mind the extra interest that comes with her new pursuit -- in moderation, at least.
“I always am at a point where I feel like I just want to ride the wave wherever it goes, and [if] this is kind of what's happening right now with my career then great, let's go with it,” she said. “I definitely have to shut the phone off and just focus on training. But it has been busy, and I'm just trying to make the most of it and enjoy it rather than dread it.”