Holly Holm just needed a fight to get back on her feet, but a chance to become the first female two-weight UFC champion was a pleasant surprise.
Since upsetting Ronda Rousey last year, Holm is on a two-fight losing streak that cost her the bantamweight belt and top contender status in the division.
Despite her struggles, Holm will face Germaine de Randamie (6-3, 3-1 UFC) for the inaugural UFC women’s featherweight belt at UFC 208 on Feb. 11 at Barclays Center.
“This is the fight they called with, and I took it,” Holm said. “There’s really no other fancy way to look at it. It’s simple as that.”
After losses to Miesha Tate and Valentina Shevchenko earlier this year, Holm said she had a few other fights lined up for early 2017, each of which fell through. One of those included a catchweight fight with dominant 145-pounder Cris “Cyborg” Justino, who will be left out of the inaugural title fight despite a dominant reign in the weight class outside the promotion, plus two UFC wins at 140 pounds.
“I figured at some point they would probably bring in a 145-pound division. If they didn’t, OK; if they did, great,” Holm said. “That’s why I’m the fighter, not the promoter. I let them do their thing and I just try to do the best I can with what’s in front of me.”
Once this opportunity was put in front of her, she wasn’t going to turn it down. Not only would Holm become the first woman to win gold in two UFC divisions, but she would be the first multiple-weight champion in boxing and mixed martial arts.
“I mean, who gets that opportunity? I don’t want to screw it up; that’s all there is to it,” Holm said. “I want to do things that haven’t been done before. These are the goals I have for me. I don’t really think about what it shows other people. It’s just what I want to do.”
A new weight class brings new challenges, but Holm believes her long boxing career has her prepared. She fought most of her time in the ring closer to 140 pounds, winning titles in three divisions.
“I could make 145 tomorrow,” said Holm, who has eight weeks before the event. “I don’t want to walk around heavier for no reason and be sluggish and unhealthy or don’t feel ready or light on my feet, so I don’t want to cut too much weight and be weaker than I could be. I want to be as strong as I can be but also as healthy as I can be.”
This will be Holm’s first bout at featherweight, but her opponent has fought there before. De Randamie briefly competed at 145 pounds while with Strikeforce, but the Dutch Muay Thai champion has since been a tough out in the UFC’s bantamweight division after her 2013 debut, her only loss coming against current champion Amanda Nunes.
With a unique opponent in front of her, Holm is excited for a new set of challenges during this training camp.
“It’s a tough matchup. She’s actually an inch taller than me. I’m usually the taller fighter when I get in there,” Holm said. “So going at 145 and Germaine being an inch taller than me, it’s not like it changes everything, but it’s definitely a different game plan than what my fights have been before. Nothing crazy or drastic, but just a little bit different.”
Holm wants to focus on the fight in front of her, even as everyone else wants to know what will come next. A potential rematch could be on the horizon with Rousey, who will fight Nunes for the bantamweight title on Dec. 30. A fight with “Cyborg” finally might take shape.
But none of that will matter to Holm until her work in Brooklyn is finished.
“A lot of people are asking about that, and why wouldn’t they? That’s obviously the talk, and I’m open to that,” Holm said. “There’s a lot of events that can happen between Dec. 30 and Feb. 11. Is Ronda or is Amanda going to get the win? Am I or is Germaine going to get the win? And between those two fights, that can change everything.”
UFC 208 card
Notable fights announced for UFC 208 at Barclays Center:
Women’s featherweight title: Holly Holm vs. Germaine de Randamie
Light heavyweight: No. 3 Glover Teixeira vs. Jared Cannonier
Heavyweight: No. 10 Travis Browne vs. No. 9 Derrick Lewis
Flyweight: No. 6 Ian McCall vs. Neil Seery
Welterweight: Ryan LaFlare vs. Roan Carneiro
Welterweight: Randy Brown vs. George Sullivan
Flyweight: No. 5 Wilson Reis vs. Ulka Sasaki
Lightweight: No. 10 Dustin Poirier vs. Jim Miller