There has been a massive upset in the world of UFC: Holly Holm defeated Ronda Rousey and became the new bantam weight champion in UFC Fight 193 on Sunday, Nov. 15. To say it was unexpected would be an understatement; going into the title bout, odds were 16 to one in favor of Rousey — as one would expect. Ronda Rousey has been the face of women's UFC in the past few years, and even if you don't follow professional mixed martial arts, you've probably heard of her. So now that she's lost the title, the question is: Who is Holly Holm? And what does her win mean for the UFC?
Although Rousey blazed the way for women in the UFC — she was the first woman to sign with them, and the women's league was arguably built around her — in some ways, Holm's victory might be exactly what women's fighting needed. Until Sunday's fight, Rousey had yet to lose a professional match, and in fact seemed unbeatable. That perception — that she was going to win no matter what — made her wins seem predictable and made her seem like an outlier, the only woman who could really compete at the top levels. By defeating Rousey, Holly Holm has not only proven herself to be a capable fighter but proven that Ronda Rousey isn't the only formidable thing about women in the UFC.
So who is Holly Holm? Well, here are five things you should know about the new women's bantam weight UFC champ.
1. She's A Former Professional Boxer
Holm made her professional boxing debut in 2002 at age 20, and quickly rose to prominence. She won the inaugural IBA female light welterweight championship in 2004 and over then next 10 years held numerous other IBA, WBC, WBF, WBAN, IFBA, WIBA, and NABF world championship titles. She was named Fighter of the Year in Ring Magazine twice, in 2005 and 2006, and she is considered by many to be one of the greatest welterweight fighters of all time.
Holm announced she was moving from boxing to mixed martial arts in 2013, which surprised many since she was so established in boxing and was already 31 at the time. However, she's also continued to dominate in the UFC.
As one would expect, her mixed martial arts fighting style is heavily influenced by boxing; she's known for making frequent jabs to an opponent's head, as well as for her punch combinations. But she also uses a variety of kicking techniques to her advantage as well — and, in fact, was an amateur kick boxer before she began boxing. All of wthis makes her a formidable opponent in the ring, one who has yet to be defeated in any UFC match.
And now with her win in UFC Fight 193, she is also the first person, male or female, to win championships in both professional boxing and mixed martial arts.
2. "The Preacher's Daughter"
Holm's nickname in the ring is actually true to life: Her father really is a preacher, who currently preaches at the Edgewood Church of Christ in Albuquerque. And it seems he couldn't be more proud of her. "She deserves it. People don't realize the sweat and tears she put in," he told local Albuquerque news station KOAT after the match. "[I] get a little choked up with tears of joy over that, when we realize the magnitude of it."
But Holm also lives up to the more sweet-tempered, mild-mannered persona the name implies. Despite being a hard-hitter in the ring, outside of it, Holm is known for being reserved and even-tempered — the exact opposite of famously outspoken Rousey. She also doesn't get worked up over the trash talk that sometimes proceeds a match.
"I don't take it personally," Holm said. "There's a lot of emotions involved in a fight and if anybody has ever been in there, they know that. There's a lot of emotions, it's tense. People get worked up. Some people do it so they can kind of get up for the fight. But for me, I don't take anything personal. I just want to get in there and win."
3. She Trained Hard For Her Rousey Match
When news that Holm would fight Ronda Rousey first came down, Holm's coaches, Mike Winkeljohn and Greg Jackson, started developing a strategy immediately. Holm trained hard to prepare to take on the world champion — not an easy task.
"I couldn’t tell you how many times I cried in the gym leading up to this fight,” Holm said during the post-fight press conference. "There were days I got to the gym, didn’t perform well, sat in my car, upset, cried and thought, ‘You know what? If I perform like that, that’s not going to get me a win.' So I’m gonna come back tonight and I’m going to perfect those things, and I’m going to get better."
And all the training obviously paid off. Holm and her coaches went in with a strategy, including a plan to use lateral moves to thwart Rousey's very straight-forward, dominant style. Holm also worked on various ways to try to get out of hold in order to avoid succumbing to Rousey's lethal armbar. And Holm executed the plan flawlessly.
4. She Packs a Wallop
In the end, the tough match was decided by knockout 59 seconds into the second round when Holm delivered a kick to the head that sent Rousey sprawling. Based on the calculations WIRED magazine did, the kick carried an average of 50 pounds of force — not exactly something you want coming into contact with your head. And the fact that no one had hitherto ever been able to take down Ronda Rousey says a lot of the kind of power you'd need to have to defeat her by knockout.
After Rousey went down, Holm also though immediately went over to check if she was all right. "I don't ever want anybody to be hurt walking out of there," Holm said. "I definitely want to win, but I just don't want anybody to be permanently hurt." Rousey was taken to the hospital after the match for treatment for a possible concussion.
5. A Possible Rematch?
Even before the fight, Rousey had already announced she would be taking the first part of 2016 off in order to film the movie projects she's involved in, so a rematch probably won't be coming any time soon. You can almost certainly bet, though, that the UFC will want to put Rousey and Holm in the ring together again — and Holm says that she's definitely down for the rematch.
"If she wants the rematch and they put it together, you've always got to give the rematch," Holm told Bomani Jones on ESPN radio. "That's just how it goes. I've been on the other end of it before. I've been knocked out and I got to be able to get a rematch and avenge my loss."
"Of course," she added, "I'm going to train even harder and better for the next fight ‘cause I know she'll be coming back swinging."
Holm has also defended Rousey against a lot of the hate that she's been getting lately, especially in form of people celebrating her loss. "Ronda’s been a very dominant champ and she’s taken the sport to new levels," she told TMZ. "This fight wouldn’t’ve happened if she hadn’t accomplished what she’s accomplished, so I have a lot of respect for her."
So: What Does This Mean For the Future of the UFC?
It will be interesting to see what effect the defeat of Ronda Rousey, Holm's new championship status, and Holm herself has on the UFC. When it comes to successful women, it's not uncommon to see people turn on them when they get to be "too successful" in their field. Everyone loves a champion — unless that champion is a woman who's dominating and doesn't apologize for it.
It's also true, however, that people have a hard time focusing on more than one successful woman at a time; just look at the phenomenon of Hollywood "'It' Girls." It's like the world is only willing to pay attention to women if we only focus on one at a time. Right now, the reaction to Holm has been so overwhelmingly positive that it seems safe to say that she is the current It Girl of the UFC, and it seems many are eager to see her permanently dethrone Rousey.
However, Ronda Rousey hasn't become any less of a competitor just because someone else was able to step up their game. Right now in the UFC it's clear that after years of having only one unquestioned female champion, there are now at least two women who are at that top level. Both Rousey and Holm have proven themselves worthy of admiration and of championship titles.
And that new sense of competition in women's fighting could be a great thing for women in the UFC as a whole, especially since Holm and Rousey are so different — in both demeanor and fighting styles. Holm is primarily a boxer while Rousey focuses mainly on judo. Holm is calm, collected, and gracious in victory and defeat, while Rousey runs decidedly hot and is prone to trash talk and brash statements. And honestly, it's great to see both. It's great to see female athletes who are classy and controlled and strategic, and female athletes who are aggressive and say whatever they want and go full throttle all the time.
So here's hoping that the Holm-Rousey rematch comes sooner rather than later — and that UFC fans buck the societal trend and actually find a way to care about more than one female athlete at once. Because both deserve it.