It was a battle between two undefeated brawlers, but only one of them seemed invincible. Ronda Rousey’s last three fights had lasted a total of 64 seconds. Her bout in Australia seemed a mere formality before she starred in that Roadhouse remake or teamed up again with The Rock at Wrestlemania. Then Holly Holm happened. Get to know the woman who, after pulling a monumental upset with a devastating knockout of the sport’s biggest star, remains unbeaten in MMA.
Holm has one of the great nicknames ever. And lest you think “The Preacher’s Daughter” is just an expression…
Papa does indeed preach. Having met Holm’s mother at the Bible Institute of Denver, Roger Holm still officiates at the Edgewood Church of Christ outside Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Holm has a serious background in boxing. Between 2002 and 2013, she posted a professional record of 33-2-3, winning a number of titles.
But a gift for boxing doesn’t necessarily translate to mixed martial arts. Notably, boxer James “The Dark Emperor” Toney (a champ in three different weight classes) was absolutely destroyed when he took on Randy Couture in the first and only fight of his MMA career.
Luckily, Holm had top trainers for the transition. Holm’s coaches include Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn. Like her father, they’ve been doing New Mexico proud for years.
Holm trains at the Jackson Wink Academy. Jackson and Winkeljohn own a 30,000-square-foot training complex in Albuquerque where the fighters include former UFC heavyweight champ Andrei Arlovski, former WEC champ Carlos Condit, “controversial” pound-for-pound king Jon “Bones” Jones and new UFC bantamweight champ Holm.
And aerobics brought them together. Really. Winkeljohn used to teach aerobics, during which time he met Holm. He got her into kickboxing, the first step toward the head-kick heard ’round the world.
For Holm, pain don’t hurt. In a display of toughness bordering on insanity, she shrugged off a first-round broken arm for another four rounds until she finally earned a fifth-round TKO win over Juliana Werner in 2014.
Holm is not exactly loaded with UFC experience. While she’s now 10-0 in mixed martial arts, Holm had only been in the Octagon twice before meeting Rousey.
That said, Holm made them last. In contrast to Rousey’s “blink and you miss it” bouts, Holm went the distance in both her fights for decision wins (one split). So before the Rousey bout, she had spent a full 30 minutes in the Octagon.
Going into the fight, Holm was a ridiculous underdog. Rousey went off on some sports books as a 20-1 favorite. This isn’t quite Mike Tyson’s 42-1 odds against Buster Douglas (who beat him), but they are the kinda odds you get when even the experts sense a sure thing.
Rousey tried—and failed—to get inside Holm’s head. Rousey is noted for psyching out opponents and was in prime form before the fight, reportedly responding to Holm praising her by yelling, “That respect, I can see it’s fake and you’re gonna get it on Sunday!” and refusing to touch gloves before the bout.
Holm’s upset actually happened in the early a.m. With the fight occurring in Australia, the event had to start on Sunday morning to allow for a live Saturday night broadcast in the U.S. That means the bout drew a UFC-record crowd of 56,214 to the stadium despite a 10:15 a.m. start time.
Sports books hate Holm. Remember those crazy odds? Enough folks took advantage of them for Jay Kornegay of the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook to say simply that much of Sin City was “crushed.”
Holm’s spotlight time may be brief. It’s uncertain how much longer Holm can fight at an elite level, as she is already 34. Even before getting knocked out and hospitalized, the 28-year-old Rousey frequently discussed retirement.
Still, she has a huge payday ahead. At least one superfight awaits Holm, when she rematches Rousey and shows whether it was just a magical night (er, morning) or the emergence of a new superstar who gets to do a Patrick Swayze remake of her own. We can only hope it’s To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar.