Ahead of her return to the octagon against Ketlen Viera at UFC Fight Night 206 after an injury and illness-enforced 19-month lay-off, boxing and MMA icon Holly Holm tells Sky Sports why she feels she is still improving and has plenty more to come in an already stellar career
By Marc Bazeley
Last Updated: 20/05/22 11:58am
Given everything Holly Holm has already achieved in a 20-plus year career in both boxing and mixed martial arts, it might come as a surprise to hear her say she still thinks she can even get better.
Her time in the sweet science saw her win world titles at three different weights while compiling a 33(9)-2-3 professional record and since first stepping into the octagon 11 years ago she has again scaled the heights, holding a 14-5 record which includes that memorable triumph against Ronda Rousey to claim the UFC women’s bantamweight crown.
Scarily though, for her opponents at least, Holm is adamant she is still getting better and has plenty more to come as the 40-year-old prepares to make her long-awaited return against Ketlen Viera in the headline clash at UFC Fight Night 206 in Las Vegas on Saturday.
“I think I’ve improved a little everywhere,” Holm told Sky Sports. “I think I’ve tried to just drill on things and pay attention to details, just to perfect certain things I was already progressing on and then also be learning new things.
“It’s a never-ending thing, you’ll never learn everything in this sport and there are always things to work on. I’m constantly at work.
“If you ever think you’re perfect, that’s the day you’re never going to get any better. If you think you’ve already made it, then you’re not going to improve. I always want to be like a sponge and keep learning as I go.”
Holm is re-entering the octagon on the back of an enforced 19-month lay-off due to illness and injury which has seen her unable to build on a dominant unanimous decision win over Irene Aldana at UFC Fight Island 4 in October 2020.
Even though potential contests against current UFC women’s bantamweight champion Julianna Pena and Norma Dumont fell through as a result of those setbacks, the American has had no issues retain focus during the longest period without fighting of her career, using that time wisely and keeping in mind that patience will yield its own rewards.
“I know that this is my life, this is my passion, my goals and this is who I am,” Holm said. “I knew it was just a little time off and I’d be right back at it, and I’ve still been training through this time.
“I’ve improved and I’ve got better over the time, it’s just been a while since I’ve been able to compete. I’m excited to finally be here and be at fight week and be able to put all of this work to the test.
“I’ve been pretty fortunate throughout my career that I’ve not had to take much time off, but you have to deal with what comes your way and that’s what I’ve had to do. I’m here, I’m ready and excited to fight Saturday.”
I’ve improved and I’ve got better over the time, it’s just been a while since I’ve been able to compete. I’m excited to finally be here and be at fight week and be able to put all of this work to the test.
Although MMA remains her focus at present, Holm has not ruled out a return to the boxing ring in the future as well, being entranced by the idea of proving her mastery of various combat styles by being able to go back and forth between the two.
A showdown with unbeaten Irish boxing superstar Katie Taylor, who retained her WBA, WBC, WBO and IBF lightweight belts via a split-decision win in an epic scrap with Amanda Serrano last month, has been mooted as a possibility, but while it intrigues Holm it is little more than a possibility at present.
“It’s just ideas which are floating,” Holm said. “I’m so focused on my fights right now with MMA, but it would be cool to go back and fight.
“I was a three-weight champion, and it would be awesome to get a fourth because her weight is 135 and that’s been my whole MMA career.
It’s just ideas which are floating. I’m so focused on my fights right now with MMA, but it would be cool to go back and fight.
Holly Holm on a potential boxing return against Katie Taylor
“Boxing, I fought 140, 147 and 154. It gets exciting to think about it, but I’m so focused on my MMA fights now, that’s where I’m staying.”
Holm has, of course, already caused shockwaves in MMA and beyond by announcing herself with the devastating kick which brought the previously unbeaten Rousey’s reign as the queen of the octagon to an end in 2015.
Seven years later and still ranked No 2 in the UFC women’s bantamweight division – not to mention No 8 in the women’s pound-for-pound rankings – Holm concedes she will perhaps never make the same sort of statement to the wider world. However, she still has eyes on reclaiming the title held by Pena and knows where victory over Viera on Saturday could lead.
“I don’t think the shock factor will ever be the same as that,” Holm said. “The big kick which everybody got to see, and it shocked the world – there won’t ever be that much impact again.
“There’s no way you can do that and that’s okay. That makes that moment special to its own, but I still think I can show people a lot as to how I can evolve as a full martial artist.
“A win over Ketlen, for me, is just a big victory anyway. The most important fight of your life is the one in front of you because every fight is the one which is going to open whatever door might be after that.
“There is always a lot riding on every fight, I don’t care if it’s for a title or not. This is just as important as every other fight, and I want to win just as badly as any other time.”