Meet the New UFC Bantamweight Champion Who Shocked the World: Holly Holm
by John Thome
Former professional boxer and kickboxer Holly Holm took Ronda Rousey to the mats November 15, shocking fans and Rousey alike. But who is she? Get to know Holm, the new UFC Bantamweight Champion.
MMA fighter and former Olympian Ronda Rousey is one of the most recognizable athletes in America. She’s been in movies, on magazine covers and won awards. She was the undefeated UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion going into her fight against the also unbeaten Holm, an Albuquerque-born former professional boxer and kick boxer. Many mainstream fans have never heard of Holly Holm but in Melbourne, Australia, on November 15th, in front of more than 56,000 fans and millions watching on TV, she shocked the world by dominating Rousey and knocking her out with a viscous head kick, becoming the new UFC Bantamweight Champion.
Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Holm’s father was a Church of Christ preacher, hence her nickname The Preacher’s Daughter. Looking to get into shape at age 16, she walked into a cardio kickboxing class, where her instructor, former elite kickboxer Mike Winkeljohn, noticed her potential. He’s been her coach ever since.
The southpaw Holm began boxing professionally in 2002 compiling 33 wins, 2 losses, and 3 draws, along with multiple titles and the title of Ring Magazine Female Fighter of the Year in 2005 and 2006. She also achieved a 2-1 professional kickboxing record.
Holm trains at the Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA Academy in Albuquerque under the tutelage of Greg Jackson and Winkeljohn and alongside MMA stars such as Jon Jones, Deigo Sanchez, and Frank Mir. Holly won her first professional MMA bout in 2011 and continued winning as she fought in second-tier MMA organizations Bellator and Legacy Fighting Championships. Despite UFC president Dana White initially saying he had no interest in her, the two sides came to a deal and in 2014 Holly Holm signed with the UFC.
Holly’s first two UFC fights were in 2015. She won in less than impressive fashion, but it was enough to earn herself a title shot since Ronda Rousey had beaten most of the other challengers in the division. Leading up to the fight the two women were cordial when speaking about each other in interviews. But that good behavior came to a halt the day before the fight when Rousey initiated a confrontation during weigh-in. Holm remained calm and while Ronda seemed to let her emotions get the best of her and showed an aggressive, confrontational side. Later that day in an expletive-laced Instagram post, Ronda accused Holly of being fake. Seconds before the fight Ronda refused Holly’s attempt to touch gloves, which is a sign of respect and sportsmanship in MMA.
Most experts predicted that Holly would lose within the first round, but her support team believed she would become champion. Holly’s manager Lenny Fresquez had so much confidence in his client that he wagered money on her and won six figures when Holly shocked the world and finished Ronda in spectacular fashion 59 seconds into the second round. The city of Albuquerque was so proud of their fellow resident that they proclaimed November ‘Holly Holm Month.’
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Best feeling in the world. Still trying to process and take it all in. There aren't enough words to express what I am feeling. Thank you @ufc for the opportunity and most of all thank you to my team for believing in me. All the hours in the gym and all the years of dedication to help me get to this moment. This is a priceless moment and I could not have done this on my own. @mmacoachwink its been 17 years and one hell of a ride. Let's see where it goes from here! Greg Jackson and @izzystylewrestling … My transition to mma would not be possible without you. All of the coaching and teammates @jacksonwink_mma …… You are my family and love you all so much! I only hope to make you proud and be a good champion. And to all of my fans….. I would not be able to live the dream without you. Much love to you all!! Big hugs to everyone! #ANDNEW ????