Holly Holm finds herself in the familiar spot as underdog

Lance Pugmire, Los Angeles Times on

Published in MMA

"Walking to the octagon was very heavy, very nerve-racking. There's never been a feeling like that. It's such an intense feeling, close to being unbearable," Holm said. "Every fight, I'm in the locker room thinking, 'Why do I do this? I hate fight day.' "

The octagon "is the most vulnerable place and the most lonely place to be. They lock it up and it's just you and this person. Millions of witnesses, and you're totally exposed, and what you do is either going to be laughed at by millions, mocked by millions or praised by millions. You don't know."

By landing some heavy first-round punches, Holm was off to a good start.

"I knew they were solid, but I also knew nobody had ever stopped her before, so ... I might be punching at her all night. I never wanted to get an adrenaline dump, thinking I'd finish her, then not do it and gas out."

But then Holm landed the defining head kick in the second, and the Rousey reign was over.

"Unexplainable," she said.

There was an obvious weight attached to ruining the UFC's prized fighter, however, one that set up Holm's own fall.

As Rousey went into deep seclusion instead of seeking a lucrative rematch, Holm wanted to fight again quickly, so she met with UFC President Dana White.

"I understand I'm not the favorite person right now because you guys have done a lot for her and she's done a lot for the UFC," Holm told White. "You think of Ronda Rousey, you think of the UFC. Then I come in and mess things up, throw a wrench into the engine. So we are here now. We can only move forward."

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Holm pressed for a March 2016 fight against Miesha Tate that the UFC permitted. Leading on scorecards, Holm was choked out by Tate with 90 seconds remaining in the fifth and final round.

"I wanted to keep fighting because I was passionate about it. That's why I got to the title in the first place," Holm said. "A lot of people wanted me to wait for the rematch with Ronda, but I didn't want my whole career to be based around one fighter. I didn't think, 'I want to take the (Tate) fight to show people what I've really got,' not at all. But they didn't know if or when (Rousey) would come back."

Holm was defeated by Valentina Shevchenko by decision in July 2016, then lost the inaugural featherweight title fight by narrow decision to Germaine de Randamie in February after the referee didn't punish de Randamie for two punches after the bell.

Tears came to Holm at the post-fight news conference, the moment feeling like a possible ending before she knocked out Bethe Correia in June and landed the title shot at "Cyborg."

"Here we are again. Bigger, stronger opponent, people asking, 'What are you thinking?' " Holm said. "I know it's a risk. All of them have been. But I've been here before. That alone doesn't guarantee a win, but I know believing in myself has been the biggest thing that has helped me."

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