Holm fighting more than Tate at UFC196
LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Sports fans, by and large, love the story of the conqueror overcoming enormous odds.
Holly Holm doesn't want to be remembered as merely the conqueror. She wants to dominate.
Holm will make her first title defense tonight as the women's bantamweight champion at UFC196 from the MGM Grand Garden Arena here when she faces Miesha Tate in a scheduled five-round fight.
Holm checked in at Friday afternoon's weigh-in at 134 1/2 lbs. in her final appearance in front of the cameras, lights, microphones and a glaring spotlight that she appears to be getting used to, albeit grudgingly.
Holm, who was thrust onto the mixed martial arts global stage in November when she knocked out champion Ronda Rousey, is equal parts severe and silent, especially when compared to the woman she recently defeated.
"A lot of people are wondering, 'What's going to happen now after that kind of victory? Is she the real deal?'” Holm said earlier this week to reporters. "There's a lot more pressure in this that I've put on myself, but that's what I'm here for."
In many ways, Holm seems to be the opposite of the woman she defeated last fall.
Rousey was bold, cunning, abrasive and polarizing. Holm is downright nice, admirable and not the least bit polarizing.
But don't take her soft-spoken nature for granted. She hits like a mule.
As a professional boxer, Holm held titles in three weight classes. She successfully defended those belts 18 times in a career that saw her recognized twice as female boxer of the year by Ring Magazine in 2007 and 2008.
Since her mixed martial arts career started in 2011, Holm has built an impressive résumé, winning fights with both her natural boxing ability and an uncanny use of her feet.
It is Holm's left foot, in particular, that caught the attention of millions of fight fans when she toppled Rousey with it, landing a kick against the side of her face in the second round of their November bout and ending the reign of one of the most celebrated and controversial female athletes of this generation.
Holm, to her credit, doesn't want to be thought of as the conqueror. She has far bigger plans.
"I don't want to be a one-hit wonder," Holm said. "My goal is to get that belt wrapped around my waist again. I don't ever feel like it's mine."
Holm also doesn't want to keep being reminded of that fight, the monumental upset she achieved and how all the world will be watching her tonight to see if she's worthy of being the champion.
"I don't want to take anything away from (Rousey). She's done a lot for MMA," Holm said. "But I've got (Tate) in front of me, and she's the one on my mind."
But even with a victory tonight over Tate — which a large majority of Las Vegas bettors expect to happen — Holm may still be seen not as a champion in her own right, but simply as a temporary holder of the belt until Rousey's return to the octagon and a rematch, most likely later this year.
"To be brutally honest, I love (Holm's) attitude," said Dana White, president of UFC this week, "But as the business side, I absolutely hate it. (Holm vs. Rousey) is the biggest fight in our history, without a doubt."
It's safe to say that in order for Holm to begin claiming her own legacy, she needs to do something very special tonight.
"(Holm) needs to win and win impressively," said national radio show host Larry Pepe. "People will inevitably look at her performance (against Tate) as compared to when Rousey (finished) Tate both times they fought. If (Holm) finishes the fight impressively, the earlier the better."
But even that may not be enough to overcome the sport's need for a polarizing figure, a flashy quote machine who creates buzz and — most important for the UFC — draws pay-per-view customers.
"How do you get the casual fan to tune in to someone that doesn't trash talk or exude that confidence of (Rousey) or a Conor McGregor?" Pepe asked. "The answer is time and dominance."
It may seem unfair or critical to judge Holm's career inside the cage based on things outside of her control, but the business side of the sport is equally — if not slightly more — important than wins and losses.
Holm vs. Tate is the co-main event of a strong fight card that also features a nontitle match between McGregor and Nate Diaz, a match that came about when McGregor's original opponent, Rafael dos Anjos, was forced to withdraw due to a broken foot.
The main event portion of the program is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.
Steve Bortstein hosts "First Sports" and "The Fast Track" on Fox Sports 1340 AM and 93.9 FM and on iHeartRadio. He serves as paddock show host at SunRay Park & Casino and is a voting member of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.