Holly Holm admits a matchup with Kayla Harrison “wasn’t really something on my radar,” but she’s grateful to welcome the two-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time PFL $1 million season winner to the UFC.
Holm (15-6 MMA, 8-6 UFC) is tasked with being Harrison’s (16-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) debut opponent when the pair meet in a women’s bantamweight bout on the historic UFC 300 card April 13 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas (pay-per-view, ESPN, ESPN+).
The former UFC titleholder said some frustration was building while she waited for her next booking and wondered what the promotion had in store as many logical options fell off the board. The matchmakers came with Harrison, and Holm relished the chance to add another marquee name in women’s MMA to her already decorated resume.
“I do take pride in the fact I’ve fought the best, while they were the best – not after the fact,” Holm said during Monday’s episode of “The MMA Hour” with Ariel Helwani. “I want to fight the best when they’re the best because those are the fights to take. Those are most nerve-racking fights. Those are the most intense. You have so much to lose. A lot comes with that.”
There are multiple layers to the matchup. How will Harrison’s skillset hold up against one of the greatest to ever do it? Does Holm still have enough left in her to fend off a hungry, younger contender? But the biggest one of all revolves a massive obstacle that comes before either woman steps into the octagon.
Harrison has spend her entire career competing in the women’s lightweight division, with the exception of one fight at featherweight and other at a 150-pound catchweight. The drop to 135 pounds is uncharted territory for Harrison, but she has committed to fighting in that division.
Holm can’t ignore the focus on Harrison’s cut to a new division, and she’s curious how it will impact her opponent, as well. But it’s Holm assumption and expectation that Harrison will step on the scale during UFC 300 weigh-ins at the contracted figure.
“I don’t really know what she walks around at, how much water she drops – I don’t know all those details,” Holm said. “But like for me, if somebody was to tell me I had to go 125, I couldn’t make 125. So you think about that. It is a concern. But I feel like she’s a professional. She’s not just been in MMA, but other professional sports and her judo and everything. I give that confidence in her that she’s going to make weight.
“Somebody can be depleted, but somebody can be faster if they don’t have extra weight, too. We’ll see what happens when we get there and get to the fight. I don’t really know her history. I don’t think she’s ever missed weight. I think she’s going to be a professional about it, but it’s one of those things where it’s not, ‘Oh, I’ll get close enough and hopefully still get the fight,’ and nothing like that. Be professional about it and make weight and we’ll be ready to rock and roll.”
If all goes smoothly prior to the bout, Holm is intrigued by how it will play out when they’re across from each other in the cage. Harrison’s background in judo has lent natural comparisons to Ronda Rousey, who Holm famously knocked out in November 2015 to claim the UFC championship.
Holm said outside of the combat sport which led them to this sport, the common traits between Harrison and Rousey in MMA are minimal, which is why she’s not leaning on past experiences to help her at UFC 300.
“A lot of people are putting those comparisons together, but they’re also different sizes, different styles, different stances,” Holm said. “They don’t even stand in the same stance. Everything is different. Some similarities yes, but for the most part it’s different. Their striking, what they go for is different. It’s nothing where I’m like, ‘I’ve beat a judo champion before, so I’ve got this in the bag.’ I’m not thinking about that at all.”
At 42 and with just one loss in her past five fights, Holm remains a relevant factor in her division. It’s been nearly eight years since she was last in possession of a UFC championship, but the dream to hold the gold still remains the driving force in her career.
“I’ve fought for the belt more than once, so a lot of people think about what the anticipation is. They want to see other people fight for the belt,” Holm said. “But you’ve also got to put people in line who deserve to be there. And there’s a reason why I have been up there – because I’ve stayed ranked in the top five for a really long time. My goal is to always get to the belt. If I’m not fighting for the belt, I don’t want to be fighting at all.
“If I don’t have some kind of path to the belt, I don’t really want to do it. I’m not just fighting for a payday. I’m not just fighting for fun. It’s with a goal in mind.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC Fight Night 235.