Holly Holm going to ground to learn a new way to fight
Less than three months after the world's No. 1-rated female boxer announced her retirement, Holly Holm will enter the cage against Allanna Jones at Legacy 21 in Houston on Friday for her first fight as a full-time mixed martial artist. Holm brings a 33-2-3 boxing record, three world titles in three different weight classes, and high expectations into the cage with her. The 31-year-old protégé of revered striking coach Mike Winkeljohn rounds out her game at Jackson/Winkeljohn MMA in Albuquerque. Holm talked to SI.com about switching sports, learning MMA's ground game, and meeting the most famous female fighter not named Ronda.
SI: When you announced your decision to transition from boxing to MMA, a slew of promotions sought your services. Why did you choose the Texas-based Legacy promotion to launch your career?
HH: I really didn't do much talking. Lenny Fresquez [my manager] and Mr. [Mike] Winkeljohn [my trainer] did. They would come to me and say, 'This promotion said this. This promotion is offering this. And Legacy looks like it's the best opportunity. They're offering this and this. What do you think? 'I agree.' That's all I have to say. They're more business-minded about it anyway, so I just follow their advice. It makes it easy for me.
SI: What would you like to prove in this first fight as a fulltime mixed martial artist?
HH: I want to make sure I'm being successful. If I'm moving over, it's not just going to be for a little fun in the park type thing. It's real. I want to prove to myself that I'm taking this somewhere. This new adventure, I want it to be worth something. For my friends, family, and fans and everyone who has supported me, I want to make it a part of why they were so loyal along the way. And the fans even in boxing? I want to show them why I changed. There was so much negativity. I want to show them why this is what I really want to do.
SI: Since your retirement from boxing in May, which areas of MMA game have you been working the most?
HH: Probably wrestling. Maybe it's because I enjoy wrestling. Everyone has their favorite. I enjoy wrestling more than grappling. Maybe it's because it's more instant gratification. Boxing, you hit them, you got it, boom. Wrestling, you take them down, boom. Jujitsu, it's like you pass the guard, or roll to this situation, to this, to this, there are a lot more steps. With my ADD mind, I'm having to learn patience, for the grappling game. Wrestling is something at which I've excelled more in the last month and half.
SI: What have you been doing to hone your ground game?
HH: I went to Chicago for a week, did some wrestling, two-a-days [with wrestling guru Izzy Martinez who's cornered the likes of Jon Jones and Clay Guida]. Here, [at Jackson/Winkeljohn MMA] when you're doing MMA sparring, and you're doing grappling, and mitt work, and conditioning, and running and aerobics. It's like, there's only maybe two classes a week you do wrestling. Going out there, it was two classes a day. Yeah, it was only a week but it was two months work of work I would have had here
SI: I heard when you went to Chicago you had an interesting offer from a potential sparing partner. What happened?
HH: Fallon [Fox, the controversial transgendered fighter] came over and said, 'Hey, let's train.' I said, 'I'm just here to wrestle.' If I were going to spar and do jujitsu, I would have stayed home. So my mind was really there. I wasn't paying attention. I wasn't even paying attention that that was Fallon Fox because I've been so wrapped up in boxing. I'd never even seen a picture of her. I'd heard people talk about her but I had no idea. When I got home, Julie [Kedzie, UFC bantamweight and Jackson/Winkeljohn teammate] is like, 'You're next fight is Allanna Jones.' I was like, nice to know. I actually did not know that. Julie says, 'She's she's on the Internet.' I'm like good to know. I'm going to go look her up. I've just trained. I find out who my opponents are in the newspapers sometimes. They were like, she just fought Fallon Fox. I look it up and text Julie, so Fallon Fox was the girl I was talking to in Chicago. I had no idea her last fight was against my new opponent. No disrespect to Fallon that I didn't know who she was. Even in boxing, I just took what fight is in front of me.
SI: You sandwiched three MMA fights (3-0) between some of your boxing matches. Those fights were enough for some fight fans to take to social media sites and message boards to predict the outcome of a bout between you and UFC female bantamweight champion, Ronda Rousey. Are you even thinking of a potential match-up with Rousey?
HH: I don't want to fight Ronda tomorrow just like she wouldn't want to box me tomorrow. But she's probably working on that. And I'm working on my ground game. I have confidence that I could do positive things in a fight with her but I have enough common sense that I know I wouldn't be ready to grapple with her tomorrow. So, just taking it step by step.