From the moment Holly Holm announced her intention to retire from boxing in 2013 to concentrate on mixed martial arts, she was put under the microscope, dissected and analyzed. At the time, she was already 31 years old. A veteran of 38 professional boxing matches, she had won championships in three weight classes and could rival anyone in the sport in competitive experience. She would come in the front door with the best hands in her division. Yet when it came to her overall potential, Holm was a mystery.
From the outset, however, she didn’t hide her target: Ronda Rousey.
“A new challenge was a big part of it,” Holm said during a press conference before her final boxing match. “She has opened doors for women in MMA. She’s the one to beat and she’s in my weight class, but I’m not ready to fight her tomorrow. I have MMA strengths but I need to build on my weaknesses.”
With just two years of pure MMA training, her ascent to the top has been a quick one.
The nature of MMA is much more complex than it appears. You must gain proficiency in punching, kicking, maintaining or closing distance, clinching, wrestling, defending takedowns, working from the top, defending from the bottom and transition scrambling. Each of those core competencies has hundreds of known techniques and counters, and new ones are constantly innovated. In that way, the possibilities of attack and response are infinite.
That is the beauty of the sport, and it’s also its curse. It is so multilayered that many a promising prospect has sunk under the inability to adapt. Because Holm had spent more than a decade in boxing, few knew how she would take to it. Would she implode, or was she the one who could beat Rousey?
In the history of MMA, no one who had ever won a major boxing championship had crossed over and won a title there….
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