Profile: A Baptism by Fire for “The Preachers Daughter”

Profile: A Baptism by Fire for “The Preachers Daughter”

The UFC knows when they have their bread buttered. They know Conor vs. Cowboy alone is a crossover event. Hell, Conor McGregor could sell a million pay-per-views flat if he were fighting Joe Schmo, Timothy Anonymous, or John Smith. Conor McGregor’s name alone sells PPV’s. People are going to put down the cold-hard cash to watch him fight regardless if they know every fighter on the fight card or if they only know Conor himself. This is why UFC 246 doesn’t feature much in terms of “star power”. Or, so it would seem to the naked eye. One-Thousand Five-Hundred and Twenty-Two days ago Holly “The Preachers Daughter” Holm was the most popular commodity in the entire fight game, dare I say all of sports. Thousands and hundreds of days later? Holm is being treated as a mere afterthought, a curtain-jerker, for what promises to be one of the biggest main events in the 26-Years of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. But, how did we get here?

Affluent Begginings:

As many of the regular readers of this website know, old-school boxing addges weave their way into paragraphs smoother than a snake ready for dinner. So, here’s another one for your growing wisdom-

“Boxing is a Poor Man’s Sport”.

Holly Holm receiving a ten-count after being knocked down by Anne Sophie Mathis in 2011.

Boxing, likewise all forms of combat are viewed as outlets and avenues for the less fortunate and the disenfranchised. Certainly, when you take a step back and think of all of the fighters that come to your mind- the vast majority come from a rough childhood. Though, a theory could be formulated that this is a great generalization, a great stereotype that all poor people are prone to violence- and that the wealthier you are the more civilized you become. The sort of line of thinking that bred the de-humanization of Gladiators of the Roman Times.

Undoubtbly, unfair economical and living situations serve as an underlying symptom for the will to compete in such tough and damaging sports, evidence of such could be picked out by even the most novice of viewers of the sport- Mike Tyson, Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather- they all were born into poverty and rose up from it.

However, there are always outliers in any set of data.

One of those outliers is Holly Holm.

It does not take a ton of historical research to drum up the conclusion that Holly Holm lived a relatively easier life in her formative years as the daughter of a Preacher for the Church of Christ, and a massage therapist. Holm’s Wikipedia site even has it listed that she competed and trained in various a-typical sports you would see a middle classed American teenager partake in, Soccer, Gymnastics, and Swimming are named specifically.

So, how did Albuquerque, New Mexico’s Holly Holm end up in the rough-and-tumble world of Combat Sports?

The one good eye of Mike Winklejohn.

Mike Winklejohn is one of the more common names you’ll hear when you ask an MMA insider who the brightest minds in Mixed Martial Arts are.

Winklejohn’s chief achievement over his entire coaching career would have to be the construction of the greatest living or dead fighter of all time, Jon Jones. In Jones, Winklejohn took a standout college wrestler, and turned him into not only the youngest champion in UFC history, the most dominate champion in UFC History, but also the most well-rounded and fluid fighter to ever dawn four-ounce gloves. Keep in mind, Winklejohn has only had one eye since 2009 when a fighters toe nail burrowed it’s way through the outer layer of Winklejohn’s eye during a training session- He also constructed the career of Holly Holm after visualizing potential in her while teaching a cardio-kickboxing class. From kicking soccer balls, to kicking heads, Coach Mike Winklejohn envisioned created a world class fighter that defied the necessary stereotypical struggle. But it all had to do with the woman who bravely chose fighting over a life of normality.

So, Holm and Winklejohn partook upon the journey of coach and fighter, they fought their way through an 11-fight stint in professional kickboxing (a rather marginalized sport in America), before turning their attention to the world of women’s professional boxing in 2002. Boxing, at the time, was rather downtrodden by politics and an uninterested public- perhaps suffering the most? women’s boxing. See, equality wasn’t a driving factor in the programming of women’s boxing in the early 2000’s, it was hard enough to get the public to watch men box, let alone women. Still, despite the lack of notoriety, Holm campaigned in the female counterpart to boxing’s welterweight and Juinor welterweight divisions. She would hold many world titles such as the WBC and WBA Championships, all while amassing a record of 33-2-3 with 9-knockouts. But, it wasn’t her victories inside the squared-circle that defined her. It was actually a brutal beatdown and knockout at the hands of Frenchwoman Anne Sophie Mathis that would circulate around the boxing world. Holm would exact her revenge over a year later by winning a consummate decision victory over Mathis. Then, Holm fought twice more in Professional Boxing before moving on to greener pastures.

“A Baptism by Fire”:

Holly Holm and “Rocky” Pennington trading blows in their first fight. (2015)

Everyone who follows the sport knows the story of Holy Holm from the UFC on- Holm fought briefly on the regional MMA scene- scoring a highlight-reel knockout that would circle the MMA forums in just her fourth fight under the MMA ruleset, it was clear she was on the fast-track to the premiere combat sports organization, The UFC. It only took her seven fights to find her way to the UFC, she would make her debut on the undercard of Ronda Rousey vs. Cat Zingano at UFC 184 in February of 2015. She won the fight against a burgeoning young prospect from “The Ultimate Fighter” series, Raquel Pennington. The fight would be a bitter welcome to the big show for Holly, she won a relatively close decision in a really tough fight- one that the crowd in attendance disagreed with the judges and showed their dismay in the decision by showering Holm with boo’s as if it were her fault she won. Despite, Holm would go on to win a clear decision over Marion Reneau a few months later, setting her up for her first world title opportunity against Ronda Rousey. To recap, Holm made her debut in February, she fought and won again in July, and then she was fighting what people were calling the most dominate force in MMA in November. That would be like going from unpaid intern to CEO of a company within a nine-month period. To provide historical context, it’s important to realize how big of deal Ronda Rousey was. Ronda was being harled as “The Female Mike Tyson” by some, in reference to the way she was cannibalizing her opponents. She was a perfect 12-0, all of her wins came by way of submission or knockout, she was the reigning queen of the UFC’s bantamweight division, and she was on an incredible first-round stoppage streak that saw Ronda vanquish her last three challengers in a combined time of one minuet and four seconds. Holm, on the other hand was seen as reasonably massive underdog, she had only fought twice in the UFC against rather forgettable opponents. People were expecting another Rousey smash-job. We all know what happened on the fateful evening-

Holly Holm landing the headkick heard ’round the world. (November 2015)

It’s pretty often in fight sports when you hear the narrative of “this is a must-win bout for so-and-so”, in the case of Holly Holm vs. Raquel Pennington, it really is. Not necessarily in the sense that both women are coming of a long losing streak, or that they are too far past their primes. No, and their places on the UFC roster are pretty much secure (although), instead- this is a “must-win” matchup for both of these women because the winner will jump right back into the rather sparse queue for bantamweight title contention. Speaking of which…  

Holly Holm went from virtual unknown to being the most recognizable names in all of Women’s MMA within one fight. The story doesn’t end there. This isn’t a fairytale. Holm, maybe more popularly known as “The Rousey Slayer” or, “That one girl who knocked out Ronda” or, incorrectly referred to as “The Female Buster Douglas” (This comparison is misguided for a number of reasons), has encountered a relatively ‘rocky’ *pun intended* road in trying to establish herself as something more than “The Rousey Slayer”. In fact, following her earth-rumbling headkick knockout of Ronda Rousey, she went on a three-fight losing streak. First, losing her title to Miesha Tate by getting choked unconscious with just two-and-a-half minutes remaining in a Holm might’ve won. Then, Holm was on the receiving end of a one-sided domination over five-rounds courtesy of then obscure Kyrgyzstani, Valentina Shevchenko. Then, came the controversial loss to Germaine de-Randemie (who fought Amanda Nunes last month). That loss wasn’t nearly as bad as the first two, Holm had a legitimate claim to deserving the victory. It was a close fight, and Germain landed four ‘intentionally’ late power punches after two separate rounds, both of which wrongfully not ruled a foul.  This fight was also contested for the inaugural UFC Women’s Featherweight Championship- more on that later- Holm would land her signature headkick knockout against Bethe Corriea in Singapore in July of 2017, thus, bringing us back to the featherweight championship.

Holm would be fighting for the featherweight championship in Las Vegas on New Years’ Weekend 2017. Although, this wasn’t a rematch with Germaine- no, instead it was a fight with Cris “Cyborg”. Germaine forfeited her title she stole from Holly Holm after being faced with a potential clash with the aforementioned “Cyborg”. So, Holm and the then reigning champion, Cyborg, would do ferocious battle inside the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. And, in a third consecutive title fight- Holm had lost by an ever so narrow margin, again. She would return half a year later, again at featherweight, except this time victorious in a dominate, yet, boring three-round decision over former Invicta Featherweight Champion Megan Anderson.

Over a year off for Holly Holm would see the divisional landscape change drastically- Amanda Nunes would go on to knock out Raquel Pennington and then, Cris Cyborg, to defend and capture the bantamweight and featherweight championships- making Nunes the first female to hold UFC championships in two divisions simultaneously.

Holm was poised for a fourth world championship shot in the space of four years. This time, like the first time she fought for a UFC Championship (against Rousey) she was a heavy underdog against the surging “Greatest Female Fighter of All Time” Amanda Nunes- who had strung together wins over Tate, Rousey, Shevchenko, and Cyborg. There was one top gazelle left on the reservation for the “Lioness” it was Holly Holm.

Amanda Nunes landing the finishing head-kick blow to Holly Holm. (July 6th, 2019)

Mixed Martial Arts is a cold, cold, game. Four short years after scoring one of the most spectacular victories in the entire history of the sport, Holm would be knocked out with the very technique that earned her the biggest victory of her career. Holm went from being on-top of the world in Melbourne, to looking up at the lights in Las Vegas.

The loss would mark the first time Holly Holm had been knocked out since her brutal loss to Anne Mathis in professional boxing all those years ago.

This brings us to present day. Following the knockout loss in July of last year, the words of retirement began to circle around the now 38-Year-Old, 77-Fight veteran of three forms of Combat Sport.

However, we now stand about a day-or-so away from Holly Holm’s first fight since the knockout loss to Amanda Nunes.

Her opponent for the weekend? The very same female who (warmly) welcomed her to the UFC in the first place. She’ll be fighting “Rocky” Raquel Pennington again on the undercard of a major fight. One could push the narrative that this could be a “rebirth” for the former UFC Bantamweight Champion.

What it really is? yet another gallon of water added to the baptism of fire for The Preacher’s Daughter.


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