Why Holly Holm opted out of Ronda Rousey rematch

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LOS ANGELES – Holly Holm heard all the business arguments in the wake of her stunning knockout victory over Ronda Rousey at UFC 193 in November.

Conventional wisdom was that the smart route for the new UFC women’s bantamweight champion would be to hold out until next July and fight Rousey in a rematch at UFC 200 in Las Vegas, which would bring in a bigger payday than she ever could have imagined when she began her combat sports career.

Even UFC president Dana White came out and said he should have his promoter’s license revoked if he didn’t make the Holm-Rousey rematch.

Holly Holm punches Ronda Rousey during their UFC 193 fight. (AP)
Holly Holm punches Ronda Rousey during their UFC 193 fight. (AP)

It’s a moot point now, because it turned out Rousey won’t be ready for a return within that time frame. But from day one, Holm says, the financial arguments for holding out on a second Rousey fight went in one ear and out the other.

“I told myself I would never fight for money or for fame,” Holm said. “I would fight for passion.”

Holm is in an unusual spot as a fighter. She’s a seasoned combat sports competitor, a former three-weight class world women’s boxing champion, and she's in her mid-30s. But Holm is still learning MMA, having committed to the sport full-time just three years ago.

So that means staying active and continuing to grow as a fighter. No matter how many times Holm heard she should wait for the big payday, the Albuquerque, N.M., native wanted to make her mark as a fighting champion.

Holm got her wish, as she’ll defend her title against former Strikeforce champion Miesha Tate on Saturday in the co-feature bout of UFC 196 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

“This is the next opportunity,” Holm said. “My mind doesn’t function like, ‘If I wait for this, it will be more money.’ That’s just not how my brain functions. There’s never a dollar sign in my mind when I’m thinking about my fighting career. I want the passion.”

Holm got a taste of A-list fame following her victory over Rousey, when she returned to the United States and went on a full-on media tour of New York and Los Angeles, which included a night courtside at the Los Angeles Clippers-Golden State Warriors game with comedian Jamie Foxx.

She admits the attention was nice, but Holm said she never wants to lose the mentality that catapulted her to the top in the first place. Holm might dabble in Hollywood if the right opportunity comes along, but she’s never going to go Hollywood.

“When you start fighting, you start in amateurs, you don’t get paid anything,” Holm said. “You pay money out, because you’re not going to make it back. You have to pay for your camp, you have to pay for your gas, you put miles on your own car, you’re paying money out in the beginning. I try to have that same passion I had in the beginning.”

With such a mindset, Holm shouldn't have too much trouble finding the motivation to fight Tate. The popular Tate has consistently proven herself among the sport’s toughest and most resilient fighters. While she’s best known for her rivalry with Rousey, where she has twice come up short, she has also been unstoppable against the rest of the pack.

Tate had been promised a third fight with Rousey last summer, after she defeated Jessica Eye in Chicago to win her fourth consecutive fight. But the UFC changed its mind and went with Holm, a move that was highly controversial at the time.

Holly Holm lands a punch on Ronda Rousey during their 2015 fight. (Getty)
Holly Holm lands a punch on Ronda Rousey during their 2015 fight. (Getty)

Despite all this, Holm’s motivation for the fight stays simple. Holm’s upset over Rousey halfway around the world has been called MMA’s answer to Buster Douglas’ 1990 upset of Mike Tyson in Tokyo. Douglas, of course, lost his heavyweight title to Riddick Bowe in his next fight.

That’s a fate Holm wants to avoid.

“I don’t want to be a one-hit wonder,” Holm said. “I don’t want it to be one performance. I want to show I’m here for a reason. For me, I want to keep going, keep getting better.”

Given that Holm’s head-kick knockout of Rousey was a moment that transcended mixed martial arts and became one of 2015’s cultural touchstones, it’s likely Holm will always be best remembered for the victory. But she’ll be damned if it’s the only thing she’s known for.

“Trust me, the last fight was one of the best moments of my life,” Holm said. “But I don’t want to be defined by one fight, I don’t want that to be the whole focus of my life. I have a fight ahead of me, I have the belt, and I want to go in and prove something, I want to stay hungry.”

And who knows? Maybe when the time is right she’ll take one of those outside opportunities.

"All these things are awesome to do, so I'd love to have those experiences," Holm said. "However, my job, my passion, is just fighting, and it takes a lot to be able to do that well."

Follow Dave Doyle on Twitter: @DaveDoylemma

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