That’s not an easy fact to digest for Holm (14-5 MMA, 7-5 UFC), who will compete for the first time since turning 40 with the women’s bantamweight headliner vs. Vieira (12-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC), which takes place at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas and streams on ESPN+.
Holm, a former UFC champion, hasn’t stepped foot in the octagon since putting on one of the most complete performances of her career with a dazzling unanimous decision win over Irene Aldana at UFC on ESPN 16 in October 2020. The more than 19 months without action since then haven’t been by choice. It’s quite the opposite, in fact.
The discovery of a long-present kidney issue that required an operation, as well as a knee surgery, has kept Holm on the sidelines. It’s been an agonizing experience for “The Preacher’s Daughter,” but that’s made her appreciate the opportunity to fight again even more.
“It feels good to be in a place that I’m actually competing,” Holm told MMA Junkie and other reporters at UFC Fight Night 206 media day. “I’ve been training. Even through the stuff I had going on, I’ve been training. Not to where I could really go 100 percent and have this goal I’m shooting for. … It feels good to get in there, and it also comes with all the nerves that come with it. Which also makes me know it’s real.
“I feel it. I’m living life. I care if I win. I think that’s another thing. I think those nerves just remind me that I care.”
Holm has seen and done it all during a more than 20-year run in boxing and MMA. She’s been a world champion in both sports and reached the highest of highs, but she said she’s still motivated to dedicate her life to this craft. With her age and experience come wisdom, too, and Holm knows how important this fight is to her overall goal of getting UFC gold back around her waist.
With Julianna Peña expected to rematch Amanda Nunes this summer for the 135-pound title, a win could put Holm in prime position for a crack at the belt. She’s well aware of that, but she said all of those grander narratives are swallowed up by her hunger to defeat Vieira this weekend.
“I have to win regardless,” Holm said. “I hate to lose. I just hate to lose, period. No matter what’s on the line. Whether I’m in practice training – I want to win the rounds when I’m in training. If I’m in front of two people, if I’m in front of 2 million people, I’m if I’m front of the whole world. I just hate to lose. That’s No. 1. I want to get in there and I want to win on Saturday.
“But as far as a career, if you don’t win your next steps and your next options are never as many as you want and they’re more limited. You take a step back instead of a step forward. So yes, in the long run I need this win so that I can keep progressing forward because I want to get to the belt.”