Just when it looked like UFC champion Ronda Rousey was out of competitors, a new challenger approaches.
As revealed by UFC president Dana White via Twitter, the promotion has just signed top-ranked prospect Holly Holm, one of the most promising female bantamweights in MMA right now.
Despite only sporting a 7-0 record in mixed martial arts over relatively weak opponents, Holm is far more notable as one of the world’s pound-for-pound best female boxers. From the World Boxing Council to the International Boxing Association and several other organizations in between, Holm sported a remarkable 33-2-3 record with 18 championships in 11 years—plus double “Female Fighter of the Year” nods from The Ring Magazine. Even in women’s MMA, an athlete like that is pretty rare, and Holm’s only gotten better as a talented MMA striker.
Now that she’s signed with the UFC, the general assumption seem to be that Holm will have to work her way to a title shot against Rousey, who may be out until 2015 with a broken hand and upcoming knee surgery. At the moment, there’s not really any lack of female bantamweights able to greet Holm to the UFC—but without an immediate title shot, there’s a solid risk at losing one of the few super fights left in women’s MMA. Simply put, it might not be worth the risk to give Holm a tune-up fight.
We already know that Rousey’s time in the sport is limited. Hollywood has taken a shine to “Rowdy” and she has many more opportunities yet to come her way. Is it really smart to lengthen the time she spends waiting for contenders?
One critical mistake in that area’s already been made with Japanese star Rin Nakai, who will face Miesha Tate on Sept. 20 at UFC Fight Night 52 in Japan. If Nakai loses, that kills off a fresh challenger for Rousey and does nothing for Tate, who already holds two defeats against the champion. Granted, there’s nothing wrong with Nakai earning her shot against Rousey, and the timing is just right for the Japan card. But in a division as thin as women’s bantamweight, all that extra matchmaking isn’t necessary with the right marketing.
With Holm, the job is actually half-done. Whatever interest the MMA world doesn’t bring for a Rousey vs. Holm fight, the boxing world will fill in the rest. In fact, Rousey’s already at the point when her challenger will always be the B-side of a title fight (except for Gina Carano).
Holm’s as ready as she needs to be. Rousey’s clock is ticking. If there was ever a time to string together some KO highlight reels and go all-in on UFC marketing hype alone, now is that time.