Holm's hype, career budding swiftly in world of MMA
Holly Holm the fighter has one concern right now: Win her fight Friday night against Angela Hayes.
But Holly Holm the growing brand name in the women's mixed martial arts world has a much larger task at hand.
"I want to continue to make a point to the UFC (MMA's elite fighting promotion) to how valuable Holly is," trainer Mike Winkeljohn said of his 14-time world boxing champion protégé who is now focusing solely on MMA.
"We definitely continue building her — setting her up for the future. Our goal is the super fights. Whoever has the (UFC) title — right now it's Ronda Rousey — but whoever has it when Holly gets there, that's what we want."
The UFC wants Holm (5-0) now. That much they've made very clear to Winkeljohn and to Holm's longtime promoter, Lenny Fresquez, who is putting on Friday night's Havoc, a 10-fight MMA card at Route 66 Casino/Hotel's Legends Theater headlined by Holm.
And while the Holm camp wants to join the UFC as well (she has two fights remaining on her Legacy Championship Fighting contract, but has a UFC out clause), they also want to get the best possible terms (i.e. pay) in whatever contract they finally agree to with UFC. And the leverage is clearly shifting toward Holm.
In October, after UFC 166 in Houston, UFC President Dana White was asked about signing Holm.
"You're like the billionth person that's asked me about Holly Holm," White told a reporter. "I was on the street the other day and some guy was like, 'Hey! Sign Holly Holm.' And I'm like, 'Yeah, I know. Everybody's telling me.' I haven't seen her fight but I keep hearing about her. … Holly Holm, I don't know what she looks like, I've never seen her fight, but I know who she is."
Still, Holm knows how easy the hype can fade.
"I'm just focusing on this fight," Holm said. "I don't want to get wrapped up too far in the future. If you start thinking four fights ahead, well, you're not really promised that. I have this fight in front of me. From there, we can go to the next step, but this fight is first."
She added she's fortunate to have Winkeljohn and Fresquez handling such career decisions, affording her the luxury of focusing solely on training.
Winkeljohn said the dominating finishes Holm has had in her past two fights in particular — a head-kick knockout of Allanna Jones in July and a TKO (kick to the body) of Nikki Knudsen in October — almost put her in a no-win situation now because fans are beginning to expect such outcomes.
"Winning the fight of course is always the priority," Winkeljohn said. "But if I had my choice to win the fight in any different way,
"I want her to win in such a way that markets her and she'll look that much better to the public," he said.
Holm's grappling is still her biggest question mark in the MMA world as she has won with strikes in each of her five pro fights.
But she wrestles in camp daily with some of the world's top MMA fighters at Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA gym and her trainer says he has no doubts about whether she's already the best female fighter in the world.
"She's already there," Winkeljohn said. "She's that good."