The movement to appoint former boxing champion Holly Holm as Ronda Rousey’s next opponent began in conference-room talks, Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White told the Los Angeles Times on Friday.
Immediately following Rousey’s 34-second knockout victory over Bethe Correia in Brazil on Aug. 1, both White and Rousey spoke as if it was a foregone conclusion that top-ranked contender Miesha Tate would get a third crack at Rousey (12-0) for the UFC women’s bantamweight title.
Tate in July impressed with a stand-up victory over a respected striker, Jessica Eye, and Tate also stands as the only fighter who’s taken Venice’s Rousey past the first round.
Yet, when it came time to formally discuss plans of who’d be assigned to take on the imposing challenge of fighting Rousey Jan. 2 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the focus switched from Tate to an alternate type of challenge.
“We were talking about Miesha from the start, then as we started sitting around we were saying, ‘Everyone has seen the Miesha fight already,’ ” White said, referring to Rousey’s third-round armbar submission victory over Tate on Dec. 28, 2013, and her first-round armbar submission of Tate in the Strikeforce organization in March 2012.
“A third fight in a rivalry usually comes after the stuff we’d see in [Arturo] Gatti-[Micky] Ward,” White said of the classic boxing trilogy. “With Miesha, the result has been the same twice. Everyone’s already seen that fight.”
White said he’ll work to stage a fight between top-ranked Tate (17-5) and fourth-ranked Amanda Nunes (11-4) on the Rousey-Holm card.
“Theres two sides to the coin … I’m not sure losing another fight to Ronda so soon would be good for Miesha,” White said. “She’s not going anywhere. I think she’ll be fine.”
Additionally, White said the Jan. 2 co-main event will be a strawweight title fight featuring unbeaten champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk (10-0), probably against top-ranked challenger Claudia Gadelha, as long as Gadelha can fully recover from a finger injury she suffered during an Aug. 1 victory.
White said the internal conversation turned to Holm because of the talents she showed in becoming a two-division boxing champion, a fighter whom Ring magazine twice named its fighter of the year. Holm also possesses pro kickboxing experience and is 9-0 in mixed martial arts.
Her UFC signing last year was met with the belief that she’d become a serious contender to Rousey, a 2008 Olympic judo bronze medalist.
But the 33-year-old Holm didn’t surge to the top of UFC fighter rankings as expected. She fought tentatively in her Feb. 28 debut at Staples Center, edging Raquel Pennington by split-decision.
Holm beat Marion Reneau more convincingly on July 15, out-striking Reneau, 65-26, and she currently sits as the ninth-ranked bantamweight.
White excused Holm’s debut and said he and UFC matchmakers ultimately became convinced that Holm’s championship pedigree and striking talent should make her Rousey’s foe.
White insisted that Tate did not complicate negotiations with outrageous demands and he added that there was no contractual requirement that Holm receive a title shot in her third UFC fight.
“Everyone has jitters in their first fight. Holly came back from that and destroyed a woman who’d looked damn good in her previous fights,” White said.
“When you talk about the possibilities of what Holly can do … she’s a world-class boxer … the Holly Holm fight for Ronda is way more intriguing.”
Holm possesses a reach advantage on Rousey (70 inches to 66) and she’s also an inch taller.
Rousey’s striking has noticeably improved in the last year. After landing several hurtful blows on Correia she landed the knockout punch, sending the challenger head-first to the mat in front of her countrymen.
And Rousey’s ground game is peerless. She has ended her past four fights in a combined 2 minutes, 10 seconds.
In announcing the fight on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Friday, Rousey said, “She’s definitely my biggest challenge to date, so I’m super excited about it.
“I prepare for a five-round war every time I get in there. No one’s easy until after you beat them, and with Holly Holm, she’s the type that is ready to go 12 boxing rounds. She’s not the average chick that I fight. She’s the best striker I’ve ever fought, and striking is something I learned much later in my career. So I don’t ever expect fights to be easy and fast. No one knows exactly how the fights are going to go, and that’s why everybody buys them.”