There she was earlier this week trading witticisms with JImmy Fallon,as easily as she had flung opponents to the ground. Laughing and confidently in control, much like every fight in her meteoric career. There was one thing that was slightly different though with Ronda Rousey, the UFC champion and most famous MMA fighter on the planet, a more respectful deference to her upcoming foe former boxing champ Holly Holm.
Not that Rousey conceded anything and naturally predicted victory and in no way showed even a flash of concern. But there was a nod to what Holm has accomphished in the ring. A respect level few opponents have garnered from the Queen of the Cage who sells a fight with both charm and barbs better than anyone. Oh, and of course that dominating unbeaten and unchallenged streak.
The champ never ignores the moment at hand, a main reason that in four short years she has rocketed into pop culture status with movies and magazines and a coveted guest on late night talk shows. Rousey has a firm grip on what this fight is, the uniqueness of a boxing champ transitioning to MMA.
Holm vacated her crown in 2013 to focus solely on this sport under the tutelage of powerhouse Jackson-Winkeljohn gym where training champs and those getting title shots like Donald Cerrone and Carlos Condit are the norm. She won multiple championships in the ring from welter to light middleweight then breezed in early MMA bouts capped by winning the Legacy crown before signing with the UFC where she hasn’t yet shown the punching power expected in going 2-0 with a split and unanimous decision.
That she has knocked challengers out and recorded a sparkling 33-2-3 in the ring, makes her intriguing. Maybe more than her spotless MMA mark. If she has shaken off those welcome -to -the -UFC butterflies–if not another first round Rousey win– Holm could be the closest to a real challenge for Rousey since Meisha Tate forced action into the third round before being stopped.
Still here is a boxer versus a MMA fighter. Yeah, yeah, yeah it’s happenend before but this isn’t some boxer past prime or one with a daliance because their career had stalled. This is the only time a boxer at the top hasn’t hesitated and hasn’t toyed with a pass through in the cage. For this who really thought James Toney was serious that thorough whipping from Randy Couture closed the novelty act for the better. Novelty has happenend too often in the past.
This will be the only time a boxer has left the ring as champ to fight MMA at the highest level. In the men’s divisions the money is too good, seven figure payouts are common even high six figures for top challengers, more than they could earn outside the ring. Money there that isn’t for female boxers where quality and quantity are limited. It’s not even Mayweather cash either but more for other top male boxers than almost every UFC star.
Rousey being an exception with her earning clout outside the octagon, putting her at a different MMA level. What keeps her there is a fierce drive and dedication. She might bite into a breakfast sandwich for a commercial, but decline even a nibble of Fallon’s chicken wing offering on the show, she’s in training after all and never doubt her seriousness.
Whether this will be her biggest test is debatable (she is a deserving big favorite) but at least Holm presents something different and until November 15 in Melboure, Australia the speculation of “can Holm regain that punch or kick to negate the Rousey express” is a topic worthy of talk.
That and the former boxer doing something never seen before, leaving the ring on top, to launch a real MMA career that has carried her this far to get a shot at the very best in the sport.
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