March 22, 2023 5:50 pm ET
SAN ANTONIO – Holly Holm expects to end her combat sports career under the UFC banner after signing a new six-fight contract with the promotion.
The 41-year-old former women’s bantamweight champion Holm (14-6 MMA, 7-6 UFC) was originally set to enter Saturday’s UFC on ESPN 43 co-main event with Yana Santos (14-6 MMA, 4-3 UFC) on the final bout of her contract. However, her team came to terms with the UFC brass prior to fight week starting, and now any lingering questions about her future are off the table.
“After my last fight I wasn’t sure (what would happen),” Holm told MMA Junkie and other reporters at Wednesday’s UFC on ESPN 43 media day. “I was hopeful we could still come to an agreement and be able to continue to my career with the UFC, so I’m very, very happy to have that contract signed. My mind is of course just on this fight ahead of me, but I’m happy to continue my journey with the UFC.”
As Holm’s previous contract was winding down, the possibility of her returning to boxing was a topic of discussion. Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn expressed interest in pitting Holm against Katie Taylor, and that was compelling to “The Preacher’s Daughter.”
That talk has all fizzled for now, Holm said, because with this new contract likely keeping her with the UFC until her mid-40s, there’s not much room for her energy to be placed elsewhere.
“I would say that’s it (on boxing),” Holm said. “We kind of talked about if something like that came up if we could ever figure something out, I don’t know. But my mind’s set on MMA right now.”
Despite her age and longevity in the fight game, Holm doesn’t think her skillset has fallen off much. She’s won two of her past three bouts, and was arguably robbed of a win in her most recent contest, which was a split decision to fellow contender Ketlen Vieira at UFC Fight Night 206 in May 2022.
If Holm can get the win over Santos, her in-cage work paired with name value could lead to another title shot, and that’s what she wants. In fact, it’s the sole reason she keeps working so hard.
“I think that’s the only thing you need to focus on if you’re in this game,” Holm said. “If you don’t want to be the champion, what are you doing here? It’s a scary kind of path to take because you know that means you have to take the toughest fights, the biggest fights to be successful. That’s where all that pressure comes in on you. But if I’m going to be here, I want to do it all the way.”
Beating Santos would be a nice boost to Holm’s resume, especially because there’s an extra layer of challenge attached to this fight, which airs on ESPN following prelims on ESPN+ from AT&T Center.
Holm and Santos have trained together in the past, and both admit they used to go quite hard when sparring against one another. That’s going to bring more intensity to fight night, Holm said, because she knows exactly what she’s getting herself into.
“I used to train with her,” Holm said. “She trains hard and she’s kind of unpredictable. You get in the clinch and she might surprise you with some things. On her feet, she throws a bunch of punches. There’s a lot of strengths she has. I feel like I’m going to edge it out everywhere, but I’m not overlooking her at all.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC on ESPN 43.