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MMA: Holly Holm building MMA brand, returns home for December fight

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Angela Hayes, left, poses with Albuquerque's Holly Holm at Tuesday's announcement of their Dec. 6 mixed martial arts fight at Route 66 Hotel/Casino. (Dean Hanson/Journal)

Angela Hayes, left, poses with Albuquerque’s Holly Holm at Tuesday’s announcement of their Dec. 6 mixed martial arts fight at Route 66 Hotel/Casino. (Dean Hanson/Journal)

The Holly Holm hype continues to grow.

She just hasn’t had much time to sit back and get caught up in it.

Just four days after her second impressive TKO victory in her four-fight contract with Legacy Fighting Championship, both by vicious kicks leading to the fight being stopped, the 14-time world boxing champion who is now 5-0 in her mixed martial arts career announced on Tuesday she’s returning to Albuquerque for her next fight.

The 31-year-old Holm will fight MMA veteran Angela Hayes (6-6) on Dec. 6 at Route 66 Casino/Hotel, headlining a nine-fight MMA card.

It will be Holm’s sixth fight in a 12-month span.

“That’s tough from a mental standpoint as much as anything,” Holm said. “There isn’t much down time to sit back and relax, but I’m a fighter. I’ll take having fights as opposed to having to wait around for them.”

Such is the case for the fighter most MMA fans are clamoring to see enter the UFC, the sport’s top fight promotion. The UFC boasts Ronda Rousey, considered the best female fighter in the world.

When Holm, who grew her faithful “Preacher’s Daughter” following as a champion boxer, hung up the gloves a year ago to focus solely on MMA, she and her inner circle of longtime trainer Mike Winkeljohn and promoter Lenny Fresquez had a very specific plan: Get Holm ready for elite fighting at an accelerated pace while also building her brand in the MMA community so she can demand top-level money not usually offered to first-time UFC fighters.

“I want to build a super fight. I won’t lie,” said Winkeljohn, who knows plenty about world champion UFC fighters as one of the two world-famous trainers at Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA gym in Albuquerque.

“Holly is different. Nobody else has done this before on the women’s side in the UFC – build a name so big that the public demands it. Our goal, Lenny and I, is to build Holly and her public image to the point where the public demands the big fight. Then we go at the right time. It’s happened before with the UFC where (male) fighters come in from other organizations, they come in and sign for much more than fighters who grew up in the organization and get stuck with the contracts the UFC has.”

Both Fresquez and Winkeljohn confirmed talks as recently as Monday with UFC officials expressing, again, their interest in Holm.

Winkeljohn said he has no doubt Holm will be fighting in the UFC by the end of 2014, adding she’s good enough now to beat all but “one or two” female fighters in the world.

“We’re close,” Winkeljohn said. “We’re real close.”

Holm has the Dec. 6 fight at Route 66 as well as two more fights remaining on her Legacy FC contract, but even that has a stipulation that the contract can be broken without penalty for a UFC contract.

While not disclosing specific figures, Fresquez said by staying out of the UFC and retaining contract control, Holm is the second highest paid female MMA fighter in the world behind Rousey.

So for now, the goal is to continue building Holm the MMA brand and Holm the MMA fighter. For the latter, that means continuing to develop her ground game.

Hayes says don’t expect that from her.

“I want to stand up and bang with her,” Hayes said. “I’m not really a ground person. I’m all about standing up and banging. I appreciate the kicks and I’ll look out for them, but I’ve got some pretty good kicks myself.”

MORE THAN HOLM: In addition to Holm, at least two other Jackson-Winkeljohn fighters on the Dec. 6 “Havoc” card have the potential to sign UFC contracts within the year: lightweight Gabriel “Moggly” Benitez of Mexico and flyweight Nick Urso.

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