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MMA: Holm likely to return in March

An undefeated, hard-hitting young Californian will provide the opposition when Albuquerque’s Holly Holm returns to the Octagon, provided Team Holm accepts the fight.

The UFC announced today that Holm (12-4) will face Aspen Ladd (7-0) on UFC 235 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nev., in a bantamweight (135-pound) fight on March 2. But Albuquerque’s Lenny Fresquez, Holm’s agent, said he had accepted the fight conditionally and wants to wait until after the Dec. 29 featherweight title fight between champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino and challenger Amanda Nunes, who holds the bantamweight title, to make a firm decision.

“We haven’t signed a contract yet, so I don’t know why they’re announcing it,” he said. ” I haven’t even gotten a contract yet.”

Fresquez said his agenda on Holm’s behalf is to get her a bantamweight title shot. How soon that could happen, he said, depends on Nunes’ availability in the wake of the Cyborg fight — in particular, how Nunes emerges from that fight physically. Nunes’ bantamweight title will not be at stake.

“It just depends on what happens,” Fresquez said. “We could sit here and talk about 20 different things, but until (Dec. 29) happens, we don’t know.”

The March 2 fight would be Holm’s first since June 9, when she defeated Australia’s Megan Anderson by unanimous decision in Chicago. Holm since has undergone minor knee surgery.

For Holm, a former UFC bantamweight champion, the fight would be her first at the 135-pound bantamweight limit since she defeated Brazil’s Bethe Correia by third knockout (head kick and punches on the ground) in June 2017. Three of Holm’s last four fights have been at the 145-pound featherweight limit, but the Albuquerque southpaw has expressed a preference to campaign at 135.

Ladd, 23, from Folsom, Calif., turned pro in 2015. Her signature victories have come against Sijara Eubanks via unanimous decision in a January 2017 Invicta FC fight, and by first-round TKO (ground-and-pound) against UFC veteran Tonya Evinger in October.

Five of Ladd’s victories have come by knockout or TKO. She is 2-0 in UFC competition.

It is unclear what a Holm victory over Ladd would mean in the Albuquerquean’s pursuit of a bantamweight title fight, though it’s obvious a loss would be severely damaging for Holm at age 36.

Holm has dropped from the No. 1 bantamweight contender’s spot to No. 2 in the UFC’s most recent rankings. The Netherlands’ Germaine de Randamie, who defeated Holm by unanimous decision for the featherweight title in February 2017, replaced Holm at No. 1.

Fresquez said he was told his fighter had been dropped to No. 2 because of inactivity at bantamweight. Fresquez said he was not concerned about the move.

Holm, who trains at Albuquerque’s Jackson-Wink MMA, would join J-W teammate Diego Sanchez on the UFC 235 card. Sanchez (28-11) is matched against Mickey Gall (5-1) in a welterweight fight.