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Holm’s body clock to be tested Saturday

Albuquerque’s Holly Holm lands a kick to Megan Anderson’s midsection during their women’s featherweight fight in Chicago in June 2018, won by Holm via unanimous decision. Holm is scheduled to face Mexico’s Irene Aldana on Saturday in the main event of a UFC card on “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Jim Young/AP File

Holly Holm has been fighting professionally, first in the ring, then in the cage, for almost 20 years. There’s not much she hasn’t seen or done.

But getting out of bed at 2 a.m. to prepare for a fight to be contested well before lunch, 10 time zones ahead of and some 8,000 air miles away from her home in Albuquerque, all amid a pandemic, well, that’s something new.

“It’s just a totally different experience,” Holm (13-5) said on Tuesday from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, where she’s scheduled to face Mexico’s Irene Aldana (12-5) on Saturday (Sunday morning local time) in the main event of a UFC Fight Night card.

“But it’s a fight. Nothing is predictable anyway, so I’m just kind of going with it and taking it minute by minute.”

Dana White, UFC’s president and the organization’s dominant personality, first brought fights to Abu Dhabi – “Fight Island” – as a way to bring international fighters into the Octagon while travel to the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic was restricted. The UFC staged four cards there in July, then returned to its home base in Las Vegas, Nevada.

White, though, liked the concept so much that he brought the UFC back to Abu Dhabi. Saturday’s card is the second of four to be contested there this fall.

Holm is no stranger to international competition. She defeated Ronda Rousey in Melbourne, Australia in November 2015, winning the UFC bantamweight title. She defeated Bethe Correia in Singapore in June 2017.

Neither of those fights, though, tested Holm’s body clock the way this one is.

The Rousey fight took place on a Sunday afternoon local time in Melbourne – the previous Saturday night in the U.S. The Correia fight was contested in the evening Singapore time – early in the morning Albuquerque time.

In Abu Dhabi, the UFC is putting U.S. viewers first. Fighters? Well, they’re all getting paid.

Saturday’s prelim card, which includes Albuquerque welterweight Carlos Condit, is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. MT. That’s 3:30 a.m. Abu Dhabi time. Condit is fortunate, at least, that his fight against Court McGee is the final event of the prelim card.

The main card is scheduled to start at 8:30 p.m. MT, or 6:30 a.m. local time. As the main event, Holm-Aldana is likely to start around 8:15 a.m.

Even so, Holm expects to rise no later than 2 a.m.

“No later than that, because it’s not just like a normal day of work,” she said. “… Get up, eat, make sure that food digests, move around a little bit.”

Coronavirus protocols are a factor, as well. Holm will dress for the fight and have her hands wrapped at her hotel before being bused to the arena, since the number of people – fighters, staff, media, etc. – allowed in the venue at any time is limited.

Those protocols, she said, already have made this week a unique experience.

Holm left Albuquerque on Friday for Las Vegas, where she and other U.S.-based fighters on the card spent two days in quarantine. Then came a day-long fight to the UAE, followed by two more days of isolation. COVID testing? Of course.

The enforced lack of activity, she said, was frustrating.

“You can only do so much in your (hotel) room,” she said. “I’m used to be able to run and train and be with my team.”

Still, she said, there are no concerns and no excuses moving forward. She’s on schedule to make the bantamweight limit of 135 pounds, or the allowable 136, by Friday’s weigh-in.

Holm is aware, too, that Aldana’s path to Saturday night/Sunday morning is no different.

“We’re all in the same boat,” she said, “so it’s not like one fighter has to deal with it and another fighter doesn’t.”

In terms of normalcy, Holm finds comfort in that virtually her entire team from Albuquerque’s Jackson-Wink MMA – Mike Winkeljohn, Greg Jackson, Brandon Gibson, Israel “Izzy” Martinez, Rafael “Barata” Freitas – has made the trip for her and Condit.

“I say they’re my team, and they are, but they’re more like family,” she said. “They all had to quarantine, too. It’s like, ‘Oh, sorry, guys.’

“(But) I’m glad they’re here with me and I’m not doing it by myself.”

DAD’S FINE: Holm’s life took an unexpected and frightening turn in December when her father, Roger Holm, suffered a stroke.

Ten months later, she said on Tuesday, “He’s doing great, like nothing happened. He has no paralysis, and to go through what he went through and the type of stroke he had, it’s honestly miraculous. It’s just a blessing.”

Roger Holm is a minister, hence Holly’s nickname: “The Preacher’s Daughter.”

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