The last time Albuquerque’s Holly Holm fought in a UFC Octagon, the average price of gas in New Mexico was $2.10 for a gallon of regular.
Donald Trump was President of the United States (and that very day was hospitalized with COVID).
Paul Weir was the head men’s basketball coach at the University of New Mexico.
The Los Angeles Lakers were two games away from winning an NBA title.
So, yes, a lot has changed in 594 days.
One thing that hasn’t changed, Holm said on Thursday in a phone interview, is the Holly Holm who was so utterly dominant in defeating Irene Aldana by unanimous decision in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on Oct. 3, 2020.
Even after a kidney condition and knee surgery that forced the cancellation of two fights, even after turning 40, even after those 19-plus months out of the cage, she believes she’s the same fighter.
Well, maybe better.
As she prepares to face Brazil’s Ketlen Vieira (12-2) on Saturday in the main event of a UFC Fight Night card at UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, Holm (14-5) is confident no rust will show – that the momentum from the Aldana fight has not been lost.
“I feel like that’s a fight to build on,” Holm said. “You build confidence when you’ve been able to perform with the things you’ve learned, and that’s how I felt in my last fight. I was able to perform with the new things that I’d learned and was actually able to implement them in a fight.
“… I expect to be that fighter (on Saturday), but more polished and even better.”
It is not, she said, as if she’s done nothing to improve herself since the Aldana fight. She’d been in the gym preparing for a May 8, 2021, fight against Julianna Peña when stricken with a condition called hydronephrosis. She was back in the gym preparing for Oct. 16 fight against Norma Dumont when knee surgery became necessary.
Now, for Vieira, Holm has had a full and unhindered training camp.
The extended time off, she said, has been used constructively.
“I feel I’ve learned a lot,” she said. “… A lot of the time that I didn’t have a fight in front of me, I was just trying to better myself in all aspects of my game.”
If any of the above suggests that Holm is overconfident, or even close, forget it. That’s not in her makeup. Fear of losing has always been a prime motivator, and that hasn’t changed.
“I’ve never had this amount of layoff before,” she said, “but (before) every fight I feel how I feel right now. I’m nervous in a good way.”
A major media story line this week has been the tantalizing possibility of Holm regaining at long last the UFC bantamweight title she lost to Miesha Tate in March 2016, just four months after she’d won it from Ronda Rousey in Australia.
Should Holm beat Vieira and should Peña this summer successfully defend the title she won from Amanda Nunes in December, Holm – the No. 2 challenger behind Nunes – would seem the logical next challenger.
Those are what-ifs Holm is not ready to entertain.
“I have to win this fight (on Saturday) for any of that to be promised me,” she said. “… I know I have my hands full with Ketlen, and I’m ready to just go out there and do my best on Saturday night and put my heart into this fight that I have in front of me.”
Vieira, no trash talker, has expressed nothing but respect for Holm. But, like Holm, she has come to Vegas intending to win. Holm is a moderate betting favorite.
“I admire (Holm) a lot,” Vieira said through a translator at UFC Fight Night 206 media day. “I used to watch her fights before I knew I wanted to fight in UFC. I watched her fight against Ronda when she shocked the world, and for me it’s a dream come true to fight another former champ that I admire so much.
“I have a lot of faith for myself.”