Headlines and controversy, not of her making, swirl around Albuquerque’s Holly Holm.
She narrows her focus that much more.
As many mixed-martial arts fans are aware, UFC President Dana White said last week he no longer is interested in signing Holm (6-0) to a contract. White blamed Lenny Fresquez, Holm’s longtime Albuquerque promoter, for the apparent impasse — saying he disliked Fresquez’s negotiating style.
Meanwhile, Holm is busy preparing for her April 4 fight at Route 66 Casino Hotel against Brazil’s Juliana Werner for the Legacy Fighting Championship women’s bantamweight title. But how could she not be affected by this UFC thing, when UFC is the biggest, baddest MMA organization in the world, and when that organization’s president says he doesn’t want her?
Ronda Rousey, the UFC women’s bantamweight champion, has always been Holm’s ultimate target. No UFC contract, no Rousey.
Yet, for Holm, for now, it’s all about Werner. It has to be.
“A lot of people are wanting interviews and things like that,” Holm said this week, “and the first thing I’m telling them is ‘Well, yeah, we can do an interview as long as it’s just about April 4.’ And none of them call me back, which is fine.
“I tell them if they want to talk about all that other stuff we can talk about it after April. There’s a lot of buzz about (the UFC/White/Fresquez story), but if I don’t win in April that kind of makes it a lot for nothing. It’s stressful, but I’m just trying to focus on the one ahead of me.”
Nor, said trainer Mike Winkeljohn, have White’s comments put any stress on the decade-long partnership among himself, Holm and Fresquez.
In the Twittersphere and elsewhere online, Fresquez has been called unrealistic, in over his head and a few less flattering things for the way he’s handled negotiations with UFC.
Winkeljohn’s not buying any of it.
“The team will never break up,” he said. “You know what, we wouldn’t be in this position without Lenny Fresquez getting Holly to this point and helping us out. He’s the best man for the job.”
Winkeljohn has worked with Holm for about 14 years in three combat sports — kickboxing, boxing and now MMA. Her preparation for Werner, he said, has not been affected by all the hubbub.
“She’s focused on the fight,” he said. “That’s what she’s been training for, and it doesn’t matter what’s going on outside.
“You’ve got to win the fight. Our project is not just to get Holly to the dance, but when she gets to the dance she wins the competition.”
There are other sources of pressure — Fresquez, White and the UFC aside — that Holm deals with every day.
During her 11-year boxing career, Holm won so many world titles it’s almost impossible to count them. But after her first six matches, she was 22 and known to few outside of New Mexico. She trained and fought under the radar until fight No. 14, when she upset women’s boxing legend Christy Martin in September 2005.
Today, Holm is 32. After six MMA fights, all victories, she’s already being talked about as one of the most logical and most intriguing of possible opponents for Rousey.
“It’s been fun, but it’s also been very fast-paced,” Holm said of her MMA career thus far. “I expected it would be that way.
“(After) six fights in boxing, there wasn’t this much media around it and pressure around it and the potential of bigger and better opponents already. … I’m just trying to take a deep breath and just take it as it comes.”
REDEMPTION AT THE ROCK: A 10-fight MMA card, staged by Albuquerque’s Triple A MMA in cooperation with Orthrus Promotions, is scheduled for Saturday at Camel Rock Casino.
The casino is just north of Santa Fe, off U.S. Highway 84/285.
Pojoaque’s Angelo Sanchez (12-5), a former King of the Cage featherweight champion, is scheduled to face Mexico’s Gabriel “Moggly” Benitez (15-4) in the main event.
Tickets ($42.50-$52.50) are available at tripleamma.com or by calling 505-508-0876.