to celebrate hometown hero Holly Holm, the Duke City native who took down Ronda Rousey in November to claim the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship.
New Mexico waited patiently in the weeks after the fight to welcome home “The Preacher’s Daughter,” who upset Rousey with a second-round knockout in Australia on Nov. 14 and toured about the country following the win. And at Sunday’s parade in her honor, it was clear that the post-fight excitement among Burqueños hadn’t waned in the slightest.
Fans showed up in droves, many wearing Holm T-shirts or carrying homemade signs with slogans like “The champ is here in New Mexico” and “Holly has girl power.” They chanted Holly! Holly! Holly! as Holm, aboard a trolley, rode by, waving and smiling modestly. Before the parade began, dozens crowded around the trolley, and Holm leaned out signing autographs and posing for photographs.
Leading the parade was the Manzano High School marching band, which played peppy tunes in honor of the school’s alumna. Eric Trainer, a percussionist, said, minutes before the parade started, that it was great to see so many people out to support Holm.
“She’s a local, and it’s always exciting to see locals do great things,” he said.
Gov. Susana Martinez rode behind Holm’s trolley in the bed of an antique pickup with a glittery sign that read “Welcome Holm.” Mayor Richard Berry rode behind the governor, waving out the window of a vintage red Chevrolet pickup.
Following the short parade, people flooded into Civic Plaza where Martinez, Berry and other officials read proclamations and delivered messages of pride.
“She may be tough as nails, but she has a heart of gold,” Martinez said before proclaiming Dec. 6, 2015, Holly Holm Day.
When Holm finally took the stage, the massive crowd screamed, clapped and chanted. And then she offered words of gratitude, to her coaches, her family, her friends and her hometown.
“You here, Albuquerque, made this possible,” she said. “My career started here, my fans started here, my whole career started right here.”
She said she was thankful for the faith that her team had in her and the support her family. Her voice broke occasionally, though she had warned the crowd early on that she might tear up.
“I wear my emotions on my sleeve, so that’s just how it goes,” she said.
Holm’s father, who is also an auctioneer, took the stage after Holm, and entertained bidders who offered thousands for photographs of her. The proceeds went to the Albuquerque Christian Children’s Home.
Attendees were also encouraged to bring clothing and food to donate to the Albuquerque Rescue Mission. Steve Ulibarri, communications director for the mission, said the organization collected about six boxes full of donations, and several people gave cash contributions.
“One of the things we love about Holly is she’s such a positive role mode,” he said. “I think that’s why the community embraces her. We’re honored and grateful to have someone like Holly who wants to give back.”
Diana Barreras attended the parade with her family. She said she has been watching Holm for a long time and loved being surrounded by such a huge group of people gathered for such a positive reason.
“It’s so exciting, and knowing how much support she has, and how Albuquerque comes together,” Barreras said.
At a new conference following the parade, Greg Jackson, one of Holm’s two primary coaches at Jackson-Wink MMA, said he was impressed with the size of the crowd.
“It’s really exciting to see that kind of turnout from Albuquerque,” he said. “We’ve been in the trenches a long time, and to see the entire town come out like that was something special. I hadn’t seen anything like that before. … It was a moving experience, a great experience to see how much the town is behind Holly.”
Speaking after the event about her thoughts as she looked out at the crowd that filled the plaza, Holm said her fans are her motivation.
“It’s amazing, the amount of love that people have here. It’s breathtaking. It does, it takes my breath away,” she said. “It gives me this motivation to want to do better because there’s still going to be a fight to come and these people believe in me so much.”
Journal staff writer Rick Wright contributed to this report.