LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Lenny Fresquez’s trips to the beautiful Hawaiian island of Maui, his home away from home, have been fewer and farther between of late.
Fresquez, though, is not complaining. His guidance of Holly Holm’s career since the Albuquerque MMA fighter’s shocking upset victory over Ronda Rousey in November, he says, has been a trip-and-a-half – and equally beautiful in its own way.
“It’s pretty much full time, but I’m having a blast,” Fresquez said Friday morning, about 36 hours before Holm was scheduled to climb into the octagon at the MGM Grand Garden tonight to defend her UFC women’s bantamweight title against Miesha Tate.
Fresquez, an Albuquerque businessman, first got involved in combat sports when he promoted a Danny Romero boxing card at Tingley Coliseum in 1994. He’s been a major player on the Albuquerque fight scene since.
His best move? With no room for argument, it was the day in 2004 when he signed a young boxer named Holly Holm to a promotional contract.
While he showed exceptional foresight that day, not even Fresquez could have foreseen the events of the past four months.
Then again, maybe he could have.
And maybe he did.
From the start, the trio of Holm, Fresquez and trainer-manager Mike Winkeljohn has made lovely music in the ring, the cage and at the cash register.
Nothing Holm has accomplished, he has said – not her myriad world boxing titles, not her decision to switch to MMA (and bypass a six-figure payday against Norwegian boxer Cecelia Braekhus), not her demolition of Rousey, has surprised him.
As for that six-figure payday, Holm almost certainly is either approaching the seven-figure bracket from all sources or is already there – fulfilling a prediction made by Winkeljohn, years ago, that seemed almost silly at the time. Female boxers just don’t make that kind of money.
But Holm is now a UFC champion, and no one’s laughing at Winkeljohn’s prediction now.
Fresquez, for one, is too busy to laugh – or to gloat, though it does appear that he bested UFC President Dana White on two occasions.
At one point in the original negotiations for Holm’s initial UFC contract, White called Fresquez “a lunatic,” labeled his financial demands ridiculous and said his company was no longer interested in signing Holm.
In July 2014, with White relegating himself to the sidelines, Holm signed with the UFC.
After the Rousey fight, White wanted Holm to remain idle as long as it took for Rousey to be ready for a lucrative rematch. Fresquez, acting on Holm’s wishes, pushed for a fight in the interim.
“I’m real concerned with what (Fresquez) thinks,” White said with dripping sarcasm.
Fresquez won that battle as well, though Rousey’s continued unavailability certainly was a factor.
Today, having traded his promoter’s hat for that of Holm’s agent, Fresquez employs two people – longtime assistant Doris Robinson and Fresquez’s son Leonard – to focus virtually full time on Holm and her career.
Since the Rousey fight, Fresquez has widened and deepened his business relationship with Winkeljohn and Albuquerque’s Jackson-Wink MMA. With Holm as the cornerstone, he says, the possibilities are virtually endless.
“It’s the premier gym in the world now,” Fresquez said, “… producing champions after champions, and it’s just an amazing story.
“We’re working on some exciting stuff right now, on reality TV shows, game shows where people will be able to interact with the fighters in the gym, and it’s just an incredible technology.”
The team’s recently announced association with Mark Taffet, a longtime HBO executive who widely is credited with developing that premium cable network’s pay-per-view television model, shows just how ambitious those plans are.
“Anytime our company does something, we do it first class all the way,” Fresquez said. “That’s what our goal is with Holly, to make sure she’s (viewed as) the premier athlete in the world that she is.
“We just want to make sure that she’s monetarily taken care of when her career is done. … She’s not gonna be fighting forever, so we’ve got to take advantage of having this window of opportunity.”
In the meantime, Maui’s not going anywhere.