Holm: The focus is still there

Holly Holm, left, attacks Miesha Tate during their March 5 fight at UFC 196 in Las Vegas, Nev., which Tate won with a fifth-round rear-naked choke. Holm returns to action on Saturday in Chicago against Valentina Shevchenko. (AP Photo/Eric Jamison)
Holly Holm, left, attacks Miesha Tate during their March 5 fight at UFC 196 in Las Vegas, Nev., which Tate won with a fifth-round rear-naked choke. Holm returns to action on Saturday in Chicago against Valentina Shevchenko. (AP Photo/Eric Jamison)

One split second. A “momentary lapse.”

That’s how Holly Holm describes what led to her loss to Miesha Tate via a fifth-round rear-naked choke and losing her UFC belt in March.

It wasn’t the media circus, the Holm-town parade in Albuquerque and the life-changing whirlwind of events following her stunning upset knockout of Ronda Rousey, mixed-martial arts’ biggest star, with a kick felt ’round the world in November. That victory made Holm the freshly anointed queen of the UFC.

“As far as training and everything in that fight, I was preparing for (Tate) and I was getting ready for her,” Holm insisted on Monday.

“I was not overlooking her at all. But I do feel like maybe I didn’t fight in the same sense of urgency for her in that last round that I should have been.”

Now, Holm (10-1), is the UFC’s No. 2 ranked women’s bantamweight fighter, back on the pursuit toward winning a title instead of defending one. She is out to prove her focus is as sharp as ever against Valentina Shevchenko (12-2).

The two are the main event for Saturday night’s nationally televised UFC on Fox in Chicago’s United Center. A win, many predict, could earn Holm, 34, another title shot – this one against new champion Amanda Nunes, who beat Tate last week at UFC 200.

Holm spent Monday on another UFC-mandated media blitz in Los Angeles with appearances or interviews with at least a half dozen media outlets before she heads to Chicago for the fight. She feels she has a grasp on the balance between enjoying the moment and blocking out the distractions of fame around her.

“I don’t want to get all the way to the end of my career and think, ‘Oh my gosh. All that really happened?'” Holm said. “I want to experience it as it’s here and be as real as I can with it as it’s here. But at the same time, I want to put in all the hard work because I want to make it all worth it.”

Saturday’s primetime appearance for the “Preacher’s Daughter” won’t be easy, even if it against an opponent with whom even many regular UFC fans might not be that familiar.

Like the path Holm took from her world champion boxing days to the fledgling UFC women’s bantamweight, the 28-year-old Shevchenko is one of the most decorated champions in women’s combat sports, but gained most of her notoriety as a world class muay thai champion.

“Her muay thai background has, I think, actually more fights than my boxing background had,” Holm said.

“And she had a couple more fights than me in her (mixed martial arts) career. So she’s definitely a seasoned athlete. I know what I’m facing. I know that I have my hands full with her and I know that I have a very tough opponent in front of me.”

ON BONES: Asked three times during a Monday afternoon conference call, Holm politely answered three different ways that she has not yet spoken with friend and teammate Jon “Bones” Jones since his failed drug test led to his being pulled from the UFC 200 card in Las Vegas, Nev., earlier this month.

She said he was back in the gym working out and training the Monday after UFC 200, which was July 9.

“He’s always been supportive of my whole career,” Holm said. “He’s even been there for some of my boxing fights and always has been a good mentor and a good teammate. … I don’t ever want to support anything negative or wrong. And I don’t want to ever assume anything that I don’t know all the facts on. I guess we’ll just see how everything plays out.”

“FIGHT VALLEY”: Filmed months ago, and well out the time frame of any training camp, “Fight Valley,” starring Holm, Tate and Cristina “Cyborg” Justino debuts on demand and in select cities on Friday.

The only theater in New Mexico scheduled to show the film this weekend is Santa Fe’s Jean Cocteau Cinema, 418 Montezuma Ave.

FIGHT MADE: Jackson-Wink middleweight Derek Brunson (15-3), ranked No. 10 in his division on UFC.com, will fight No. 9 Uriah Hall (12-6) on Sept. 17 at UFC Fight Night 94 in Hidalgo, Texas. The fight was announced on Monday.

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