CHICAGO — Squeaky clean isn’t just a personality image for Holly Holm.
The Albuquerque fighter has proven over the past year since the UFC entered into a drug testing agreement with the United States Anti-Doping Agency that she’s as clean as a fighter can be in terms of performance-enhancing substances.
No other fighter on the UFC roster – male or female – has been tested more than the 34-year-old Holm in the past year. She had seven random tests in the final three months of 2015, according to a USADA/UFC testing database, and has had seven more in 2016. Thus far, none has been flagged for an illegal substance.
“I was tied for No. 1, and I’ve been tested since then a week ago,” Holm said. “I’ve now been the most tested athlete in the UFC. I know they have my samples.”
Then with a bit of a sarcastic smirk, she added: “Yeah, where’s my ribbon?”
USADA’s agreement with the UFC – one no other mainstream professional sports league, including the NFL, has in place for its athletes – has come under heavy scrutiny lately thanks to how well it seems to be working.
Holm’s Jackson-Wink MMA teammate Jon “Bones” Jones was removed from the main event of UFC 200 when a random June 16 test showed traces of estrogen blockers in his blood. Brock Lesnar, whose test results came in after he fought in the co-main event on that UFC 200 card, also tested positive for PEDs.
As for Holm, she and her camp aren’t thrilled when the USADA folks come a knocking, but also know they have nothing to hide.
“I’m very proud of it,” her promoter and agent Lenny Fresquez said with the same sarcastic smirk as Holm. “She’s the cleanest athlete in the UFC.”
WEIGH-INS: Friday afternoon featured a public “weigh-in” ceremony open to fans that included the traditional staredown photo opportunity between fighters.
Official weigh-ins are done in the morning the day before fights, giving fighters more time to rehydrate.
Holm weighed in at 135 pounds for tonight’s “UFC on FOX” main event against Valentina Shevchenko (133 pounds).
When the two did their staredown in front of fans at the United Center, it was less than friendly and ended only when UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby pulled Shevchenko away from Holm.
IZZY STYLE: The past week was a homecoming of sorts for Jackson-Wink wrestling coach Israel Martinez, the Chicago resident who has cornered for Holm for years since making the crossover to mixed-martial arts.
It’s been a journey “Izzy” says he’s been grateful to be a part of, even if he didn’t know entirely what he was getting into about a half decade ago.
“You know what? They asked me to train her four or five years ago, and I thought, ‘All right,’ ” Martinez said. ” ‘I’ll train the best women’s boxer in the world to be a fighter.’ She was already at the top of the world in boxing and then she restarted. We knew she was a star. We just needed the world to see it. After she knocked out Ronda (Rousey), now the world knows. She’s a star. She’s a first class example for women and athletes, and she’s just a great person. We knew we’d be here eventually.”
And as for Holm headlining an event in his hometown, Martinez, who spends several months a year in Albuquerque working at Jackson-Wink with many of the gym’s top fighters, he said he loves having the team coming to him for a change.
“She trains here a lot, weeks at a time, so it (Chicago) is nothing new to her. But for us and for me, it’s pretty cool because I get to sleep in my own bed,” Martinez said. “I travel a lot and I’m in Albuquerque an awful lot. It’s a tough sacrifice. … But then here, you realize you walk out and your house is just 30 minutes away. This is great.”
ODDS: Holm checked in Friday as a fairly heavy favorite (-210) over Shevchenko (+180), according to the odds posted on UFC.com.
PREDICTION: During a lively hourlong Q&A session with Chicago fans before Friday’s weigh-ins, reigning UFC women’s strawweight (115 pounds) champion Joanna Jedrzejcyk, who spent several weeks in the past year training at Jackson-Wink, predicted Holm would win in the second round.
Though none was recent, Jedrzejcyk lost to Shevchenko three times in muay thai fights, whereas Shevchenko is a multiple champion.