Holly Holm has competed at featherweight three times in her UFC career, including a pair of title fights, but that doesn’t make her any more excited about the prospects of returning to 145 pounds.
Prior to a knee injury that prevented her from fighting, Holm was originally scheduled for a featherweight bout against Norma Dumont in October. The matchup was one of necessity after Holm grew frustrated with a long list of potential opponents either turning down fights or showing a lack of interest in facing her at 135 pounds.
According to Holm, that’s how pretty much every fight at 145 pounds has come about during her UFC career, which is why she’s never truly considered herself a featherweight.
“When I fought at featherweight, that’s usually been the case,” Holm explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “I’m always open to any fight and that’s why I took it, but if there’s another opportunity that makes more sense, that’s what I’m going to take.
“Because, I mean, yes, there’s a belt at featherweight, but you never know what’s going to happen.”
The featherweight division was originally established in the UFC back in 2017 primarily to find a home for Cris Cyborg, who has been recognized time and again as one of the best women’s mixed martial artists of all-time.
Cyborg eventually became champion but then lost the title to Amanda Nunes after “The Lioness” surprised the MMA world with a blistering 51-second knockout. Nunes has gone onto defend the 145-pound belt two more times, but the competition currently available to her is somewhere between slim to none.
Right now, Nunes seems focused on her career at bantamweight after losing that title to Julianna Pena in one of the biggest upsets in history at UFC 269. That once again puts featherweight on the backburner, which is why Holm would just rather focus on fighting at 135 pounds, the weight class she considers to be her true home in mixed martial arts.
“If [Nunes is] going to fight right away, is she going to go back for the rematch? That’s going to be at 135 [pounds] anyway,” Holm said. “What is the angle at 145? What would I really be going for?
“That’s why I want to focus on 135 — which, 135 is where I like to be anyway. That’s my weight class. Yes, I’ve fought at 145 because I’m open to both because I want to fight. But it makes more sense to me to fight at 135.”
While the UFC has failed to expand the featherweight division beyond just a few fighters for the past four years, there has been interest in potentially bringing in at least one more high profile fighter competing at 145 pounds.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist and back-to-back PFL champion Kayla Harrison is currently exploring free agency. UFC president Dana White confirmed the promotion’s interest in her.
Harrison has primarily competed at lightweight during her career but has fought at 145 pounds. That’d likely become her only weight class if she ultimately signed with the UFC.
Like any other fighter considering their options, Holm would welcome somebody as talented as Harrison joining the UFC ranks, but she still can’t help but wonder if even her arrival would change the UFC’s plans for the featherweight division long term.
“Doesn’t Kayla fight at 155? She’d have to even get down to 145,” Holm said. “You’ve got a big ‘45er [in Harrison] and ‘35ers that might want to come up maybe. There’s always that. I don’t know what they’re planning on doing with her coming over, if she’s coming over.
“I just feel like we’ll have to see how that plays out. If she really wants to come over and fight at ‘45, if that’s something she thinks she can do or not, I’m not sure.”