Holm's most notable win in mixed martial arts (MMA) occurred at UFC 193 (November 15, 2015), in front of a record-breaking crowd for a UFC event (56,214 people) in Melbourne, when she captured the bantamweight title and gave Ronda Rousey her first loss in the sport. Some publications have listed the fight as one of the biggest upsets in sports.
Holm is the first person to win championships in both boxing and mixed martial arts. As of July 31, 2017, she was ranked the #2 female bantamweight contender by the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and the #3 fighter by Sherdog. She was also ranked the #3 pound-for-pound female fighter by Sherdog, while Fight Matrix lists her as #7. UFC fighter and teammate Jon Jones has called her the greatest female athlete in the history of combat sports. Outside of MMA, she appears in the 2016 feature film Fight Valley.
Holly Holm was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and grew up in nearby Bosque Farms, the youngest of three children. Her father, Roger, is a Church of Christ preacher — as a fighter, Holly would later be nicknamed "The Preacher's Daughter" – and her mother, Tammy, is a massage therapist. Holm is of primarily Irish descent.
Growing up, Holm played soccer and participated in gymnastics, swimming and diving. Her parents divorced shortly before she graduated from Manzano High School in 2000; after graduation, she studied for a year at the University of New Mexico.
Holm has close relationships with her parents and brothers. Her father has never missed any of her fights, and for years assisted in her corner during her boxing matches. She and her father are partners in a real estate company. Holm is a Christian and her faith background is in Churches of Christ. However, her mother Tammy Bredy has seen little of Holm in the cage and doesn't often attend Holm's bouts.
In 2012, she married Jeff Kirkpatrick, who is also from Albuquerque.
Holm's path to a career in boxing and kickboxing began with aerobics classes when she was 16 years old. Her cardio-kickboxing instructor, Mike Winkeljohn, recognized Holm's potential as a fighter and began training her.
In September 2001, Holm won the championship title in the International Rules Adult Women's Welterweight Division at the International Kickboxing Federation (IKF) USA National Amateur Championship Tournament, held in Kansas City, Missouri. She fought two bouts in the tournament. She won the first by technical knockout at 34 seconds in the first round. She won the second by unanimous decision. This was Holm's last amateur competition. Her overall amateur kickboxing record is 6–0–2.
Holm has held several welterweight boxing titles, been highly regarded as one of the best female welterweights in the world, and is considered among the best of all time, by some. She also has been named Ring Magazine female Fighter of the Year, twice in consecutive years in 2005 and 2006. She is a big draw in her home town of Albuquerque, having all but 3 of her fights there and just one of her fights outside of her home state of New Mexico.
In June 2008 she became the undisputed welterweight champion and holder of belts from 140 to 154 by defeating former champ Mary Jo Sanders by decision. They fought a rematch on October 17, 2008, at the Palace of Auburn Hills in suburban Detroit, which ended in a draw.
On December 2, 2011, Holm took on knockout artist Anne Sophie Mathis of France for the vacant IBF female and WBAN welterweight titles. Holm was badly beaten by the stronger Mathis without the referee interfering, even going into the canvas without a count. She finally lost by knockout in the 7th round, which would be dubbed the upset of the year in women's boxing. The two rematched on June 15, 2012, for Mathis's WBF female, IBF female, and WBAN welterweight titles. Holm took a unanimous decision win over Mathis, becoming the new champion and avenging her earlier KO loss.
Holm made her mixed martial arts debut on March 4, 2011, against Christina Domke at an event promoted by her boxing promoter Lenny Fresquez. She co-headlined the card with Jackson's Submission Fighting teammate Keith Jardine. Holm won the fight via TKO in the second round after her opponent was unable to continue due to leg kicks inflicted by Holm.
Holm returned to MMA on September 9, 2011, at Fresquez Productions: Clash in the Cage against Strikeforce veteran Jan Finney. She defeated Finney by TKO in the third round.
On February 28, 2013, Holm made her Bellator MMA debut against Katie Merrill at Bellator 91 in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Holm won the bout via TKO in the second round.
Holm announced that she would retire from boxing after her May 11, 2013, boxing match against Mary McGee so that she can fully concentrate on her MMA career. The message came as a punctuation in the negotiations to arrange a title-battle between Holm and the Norwegian champion Cecilia Brækhus. Holm went on to defeat McGee via unanimous decision, for her boxing retirement bout.
On July 19, 2013, Holm faced Allanna Jones at Legacy Fighting Championship 21. She won the fight by head-kick knockout in the second round.
Holm was expected to face Erica Paes at Legacy Fighting Championship 24 on October 11, 2013. However, Paes was removed from the card and Holm instead faced Nikki Knudsen. Holm won the fight via TKO due to a body kick and knees in round two.
On December 6, 2013, Holm faced Angela Hayes at Fresquez Productions: Havoc. She won the fight via unanimous decision.
On April 4, 2014, Holm faced Juliana Werner for the inaugural Legacy FC Women's Bantamweight Championship. She won the bout and title via TKO in the fifth round due to a head kick and punches. Holm broke her left arm during the first round of the bout.
On July 10, 2014, the media announced that Holm had signed a multi-fight deal with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Later in an interview with MMA Junkie, Holm's manager Lenny Fresquez disclosed that Holm's contract is for five fights.
Holm was expected to make her debut at UFC 181 against Raquel Pennington. However, on November 13, Holm was forced to pull out due to an undisclosed injury. The two fighters faced each other at UFC 184. Holm won the bout by split decision (29–28, 28–29, 30–27).
Holm faced Marion Reneau on July 15, 2015, at UFC Fight Night 71. Holm won the fight by unanimous decision (30–27, 30–26, 29–28).
In her highest profile MMA fight to date, Holm faced defending women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey before a record-setting crowd in the main event of UFC 193 on November 14, 2015. Despite being a massive betting underdog, Holm controlled a majority of the bout with her superior striking and defended all of Rousey's takedowns. The second fighter to take Rousey past the first round (after Miesha Tate), she won the fight via knockout in the second with a high kick, ending Rousey's undefeated streak and three-year reign as champion causing her to spend the night in hospital
Holm was also awarded her first "Fight of the Night" and "Performance of the Night" bonus awards (totalling $100,000). By winning the title, she became the first person to win championships in both boxing and MMA. Following the bout, UFC fighter Jon Jones said he thought Holm was "already the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time) of women's combat sports". Her hometown, Albuquerque, New Mexico, proclaimed November "Holly Holm Month".
In her first title defense, Holm lost to Miesha Tate in the fifth round on March 5, 2016, at UFC 196. After four rounds of back-and-forth fighting, Tate defeated Holm in the fifth with a rear-naked choke. Holm was strong in the first round of the fight standing up, but was less effective grappling with Tate on the mat. After Tate took Holm down in the second round, Holm almost submitted to a rear-naked choke, but wriggled out just before the bell. In the fifth round, Tate scored another takedown and locked in another rear-naked choke. Holm refused to submit, was rendered unconscious, and the referee declared a technical submission.
Holm faced Valentina Shevchenko on July 23, 2016, at UFC on Fox 20. She lost the bout via unanimous decision.
Holm faced Germaine de Randamie at UFC 208 for the inaugural women's featherweight championship on February 11, 2017. She lost the fight via controversial unanimous decision. At the end of the second and third rounds, de Randamie continued to throw punches after the horn had sounded and the referee stepped in, the first of which was a right hand that visibly wobbled Holm, who had already stopped fighting. The referee did not take a point on either occasion, which crucially affected the result of the fight. 14 of 23 media outlets and a majority of mma fans still scored the fight in favor of Holm. Holm said post-fight she believed both instances to be intentional. She appealed to the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) to review the referee's decisions and determine an "appropriate result". On February 28, the NYSAC denied the appeal, finding "no clear error or violation of statute or rule".
Holm returned to bantamweight division after losing the featherweight title bout. Holm faced Bethe Correia at UFC Fight Night: Holm vs. Correia on June 17, 2017 in Singapore. She won the fight via knockout in the third round via a head kick that dropped Correia and then a punch. The win earned Holm her second Performance of the Night bonus award.
Holm employs frequent lateral movement while working stiff jabs to an opponent's head. When standing within the pocket, she often waits to attack with counter-strikes, usually employing a straight left hand. Holm is also known for her punching combinations, typically done while her opponents are against the cage.
Decorated boxer and ONE Championship fighter Ana Julaton has described Holm as a "natural mover", noting her footwork as an asset in setting up strikes. At UFC 193, Ronda Rousey took several blows while struggling to close the distance against Holm. Holm uses a variety of kicking techniques, often targeting the body with a fast side kick, pushing back a rush with a low oblique kick, and attacking the head with a left high kick.
Holm is one of several boxers photographed by artist Delilah Montoya and profiled in the publication Women Boxers: The New Warriors. She appears in the 2016 feature film Fight Valley.
First combatant, male or female, to win world titles in both boxing and mixed martial arts.ESPY Awards (2016)
Upset of the Year vs. Ronda Rousey on November 15, 2015