After shattering Rousey’s mystique, Holm pursuing life passion

SHARE After shattering Rousey’s mystique, Holm pursuing life passion

Holly Holm lands a kick to the jaw of Ronda Rousey, knocking her out and winning the UFC women’s bantamweight title in November in Melbourne, Australia. | Getty Images

You’ll remember old Ronda Rousey from, say, last year.

The former Olympic judo bronze medalist-turned-cage fighter was the queen of mixed martial arts and the darling of late-night TV shows. She was pretty, confident, vicious and never lost. Invincibility draped her in its wondrous shroud.

And then came Nov. 15 in Melbourne, Australia.

It was a UFC fight in front of 56,000 people and a global TV audience. Champion Rousey was a 14-1 favorite against challenger Holly ‘‘The Preacher’s Daughter’’ Holm. A slaughter was all but guaranteed.

But 59 seconds into the second round, Holm kicked Rousey upside the head so hard that the blow knocked Rousey out briefly, cutting her lip, loosening her teeth and caving in her world.

After being as cocky and talking as much trash as a young Muhammad Ali, a weeping Rousey said on ‘‘The Ellen Degeneres Show’’ that the blow made her consider suicide.

‘‘What am I anymore?’’ she asked, wiping away tears. ‘‘No one will give a [bleep] about me anymore.’’

The suicide statement wasn’t a harmless threat. Both Rousey’s father and one of her grandfathers had killed themselves.

Rousey went to a hospital after the KO, recovered and has retained her good looks. Her movie roles continue. But nobody knows whether Rousey will fight again. Confidence, once demolished, sometimes never returns.

So who delivered that devastating kick? It was Holm, a former boxing champ, who stands 5-8 and weighed in at a fibrous 134½ pounds. Holm has blond hair down to her waist and a face that doesn’t scream ‘‘beaten to a pulp.’’ She can walk down the street and be recognized only by devout UFC fans.

Look like a fighter?

‘‘I hope not!’’ Holm said, sitting in a lobby chair at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Chicago.

Her outfit — jeans, red blouse, black jacket and gold sandals highlighted by red-painted toenails — said suburban chic more than subhuman chick.

But, oh, can looks be deceiving.

Holm was in town to promote her fight July 23 at the United Center against Valentina Shevchenko, a former world Muay Thai champion. The fight is no sideshow, as women’s events in martial arts used to be. It’s the main event, upstaging even the light-heavyweight bout between Anthony Johnson and Glover Teixera, the winner of which likely will take on superstar Jon Jones.

Fans dig the tough girls. They’re fascinated by the 34-year-old woman from Albuquerque, New Mexico, who crumbled Rousey.

I couldn’t help asking Holm whether it would bother her if her face was caved in, scarred like old wood.

‘‘No,’’ she said quickly. ‘‘Because I’m following a passion most people don’t have for their work.’’

She’s married, came from a stable home, wasn’t abused as a child, has two older brothers and ‘‘took family bike rides on Sunday night to get ice cream.’’

Hard to believe. There must be rage somewhere in there. Lashing out. Fury and hatred.

Holm shook her head. She likes team games and plays ultimate Frisbee with her friends back home. But she simply loves extreme competition and has found it in mixed martial arts.

Holm lost her first title defense in March, getting choked into unconsciousness by Miesha Tate, who twice has lost to Rousey, once by having her elbow dislocated via Rousey’s famous armbar.

But that kick on Rousey, the one a Southeastern Louisiana physics professor calculated was moving at 14 mph, with a 3.6 mph recoil — please, tell us about it.

‘‘When she came back up from a short punch, I knew it was a weak moment [for her],’’ Holm said. ‘‘That kick was instinct. It went in slow motion in my mind. I’m thinking, ‘She’s never been stopped before,’ so I didn’t want to get my hopes up.

‘‘I honestly don’t know words to express it. Total joy. I hit with my shin at the base of her jaw, and my foot wrapped around. You know how many times you practice that kick? And then finally, right there, it’s like . . . a grand slam to win the seventh game of the World Series in the bottom of the ninth inning.’’

So be it. Rock on, ladies.

Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.


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