Holly Holm will defend her UFC women’s bantamweight title for the first time at UFC 196 on Saturday, but it won’t be against Ronda Rousey. The champ will face Miesha Tate, despite potentially passing up a major payday.
When Holm knocked out Rousey in the second round of their UFC 193 fight, winning the championship and handing Rousey her first ever loss all at once, it was assumed that neither fighter would step back inside the octagon until it was against each other. But when Holm discovered that Rousey wouldn’t be ready to fight again until the latter part of 2016, she found another opponent for her next fight.
“I told myself I would never fight for money or for fame,” Holm told Yahoo Sports. “I would fight for passion.”
By taking on Tate, Holm is risking leaving millions of dollars on the table. Rousey is the biggest name in UFC along with Conor McGregor, who will headline UFC 196, and her loss in November might have been the most shocking moment in sports in 2015. The rematch between Holm and Rousey is highly anticipated, and it should easily help sell over a million pay-per-view buys.
But the rematch won’t mean nearly as much if Holm suffers a defeat before meeting Rousey again. Holm is relatively new to mixed martial arts, and she wasn’t well known by casual sports fans before her signature win in November. If Holm and Rousey face each other without the title on the line, and with both having a loss on their resumes, the fight will lose much of its intrigue.
Holm, however, doesn’t care, and she won't want to wait to get back inside the octagon. Since leaving boxing to become a full-time MMA fighter, Holm hasn’t gone more than five months in between fights. If she decided not to defend her title until Rousey was ready to fight again, she might have had to wait a whole year in between fights.
“This is the next opportunity,” Holm said. “My mind doesn’t function like, ‘If I wait for this, it will be more money.’ That’s just not how my brain functions. There’s never a dollar sign in my mind when I’m thinking about my fighting career. I want the passion.
“When you start fighting, you start in amateurs, you don’t get paid anything,” Holm said. “You pay money out, because you’re not going to make it back. You have to pay for your camp, you have to pay for your gas, you put miles on your own car, you’re paying money out in the beginning. I try to have that same passion I had in the beginning.”
UFC 193 reportedly sold 1.1 million PPV buys, which would put it among the four best-selling PPV’s in the company’s history. Holm reportedly made six figures for defeating Rousey, who might have made close to $5 million.
Holm is a slight favorite to defeat Tate, but a victory is far from a guarantee. Before Holm won the title, Tate had previously given Rousey her toughest test, becoming the only fighter to make it beyond the first round against the former champ.