After securing her sixth bantamweight title defense at UFC 289 in June, Amanda Nunes announced her retirement, leaving the belt vacant with a handful of contenders all eager to get their hands on the ultimate prize.
Towards the top of that shortlist is Holly Holm, a former bantamweight champion whose recent success has staked her claim as one of the best fighters in the world. This Saturday, Holm features in another UFC main event, where she’ll challenge Mayra Bueno Silva at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas.
With the belt vacant, Holm’s path to the title couldn’t be more clear. Continue winning and, sooner rather than later, her name will be called. In 2019, Holm challenged Nunes for the bantamweight title, but suffered defeat late in the first round to “The Lioness.” It’s a fight Holm’s wanted back ever since that night, but ultimately claiming the belt is Holm’s number one priority, and it doesn’t matter who is standing in her way.
“It would’ve been more of a sweet victory to actually fight Amanda and avenge my loss, but I’m excited for the future, whether she’s in it or not,” Holm said.
“I do think it shook things up in the division, but it didn’t change my position or how I feel. I’ve always wanted to get [back] to the belt and I didn’t feel I was too far from being able to fight for the title anyway, whether it be Amanda or anyone else. It’s just vacant now. I felt like I was a fight away from the belt, regardless.”
Since her loss to Nunes, Holm has never looked better. Holm immediately got back in the win column by defeating No. 2 ranked bantamweight contender Raquel Pennington and Nunes’ most recent title challenger, Irene Aldana.
Not only is Holm defeating these top ranked contenders, but she also continues to evolve, despite competing professionally in combat sports since 2002, when she made her kickboxing debut.
“I do feel like I keep getting better and better,” Holm said. “We’re taking small steps all the time, nothing happens overnight. I feel like I’m always improving, and when you start learning something you realize you need to go back and [revisit] a lot of things you’ve already learned to stay fresh.”
This weekend, Holm faces Mayra Bueno Silva in the main event at UFC Fight Night: Holm vs Bueno Silva. With a win over Yana Santos in March, Holm finds herself in a position where a win on Saturday could very well grant her an opportunity to fight for the title.
Despite being ranked No. 10 in UFC’s bantamweight rankings, Bueno Silva’s recent run of form earned her this headlining opportunity against one of the division’s best. In April 2022, Bueno Silva picked up a Fight of the Night bonus for her victory over Wu Yanan. She followed that up with a first-round armbar submission over Stephanie Egger and a second-round kneebar submission against Lina Lansberg in February.
While Holm’s fought the cream of the crop in the UFC for the last eight years, Bueno Silva’s submission game might pose a unique threat that Holm’s never faced before inside the Octagon. While Holm anticipated fighting one of the division’s top ranked contenders, a clean performance on Saturday against Bueno Silva might be all she needs to find her way back to UFC gold.
“Bueno Silva is tough,” Holm said. “She’s on a three-fight win streak and she’s been making waves and coming in strong, so I expect to see the very best that she’s ever brought. It’s definitely a different fight than I thought [the UFC] were going to present me but that’s what it is so I’m excited and I’m ready.
“She’s very seasoned in her jiu-jitsu, I don’t overlook that at all. I’m ready. I train all aspects of the game: standup, wrestling, jiu-jitsu. I have to be careful. She’s crafty with her jiu-jitsu but that doesn’t mean that it’s better than mine.”
UFC Fight Night: Holm vs Bueno Silva took place live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada on July 15, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!