Atop the UFC women’s matriarchy sits dominant champions Ronda Rousey and Joanna Jedrzeczyk. The pair have used the Octagon to carefully illustrate their prowess above all other female fighters.

Enter former professional boxing champion Holly Holm. The 33-year-old competed in three different weight classes, becoming an 18-time champion throughout the course of her 10-plus year boxing career. 

Now, Holm calls the UFC women’s bantamweight division, well, home. The path she took just set foot in the Octagon was arduous. From a lengthy negotiating process, to lofty expectations and a neck injury, Holm had to win the mental battle first and stay focused.

“When they announced my first fight, there was a lot of build up and then when I had to cancel my bout in December because I had a herniated disk in my neck. That postponed the fight later and increased the anticipation,” Holm told Muscle & Fitness Hers.

“The Preacher’s Daughter,” as he she’s called, was very overwhelmed by the media attention, the Rousey questions; not to mention she fought back from a broken arm earlier in 2014 and had her debut fight slide up to the co-main event on the UFC 184 pay-per-view after an injury to another fighter. 

In February, Holm made her way to the UFC cage and defeated the durable Raquel Pennington by split decision. Afterwards, with much of the hype subsiding, she ran into her boss, UFC president Dana White.

“I remember seeing Dana in the back and he said ‘Hey, how was it?’ and I said ‘I have a lot more potential than that and you’ll see more.’,” Holm recalled.

Three months later, in May, she would receive her next assignment, the well-rounded Marion “The Bruiser” Reneau, who Holm will face at UFC Fight Night 71 on July 15. The 38-year-old American last defeated Brazilian grappler Jessica Andrade with a first-round submission. 

Holm knows that it’s going to take much more effort out of her if she’s going to dispatch Reneau. 

“Jessica and her a pretty good little battle going on in that first round. I think it showed that she doesn’t get mentally beat,” assessed Holm. “She is very well-round and has great skill, but she also has that mindset and drive, which makes her a very tough opponent.”

She has had the last eight weeks to prepare at her Jackson’s MMA fight camp in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Holm is as healthy as she has ever been and with less media attention, she is focused solely on the task at hand.

“I’m injury free. I’m healthy. Training has been going good. I’ve had a good, hard week of training,” Holm says. “There’s always a fine line between training hard and being too hard on your body. Right now, it has been a great balance.”

Fight camp is a grind. Holm is at it, trying to become more acclimated with her new sport, every day of the week. 

She runs five days a week, incorporates strength training into her camp two days per week, and also teaches a cardio-kickboxing class on the side for muscle memory and have fun. MMA training is something that is beneficial to even those who are not fighting. 

“It becomes a monotonous routine when you go to the gym sometimes,” says Holm. “When you go to a kickboxing class, or a jiu-jitsu class, it’s constantly evolving and changing. It’s a great, full-body workout, whether it’s jiu-jitsu, or kickboxing.”

When it comes to dieting, Holm says she doesn’t watch her calorie intake. She tries to eat clean, eliminating fast food and other greasy messes, and has what she calls “good fats” like almond butter. For drinks, kombucha and KeVita are on her list. 

In terms of diet, Holm likes to top off her salads with plenty of grilled chicken or berries. Fruit is a huge part of her overall nutrition. 

At the time this article was published, Holm stands to weigh around 140 pounds. Closer to fight week is where she begins to ramp down her training in order to stay as far away from injury as possible as she starts her weight cut; which also means sodium is being weaned out of her diet and system. 

“I still run everyday, but I run slow. I don’t want to break down my muscle. I want to keep my metabolism going; keep my sweat going. I’ll still maybe hit a little bit of mits, but very light,” Holm says.

Holm is a striker above all, but there are a multitude of situations that a fighter may find themselves in once the cage door is locked behind them. She amassed nine knockouts in 33 boxing wins and transitioned her skills seamlessly across barriers over into MMA.

In eight professional MMA fights, Holm has six knockout victories, five of them coming via deadly kicks. 

“We’re definitely trying to work a little bit more on the ground,” says Holm. “I am like all of my opponents in MMA, I’m trying to constantly get better with the grappling and wrestling side of it.”

Despite her affinity to strengthen her perceived weaknesses, she knows where her bread is buttered and that’s on her feet. Holm has been careful not to get away from her strong suits and perfecting the skills she is most good at. 

Right now, Holm sits at No. 10 in the women’s bantamweight rankings. Reneau is right behind her at No. 11. An impressive finish could propel the former further up the rankings.

Over the course of the last four months, Holm has had time to digest her performance over Pennington. It hasn’t necessarily sat well with her.

“I probably put the most pressure on myself,” Holm says. “I do feel like I didn’t show what my full potential was in that last fight. I wasn’t really happy with my performance in my last fight. I know have a lot more potential than what I showed. 

That first fight, I knew that there was no way it would live up to everyone’s expectations. In fact, I was trying to explain before this fight. They [media] were like, ‘Do you feel like you’re going to live up to this hype?’ No. All they did was talk about me coming in there and showed highlights of the knockouts and kicks to head. People were expecting to see that and not every fight is going to be that way.”

The way Holm sees it, she fought smart. She didn’t want to get caught with a punch or kick trying to please the crowd and make the fight more entertaining if it meant putting herself in harms way. That’s just not the way she fights. 

And she doesn’t plan on changing anything for anybody, now or ever.