holly-holm-1.jpgFrom her immediate description, it’s easy for one to imagine Holly Holm as a sweet little country girl who ran around and played quietly and innocently in a wide, open backyard expanse and behaved well because her father is a preacher.

Some of that is true. Some of it is a little inaccurate.

There wasn’t much quiet about it.

“Our backyard was huge,” Holm told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “We used it as a soccer field. We had a full-size outdoor basketball court. We did family baseball in the backyard.”

OK, so there was plenty happening. But still, it sounds more “Little House on the Prairie” than …

“Oh!” Holm said. “We had a zipline too.”

Not usual. That’s been a theme for the adventurous Holm since.

The New Mexico native and resident has shifted her full fighting attention to MMA since retiring from professional boxing in May, and she takes her next step next month. At 3-0 as an MMA pro, Holm takes on Allanna Jones (2-2) in a 135-pound bout at Legacy FC 21 on July 19 in Houston (AXS TV, 10 p.m. ET).

Finding peace with her decision to leave boxing after compiling a 33-2-3 record, Holm has turned her attention to the sport she fell in love with while serving as a training partner for some of the other women at her gym who were doing MMA.

It was a decision that caused some turmoil in the boxing world, which Holm has used as motivation. The adventurous nature she gained with all of the backyard and small-town amusements growing up have provided the ability to take this next challenge.

“I want to show why I’m going to MMA,” she said. “I want to succeed at it.

“It’s another defining moment.”

Adventurous youth

Holm grew up in the village of Bosque Farms, N.M., about a half-hour’s drive from Albuquerque. Her father was a preacher at a local church, which brought the family to the town while her mother still carried her, and her parents had two other young boys in tow.

Faith and the church have played major roles in Holm’s life, both in driving where she lived and in forming many of her thoughts on life. Theirs was a life lived outdoors from the start.

“We rode our bikes everywhere, rollerbladed, crawdads, tree houses, a county-type living,” she said. “We had no reason to be inside.”

Athletics provided a major part of those activities. Holm played on a soccer team that her father coached, which is why they used the backyard as a field. She was a competitive swimmer on a traveling team based in Albuquerque. Gymnastics was also a major activity.

All of this happened in the shadow of the church, which was literally across the street from the family’s home. Holm maintains a strong faith from her upbringing.

“Things are just too perfect to have happening somehow or randomly,” she said. “I’m very strong in my faith, and I think that has helped me in everything I’ve done.”

By her junior year of high school, that included boxing. Because one of her older brothers, who gave her a ride to school and often stayed late for his sports practices, Holm needed to find something to do to pass the time. She wanted to keep in shape for her soccer season, and she heard about an aerobics class at a kickboxing gym.

So, in a way, Holm found her future career because she had time to kill.

“He would just drop me off at the gym,” she said. “There was no bigger plan than that.”

Longtime fighter

It just so happened that the gym Holm arrived at during those early days was the gym where famed trainer Mike Winkeljohn worked (Holm still calls him “Mr. Winkeljohn”).

Because of that coincidence, that his gym happened to be the closest to her school for working out before getting a ride home, Holm became a fighter.

“I thought I would try to some sparring,” she said. “Then I felt like it was something I could really do, so I told Mr. Winkeljohn that I wanted to try a fight.

“That was a defining moment. I thought, ‘If he believes enough in me to do this, then there must be something here.’”

From there, Holm went on to dozens of boxing, kickboxing and MMA fights. After years in boxing, Holm started to notice that other females in her gym were training in jiu-jitsu and MMA. Because members helped each other to train, she offered herself as a practice opponent, trying to mimic their moves without any training.

When she told Winkeljohn she was thinking about trying an MMA fight, he immediately laid out his plans for her, having clearly been considering the matter himself. After awhile, she began looking forward to her MMA training more than her boxing training, which made her think that MMA might be her future.

“When I would get to the gym,” she said, “I would think, ‘Oh, I really want to put my shin pads on.’”

Earlier this year, before a boxing match that would see her run her record to 33-2-3, she tentatively told her coaches it would be her last one. She had made her professional MMA debut in March 2011, and she felt she was ready to shift full time.

After earning the victory, Holm exited the ring and immediately felt relief that she was finished with boxing. It was great for her, but she was ready to move on.

The next step comes July 19 in her first MMA fight as a full-time MMA fighter. It’s a milestone she’s excited about as she hopes to progress in this new line of her career.

“There’s been a lot of scrutiny from the boxing world, but this is my life,” she said. “I’ve done MMA, but this is almost like a new spark for me, and it’s really exciting.”

For more on Legacy FC 21, stay tuned to the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Catching up

- Last week, Dillard “Joe” Pegg described the quick turnaround process for his Resurrection Fighting Alliance 8 appearance against Sergio Pettis. He had planned to take several months away from MMA, but the taekwondo black belt who has been involved in martial arts from an early age got a short-notice call to fill a slot.

So just two weeks after his last win, Pegg dropped his RFA 8 bout to Pettis by a knockout 51 seconds into the first round.

- Back in October 2010, Rick Hawn told us about his experiences living and training in judo at the Olympic Training Center and finishing ninth overall in the 2004 Olympics. He won his next fight, his Bellator debut, and eventually ran his record to 11-0 to start his pro career.

Recovering from a loss in his previous fight, Hawn topped Karo Parisyan at Bellator 95 in April to improve to 15-2. It was his ninth Bellator appearance.

Award-winning newspaper reporter Kyle Nagel pens “Fight Path” each week. The column focuses on the circumstances that led fighters to a profession in MMA. Know a fighter with an interesting story? Email us at news [at] mmajunkie.com.

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