LOS ANGELES (AP) UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey will take on former boxing champion Holly Holm in her next bout on Jan. 2.
Rousey announced the matchup on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Friday. The unbeaten 135-pound star’s attempt at a seventh title defense will headline UFC 195 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
“Definitely my biggest challenge to date, so I’m super excited about it,” Rousey told the morning show.
Rousey’s next bout was widely expected to be a third meeting with Miesha Tate, the only fighter who has ever survived a first round with Rousey.
Instead, Rousey (12-0) unexpectedly chose a meeting with Holm (9-0), who went 33-2-3 as a professional boxer and won several championship belts. The New Mexico native dedicated herself fully to mixed martial arts in 2013, training in the Albuquerque gym of respected trainer Greg Jackson.
“She’s not the average chick that I would fight,” Rousey said. “She’s the best striker I’ve ever fought, and striking is something that I learned much later in my career.”
Holm has won two fights by decision since joining the UFC earlier this year, but neither was particularly impressive. Rousey is counting on Holm’s vaunted striking abilities to be a draw for the bout – although Rousey’s utter dominance has been its own selling point lately.
Rousey has won her last three fights in a combined 1:04, including a 34-second stoppage of Brazil’s Bethe Correia in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 1. Rousey is the only women’s bantamweight champion in UFC history, and the former Olympic judoka has parlayed her electrifying MMA success into international fame and an acting career.
“I don’t ever expect fights to be easy and fast,” Rousey told the morning show. “No one knows exactly how the fights are going to go, and that’s why people buy them. … I prepare for a five-round war every time I get in there. No one is easy until after you beat them.”
UFC President Dana White previously said Tate had earned the right to face Rousey again by earning four straight victories since her third-round submission loss to Rousey in December 2013. Rousey, who has a personal dislike for Tate along with their professional rivalry, had previously discussed Tate as her next opponent.
Rousey also has been challenged by Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino, the Brazilian veteran widely considered the world’s best female fighter after Rousey. But Justino has been fighting in the Invicta promotion as a 145-pound featherweight, and she has expressed reservations about her ability to get down to the 135-pound bantamweight limit.
Rousey and White have been unenthusiastic about a 140-pound catch weight bout with Justino, but Tate has said she would gladly gain five pounds for a high-profile fight with Cyborg. Shortly after Rousey announced her bout with Holm, many MMA fans took to Twitter to speculate on the enticing possibility of Tate fighting Justino on the undercard of UFC 195.