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UFC on ESPN 16 headliner Holly Holm wants to ‘retire with the title’

ABU DHABI – Holly Holm still has championship ambitions heading into Saturday’s UFC on ESPN 16 headliner with Irene Aldana.

Holm (13-5 MMA, 6-5 UFC), a former UFC bantamweight champion and featherweight title challenger, is well aware critics exist about the number of opportunities she’s received in her career. Holm has lost her last three fights for the gold, dropping two featherweight title bouts and a bantamweight shot. But she feels beating Aldana (12-5 MMA, 5-3 UFC) puts her in good position for another crack at a crown.

“My goal is to have the title,” Holm told reporters, including MMA Junkie, at Wednesday’s UFC on ESPN 16 media day. “I want to retire with the title. I’m truly a big believer in the fact that, if you’re not trying to fight for a title, what are you fighting for? If you’re not trying to be No. 1, what are you fighting for? That’s the difference between somebody who just wants a participation ribbon and a gold medal. I’m always going for gold.”

Holm and Aldana meet in the 135-pound main event, which takes place at Flash Forum at Yas Island. The main card airs on ESPN and streams on ESPN+ following prelims on ESPN+.

Holm said Aldana is an intriguing challenge for her, and one she’s expected for quite some time. That’s not just because they were originally supposed to fight on Aug. 1 before her opponent contracted COVID-19 and postponed the bout, but because Aldana has been someone on her radar for a while.

“I have watched a little (on her),” Holm said. “I don’t watch a ton (of other fighters in my division). I just focus on whoever I have in front of me, but sometimes there will be a fight where it’s like, ‘I may face this woman eventually.’ Irene is definitely been one of those fighters like, ‘You know what, her and I are definitely going to see each other in the octagon soon.’ So, I’ve been watching.”

Although regaining the title is part of Holm’s grander plan, she said she’s absolutely not looking past this fight. Simply scratching by Aldana won’t be enough on Saturday, she said. Holm wants to do something emphatic to bring her goal closer to reality.

“My biggest thing is: The only way to get (to the title) is to make the best statement with this fight,” Holm said. “I can’t be thinking past my opponent right now, so that’s what I want to do is just make the most of this fight then go from there.”

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