Fighting is a funny thing when it comes to fan expectations. The last thing most want to see is an athlete playing it safe, working for the win, and trying not to take damage. Basically, nobody likes a smart fighter. And at the moment, that reality is Holly Holms' problem as she tries to deal with public perception following her latest win at UFC Fight Night: Mir vs. Duffee in San Diego.
Holm was expected to take on the toughest opponent of her career, surging BJJ grappler Marion Reneau. Whether it was a rib injury (as post fight medical suspensions suggest), or a complete misapprehension of her opponent's game (what it looked like in the cage) Reneau didn't really show up against Holm. Instead of a competitive hard fought battle, fans got a dominant performance from a fighter who seemed content to coast out rounds with a high volume, low impact game.
In a recent interview with MMAFighting, Holm acknowledge criticism of the win saying "I'm a little upset with myself for not going forward a little sooner. I think I could've stopped her early." But in general it doesn't sound like fans hoping for a more action oriented performance are going to get their wish:
There's a lot of ways to look at it from the outside that a lot of people don't understand and I really don't let it bother me because I don't want to get in there and think, 'Oh my gosh, I've really gotta show what I'm worth to all these people who are sitting behind a computer on Twitter.' I don't even think about that before a fight. I think about a victory and what I need to do to get a win."
"Even the whole time in my boxing career, I always have done a lot of footwork and a lot of movement. That's part of my style. Everybody has their own style. Even in boxing, sometimes they would call me a runner because I wasn't there to get hit. Yet, I was landing all the punches and that is the whole point of a boxing fight, to hit and not get hit," she notes.
Holm even took things a step further, saying that she sincerely hopes to never be on the receiving end of a "Fight of the Night" bonus, since that means that she put herself through a more difficult fight than she should have.
"I tell people all the time I don't ever want Fight of the Night because that means I took too many shots," Holm says. "I want Performance of the Night. I want Knockout of the Night or Submission of the Night, but I do not want Fight of the Night because that means you don't even know who won. That means it's too close to tell. I want a dominating performance. That is me, personally."
Frankly, that's smart fighting. The kind of attitude that can prolong a fighter's career and keep them mentally sharp once their time in the cage is done. But, it's not the kind of attitude that wins the hearts and minds of a fan base used to fighters who put entertainment over personal safety.