Holly Holm ‘super frustrated’ after long layoff with injuries, health issues but scoffs at retirement rumors


When Holly Holm returns in May, it will have been almost 19 months since her last appearance in the UFC.

After a dominating win over Irene Aldana, the UFC bantamweight champion was on the brink of title contention once again. But then, she was diagnosed as hydronephrosis, a condition that results in swelling of the kidneys. This can cause severe pain, nausea and other issues, including fever.

After she had recovered, Holm was unable to find an opponent at 135 pound so she booked a fight at featherweight. However, this fell apart after she sustained a knee injury in her final training camp days.

” I was close to it. It’s like one thing after another,” Holm told MMA Fighting. “It’s one of those times you have to sit back and say ‘OK, this is where my journey’s been’ and you make the most of it and just move forward from here. It’s not something I can do. We’re just going forward now.”

” I had to undergo surgery. There was an unattached bone fragment. They had to clean up a few things but I did have to have surgery. We’re still up, we’re moving forward .”

With a layoff that dates back to 2020, when Holm was looking for a title shot in the hunt, Holm now faces questions about her career in the sport after so many setbacks.

While Holm understands her position being far from her home and her mind is impaired, she can’t help feeling stunned when Holm asks if she has lost her job.

” I’m certainly frustrated when people ask me if I’m retired, Holm stated. “I’m like no! But not retired! They might think that they are retired because they have not seen me fight. I want to show them what I’ve got and especially because my last fight, I got to show even more of my game from what had been seen before. I get excited cause I want to show more and show more and I keep running into these barriers. It’s definitely frustrating.

“I feel myself getting anxiety sometimes cause it’s like you feel like you want to go and you can. You feel like you’ve got to go and you want to go and you cant. Then you start overthinking things. It’s important to just take each day as it comes. Not even moving forward. I always want to move forward so I try to stay as positive as I can.”

Holm celebrated her 40th Birthday during her absence. This is a big deal because it’s rare for combat athletes to get better with age.

While shining examples like Glover Teixeira and Randy Couture exist when it comes to fighters past 40 becoming UFC champions, the list is rather short compared to those who were never able to climb back up to the top of the mountain past 40.

Holm does not consider age in her decisions. She was able to put on a convincing performance against Aldana, and is expecting the same results when she faces Ketlen Vieira next May.

” I know people who at 25 don’t feel as well as those at 40,” Holm. “I think it’s all how you take care of your body. Yes. I have been beating my body up for quite some time and suffered a couple of injuries. My kidney thing, that’s not even an injury. This is just one more thing to do with the engine. It’s amazing that I did not realize the extent of what I had to deal with before it was fixed. That’s awesome.

“I’ve been dealing with that for fights over and over so some of that stuff is actually helping me be healthier and be better at 40.”

In anticipation of her return, Holm has done her best to just put the past behind her and not allow illness and injury to define her ongoing training camp as she seeks to reestablish the momentum she started to build with her last two wins.

Holm admits the aggravation of being away from fighting is overwhelming, but she also believes it won’t do any harm to let those emotions fester.

“Nobody wants [to drop out of a fight] but sometimes that’s just the name of the game,” Holm said. “That’s what we do. It’s up to me to take advantage of this. It’s impossible to stop moving forward. It’s like this is what we’re dealing with and we’ve got to go forward.

“Sometimes it’s super frustrating. Absolutely. You can either pout or be happy about it and continue forward

Holm will be focusing on Vieira in the near future and how he can secure another UFC title fight with a win.

Looking further down the road, Holm hopes to defy all odds when it comes to the years she has remaining in the sport because she expects to fight until there’s no more fight left in her — no matter the cost.

“I definitely want to go until the wheels fall off,” Holm said. “Things might hurt. People are like ‘you’re going to have arthritis, you’re going to have this, you’re going to have that.’ Yeah probably but I’d rather have a healthy heart and lungs and memories with me than just my knees don’t hurt.

“At the end of my life I know my body’s probably going to hurt pretty bad but that’s all right. Because of the wonderful memories that I cherish. I love the passion I’ve felt in life. It’s a blessing that I have allowed myself to be able to do what I want and it still excites me. Having this much time off makes me realize how much I still love it. It’s like I crave to fight. I want it really badly.”