Holly Holm welcomes the pressure of risking it all

Holm: I didn't want to wait on the sidelines for Rousey (2:55)

UFC women's bantamweight champion Holly Holm (10-0) joins ESPN's Todd Grisham to preview her first title defense at UFC 196 against former Strikeforce champ Miesha Tate (17-5). (2:55)

LAS VEGAS -- Holly Holm guesses about 90 percent of the interviews she has ever granted have ended up focusing on Ronda Rousey.

It was that way before the two fought in November and it has been that way since. At this point, Lenny Fresquez, Holm's longtime manager, has suggested she simply refuse to discuss the topic. So far at least, Holm hasn't

"The media, a lot of them have 'RR' on their mind," Fresquez told ESPN.com. "As a matter of fact, I told Holly to quit answering the Ronda questions. Say, 'No comment. Next question.' Why are we talking about Ronda?"

Holm (10-0), a former world boxing champion-turned UFC bantamweight titleholder, will make her first title defense Saturday against Miesha Tate (17-5) at UFC 196 inside MGM Grand Garden Arena. The championship bout will co-headline the pay-per-view event, along with a non-title welterweight fight featuring Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz.

Should Holm win, the Rousey questions won't stop. In fact, they'll be as loud as ever. Holm, of course, scored the biggest upset in UFC history four months ago, when she knocked out the previously unbeaten Rousey at UFC 193 in Melbourne, Australia. Rousey, 29, has sworn she'll be back although there is no exact timeframe for her return.

The situation begs the question: What is there to gain this weekend if you're Holm? Other than what should be a terrific payday (Holm will be making her first appearance under a new contract extension signed earlier this year), what's to gain in beating Tate?

Does the shadow of a Rousey rematch not loom over everything Holm does until then?

She agrees that it does -- and that's perhaps the biggest reason to fight someone else. In addition to keeping Holm active, this fight is almost to say: See? This 135-pound division is still moving. It still has a champion who's willing to be in title fights. It exists, without Rousey.

"I want to be Holly Holm, that's my goal," Holm said. "I don't want to just be known as 'Holly, she beat Ronda.' I want to be known as a great fighter and I'm on that journey right now. Everybody was wondering how long it would be until my next fight and guess what? It ended up being sooner, rather than later.

"And not only do I want people to talk about my fights, but let's talk about all the other fighters that are doing such great things in this division. Miesha Tate has over 20 fights. She might have more than anyone else in the division. Look, did Ronda do a lot for the sport? Yes. Did she do it by herself? No.

"I guess my hope is that I want people to see all of us and not just one person. When they think about women's MMA, I want them to think about all the women in this division."

It should be noted, Holm was more than willing to take a rematch against Rousey immediately -- she just wasn't confident it would happen within the timeframe the UFC promised.

Initially, UFC president Dana White had indicated Holm's first title defense would come against Rousey and expectations were that it would likely occur at UFC 200 on July 9. According to Fresquez, Holm's camp never felt confident Rousey would make that date.

"We would have loved to see a rematch right away but I knew with the beating she took, there was no way she was going to fight us in July," Fresquez said. "I've been in this game a long time and I know when someone has been hurt. It would have been a disservice to Ronda to have that fight so soon. We hope she gets well but we've never waited for anybody."

Sure enough, after Holm got her way and booked a fight on March 5, it came out Rousey wouldn't be ready until the end of 2016 at the earliest.

Fresquez says he's not sure how many more fights Holm, 34, has left. While Holm refuses to look past this weekend (she says she was guilty of looking past a fight once in her boxing career and ended up losing by knockout), Fresquez claims he specifically discussed potential opponents with the UFC when negotiating Holm's contract extension.

A rematch against Rousey is certainly part of that plans, but in no way does it start and end with that. Fresquez says a catchweight fight with former Strikeforce and current Invicta FC featherweight champion Cris "Cyborg" Justino is definitely a possibility. Holm said she's open to that idea as well.

"When I met with [UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta] and we renewed the contract, we were specific on who we wanted to fight," Fresquez said. "We don't know how much longer Holly has. The UFC better enjoy her while she's fighting. I want her to go out on top, ride into the sunset as the only boxing and MMA world champion.

"I keep telling them, 'You guys don't understand what you have here. You don't understand the history she's making right now.' Get the most out of it."

Many viewed Holm's decision to fight another opponent before Rousey as a risk. Unexpected results happen in MMA. Holm herself is the best example of that. Tate is a near 3-to-1 underdog going into UFC 196 but she's a former titleholder in Strikeforce and one of the toughest outs at 135 pounds.

Greg Jackson, one of Holm's coaches, described Tate as "resilient; someone you can beat down in the first four rounds and she'll come back and win the fight in the fifth."

When asked for her take on that assertion -- that she has more to lose than to gain this weekend -- Holm doesn't even disagree. Tate is a tough fight. A loss would throw a wrench in the biggest rematch in UFC history. There's pressure on Saturday. And that, as the champion, is what Holm wants.

"I don't ever want to feel like I'm being protected for one big fight or that I'm a paper champion," Holm said. "It actually is a big risk for me to take this fight but I like that. It makes me feel like I'm up against something big and that's what I want."