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Unfazed By new fame, Holm keeps priority on winning

LOS ANGELES

Holly Holm arrived at The Palm Restaurant recently with a prized new possession: a Louis Vuitton monogram icon purse - a little something the UFC champion splurged on after her stunning upset knockout victory over Ronda Rousey.

UFC champion Conor McGregor carries his belt everywhere. Holm has a bag and a little something you can’t see slung over the shoulder – newfound fame.

Holm's life has changed so much, and yet, so many things have stayed the same. She still lives in Albuquerque and trains with the same coaches and partners. It's the world around her that's different, whether it's being recognized walking the streets of Times Square in New York, L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles or in her hometown. People all want to share a conversation or selfie with the blue-eyed, blonde-haired star.
 


"They'll say, ‘Hey, good job. Hey, champ,’” Holm told UFC.com. "It's kind of like, 'Nah, not champ. Not Holly Holm. It's just Holly. Same person.' "

Holm bought that designer leather bag in Australia, where she dethroned the previously undefeated Rousey. It's one of the most stunning sports upsets in sports over the last decade.

She didn’t buy a tricked-out new car or multi-million dollar home. The only other thing she's shopped for are hardwood floors, which she and her husband, Jeff Kirkpatrick, ordered for their Albuquerque home. The talented do-it-all Holm won't rip out carpet and install it herself, even though she's installed laminate flooring for her dad before. She's retiled a bathroom shower, made coasters, quilted and done other handy things around the house, too. She hired someone to do this project.

Holm will be back as the center of attention when she fights Miesha Tate as the co-main event in UFC 196 at the MGM in Las Vegas on Saturday.

It's been a whirlwind few months since that career-defining victory, so the only crafty thing she's had time to do was personalize a vintage ammunition box for a friend's birthday. She stenciled his name on it with the help of a machine and then painted it.

"I just haven't had time and haven't been home," Holm said.

Holm has made the rounds and had more celebrity meet-and-greets than Jay-Z and Beyonce sitting courtside at NBA games. She chatted with Derek Jeter and Floyd Mayweather at a Clippers game at Staples Center. The New Mexico native and lifelong Denver Broncos fan met John Elway and was on the sideline at Sports Authority Field in Denver for a game. She's done the talk show circuit, too.

Holm could've gone to Super Bowl 50 to see the Broncos beat Carolina, and she desperately wanted to, but she couldn't squeeze it into her schedule with the upcoming bantamweight fight against Miesha Tate on Saturday.

"Priorities," Holm said.

Holm and Kirkpatrick hung out with actor Jaime Foxx at his Los Angeles home, where Foxx and his cousin re-enacted her victory over Rousey. She was so mesmerized by the antics she didn't grab her phone to take a video.

She's often been mid-bite at restaurants when fans make a beeline to congratulate her. Her trips to the grocery store to buy coconut milk are no longer quick since she'll be asked for photographs and autographs, but her day job hasn't changed. And she’s appreciative that she’s so adored.

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"Yes, there's a lot of distractions throughout my day, but it's a constant reminder of how much support I have," Holm said. "You get both."

Kirkpatrick, who works at his family's construction company, has had a front-row seat for the show that has followed Holm's victory. He loves when mothers tell Holm that she’s a good role model for their daughters. He believes Holm has a maturity about her that hasn't let her get caught up in the circus that comes with beating Rousey.

"We live normal lives and don't get caught up in the Hollywood lifestyle, as they say," Kirkpatrick said. "Holly is not a party animal. She doesn't do that anyway. She's kind of a homebody. She likes to have friends over. She likes to go to dinner, mellow things like that. We're older. A lot of these big-time athletes, whether its baseball or the NFL, they're younger kids. We're not that young. She's 34. I'm 35. We're kind of the old folks anyway.

“Like she tells everyone, she's not Holly Holm. She's just Holly.” -- Jeff Kirkpatrick, Holm’s husband
"We're not 21 wanting to go to the clubs every night. I can see how a lot of people with a lot of money and a lot of fame love that stuff. That's not what Holly is. She's just a normal person. I think that's why the public loves her. She's a normal person people can relate to."

Holm and Kirkpatrick have been home in Albuquerque just three weekends since they returned from Australia. Kirkpatrick asked Holm what she wanted to do on Valentine's Day, and she said: "Sit at home on the couch and watch a movie and not go anywhere."

They didn't watch a romantic comedy. They watched "The Gunman" with Sean Penn. Holm fell asleep and watched the rest of the movie later.

"At the end of the day, like we always say, you remember where you came from," Kirkpatrick said. "Your friends and family are still the ones you've had your whole life. Like she tells everyone, she's not Holly Holm. She's just Holly. I tell people she's good at her job like you're good at yours, but she just has more exposure."

While UFC stars Rousey and McGregor each landed a cover for Sports Illustrated – Rousey was on the cover of the swimsuit issue – Holm was in the back pages. She penned a column about fame.

"That's one of the reasons I was so eager to get another fight from the UFC," Holm wrote. "I wanted to get back to training and competing and doing what got me here. When I was given an opponent, Miesha Tate, and a fight date to look forward to, it was like, ‘Yes, I can focus on what I do best.’”

Focusing on her friends and family after she's done training for the day isn't easy anymore. If she's out, there's plenty of love from fans but also concerns.

"There's so much going on, and you don't want to worry about filtered conversation. There's constant cameras and constant people," Holm said. "You always want to make sure to show and appreciate how much you care and that they know. One of my best friends, since I was 5 years old, said one day, 'How about I go to Dion's (restaurant)? I'll get some food and come to your house so we can just hang out.' It's the perfect date.

"I still go out, but if I haven't seen someone in a while and I just want to focus on that person and don't want any distractions, yeah, I do like to just be at home. Eating at a restaurant, I wouldn't want to be rude to people who are supportive and my fans."

Holm hasn't been rude to Rousey, who didn't touch gloves before the fight and had stern words for Holm. Holm was also put in an awkward situation when asked to respond to Rousey's comments about suicidal thoughts following the loss on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."

"She likes Ronda," Kirkpatrick said. "She respects her. She likes her. She has no reason to say anything negative about anybody."

This week, Holm will let her punches and kicks speak when she gets back to work in the Octagon. Before the fight with Rousey, there were no expectations except those in her own camp. Now, many expect a win to line up what would be sure to be a blockbuster rematch with Rousey.

Her media tour following the fight was cool and all, but nothing compares to the win.

"The biggest thing is the victory," Holm said. "I also have a fight in front of me, so I don't want to live in that moment."

Jill Painter Lopez is a reporter for FOX Sports West in Los Angeles. She was an award-winning, longtime sports columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News and has worked for Time Warner Cable in L.A. She is also a contributor to the New York Times. Follow her on Twitter at @jillpainter

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