UFC bantamweight champion Holly Holm poses for a portrait backstage during the UFC 197 on-sale press conference event inside MGM Grand Hotel & Casino on January 20, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Brandon Magnus–Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
By Holly Holm
February 4, 2016

Going into my fight with Ronda Rousey, I knew I was the heavy underdog. However, I’ve always thought that you have to believe you belong there, or you’ve already lost.

What was it like preparing for a moment where I had to rise to the occasion? Where I had to defy the expectations of people who thought Ronda was a lock? It wasn’t always easy. There were days in training where I didn’t perform at the level where I needed to be. Sometimes, I’d just go in my car and cry. Then I’d take a deep breath, go get a coffee, go back to the gym and address the issues. I never wanted to be O.K. with a bad day.

On some days, I over-trained. There will be times, when preparing for a big moment, where it can all seem overwhelming. On those days, you need a rest. For me, it’s going back and taking a bath in Epsom salt. You need to treat yourself. I’m a huge coffee addict. When you go out for coffee or even when you sit down with it at home, you know you’re taking a break. You’re going to enjoy it. If it’s not coffee, maybe it’s a glass of Diet Coke. Or wine. Or some chocolate almonds.

So the key to winning the fight? Drink coffee, Diet Coke, and wine, and eat chocolate almonds. Maybe it is easy!

But seriously, I hope people can apply my experience in the Octagon to any aspect of life. When I walked into the cage against Ronda, my only thought was, “It’s time. Let’s go. I’ve put so much hard work into this; I’m ready.” In business, if you’re a lower-level employee about to pitch a CEO, have confidence in the research you put into your idea. It might be a big thing this CEO has never heard before. Your age or title or position doesn’t matter. You do. Go with it.

During my fight with Ronda, everything was going according to plan. My coaches and I had a strategy—if she was going to try a hip toss, I’d do this. If she went into her judo moves, I’d counter with that. We made one adjustment between rounds (I just can’t share what that was because I don’t want to give anything away for the rematch!). But the point is: Stick with your plan in the big moment, but if things go the wrong way, be willing to listen. If you’re close to doing something great, closing people off doesn’t help.

On your journey to the top, there will be times when you don’t want to make the sacrifices. When you’d be happier spending time with friends, with family. So many times, I don’t want to hit the gym. I just want the work to be over. But then I would picture the victory. And that’s all it takes.

Holly Holm is the Ultimate Fighting Champion title holder in the bantamweight division.

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