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Why Ronda Rousey Dedicated the Biggest Fight of Her Life to a Cancer Patient

2 minute read

After Holly Holm shocked the previously undefeated Ronda Rousey with a second round knockout at UFC 193 in November, the former bantamweight champion retreated from the public eye in order to heal. Now, the 2016 TIME 100 honoree is back in the gym and training for a chance to regain her title.

In a video interview, Rousey tells TIME about what drives her. “I was at the open workouts for the Holm fight,” she says. “And I tried to go and see every single person because I really want to be the People’s Champion.”

The 29-year-old fighter says one fan in particular stood out. “This lady—she was dying of cancer—and she came to that open workout and stood out in the sun and all this stuff, so she could have a chance to meet me,” she says. “I could tell from seeing her hands she was real sick. And I promised her…I promised I would win, and I didn’t. I promised her, and I broke my promise to her. And it was so important to her, I could tell. And I really want to make it up to her. I really want to make it up to her before it’s too late.”

Holm has since been beaten by Miesha Tate, which means Rousey won’t get the rematch she was expecting. Even though her hopes of taking back the belt now lie with a different opponent, her outlook hasn’t changed. “There are good people out there and I have to live up to their expectations because it really is that important,” she says.

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Write to Diane Tsai at diane.tsai@time.com, Francesca Trianni at francesca.trianni@time.com and Megan McCluskey at megan.mccluskey@time.com