Former UFC bantamweight champ Holly Holm eyeing 2023 return to Octagon, puts Meisha Tate at top of potential opponents list

Former UFC bantamweight champion Holly Holm is unlikely to fight again this year, but is eyeing a return in early 2023 -- and she has an ideal opponent in mind.

Holm, 40, told ESPN she is recovering from a surgery she underwent following a split decision loss to Ketlen Vieira in May. She expects to resume full-speed training in about two months, and then resume her 135-pound UFC title chase. Despite a professional combat sports career that dates back to 2002, she believes she has a lot left.

When she does return to the Octagon, Holm said she would love to face another former champion in Miesha Tate, who took the UFC title from her in 2016 via fifth-round submission.

"I'm open and ready to fight anyone, but it would come full circle with Miesha," Holm said. "I know she went down in weight in her last fight and I don't know what her thoughts would be on coming back up [to bantamweight], but if that's a fight I could get back and avenge a loss, I'd love to. It's not the only thing I'm looking at, but it's at the top of the list."

Holm (14-5) told ESPN she is currently on the last fight of her UFC contract. She said she has not yet had any discussions with the UFC regarding a new deal. The result of her last fight against Vieira is a frustrating one, as Holm believes she did enough to win. One judge scored the five-round main event 48-47 for Holm, while two others saw it 48-47 for Vieira.

"I felt I won that fight, and that would have changed a lot of where things stand right now," Holm said. "Going into the last fight on your contract off a loss is a lot different than going in off a win, so there's some stuff going on with that. It can be harder to stand your ground.

"I think my biggest thing is wanting to get 100 percent healthy and having a performance that stands out from everyone else, so I can show that I still deserve the position I'm in and that I still have a lot to offer."

Fighting out of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Holm is the UFC's No. 3-ranked bantamweight. Her loss to Tate came in her first title defense, four months after she shocked the world with a head-kick knockout of Ronda Rousey at UFC 193. Tate (19-8) retired from the sport in 2016, but returned to competition in 2021. She is 1-2 since coming out of retirement. Her last fight came against Lauren Murphy at 125 pounds.