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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (Reuters) - As the world is slowly getting to know Holly Holm, the new female Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight champion of the world was warmly welcomed back home on Sunday to Albuquerque, where she is a well-known local celebrity.
Three weeks after Holm shocked the mixed martial arts world with a stunning knockout of heavily favored reigning UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey in Melbourne, Australia, the 34-year-old received a hero's welcome from more than 20,000 fans in Albuquerque, her hometown and where she launched her career.
"I love you guys," she said to the crowd in the Civic Plaza after a downtown parade. "You, here, Albuquerque, made this possible."
Noticeably uneasy with notoriety, Holm addressed the crowd. slowly moving back and forth along the stage with her waist-length blond hair whipping in the bright sunlight with each turn, spending most of the time recognizing everyone from her family and coaches to the people of New Mexico.
"I'm just going to shoot from the hip and the heart," she told the crowd after admitting that she forgot her speech at home.
She did make one personal point perfectly clear.
"I am not done yet, we're still going to take it to the top," Holm said of her continued drive to excel in UFC.
On Nov. 15, Holm, a 900-1 underdog, sent Rousey to the mat in the second round of their bantamweight championship bout with a devastating left kick to the jaw, knocking her out and sending her to the hospital.
Holm's next fight has yet to be announced, but whoever faces the 18-time world boxing champion will have to contend with her punch-kick style rather than the grappling preferred by many fighters.
If a rematch is to happen between 12-1 Rousey and Holm, who is 9-0, it will have to wait. Rousey must serve a mandatory six-month medical suspension for the head injury she sustained from the kick and the flurry of punches Holm landed when she went down.
"I want to fight sooner rather than later," Holm said in an interview on Sunday. "I'll fight who they tell me to fight."
Editing by Brendan O'Brien and Jonathan Oatis