Diana Prazak: sparring partner of Rousey, title challenger to Holm, gives her thoughts on UFC 193

UFC 193 came to a close yesterday in what many regard as one of the biggest upsets in MMA history. Boxing champion, and underdog, Holly Holm did the unthinkable when she knocked out the undefeated bantamweight champion, Ronda Rousey, in spectacular fashion, 59 seconds into the second round.

Fight News Australia’s, Emma Challands, had the opportunity to speak to boxing champion Diana Prazak, one of the only women in the world to trade blows with both Holly Holm and Ronda Rousey, to get her take on UFC 193.

Prazak first met Ronda Rousey when they were sparring partners. She was brought to Glendale Fighting Club to help teach the up and coming MMA star the ropes in the hopes that Rousey could add another weapon to her arsenal.

“I was brought in as a sparring partner at the beginning as a one off spar. As we all know Ronda was never given much credit for her hands so they wanted to work on her striking. They wanted her to have credibility (as a striker), and believed Ronda was the next up and coming champion, so they wanted to have a champion spar with her. At the time I trained with Lucia Rijker, Ronda’s manager had a good relationship with Lujica, and he set it all up. I went in there, boxed her ears off and they kept calling me back.”

After two years of sparring together as part of Rousey’s training camp, and watching her career evolve, Prazak is still not convinced that Rousey is a boxer, she is however one of the greatest athletes she’s had the opportunity to work with.

“Ronda is a great champion, an incredible athlete. A lot of people forget that when she does something she takes to it and works her ass off. She comes from a family of athletes, it’s not just her, remember her mum was a judo champion as well. So, when it came to boxing she knew it was something she had to get good at. She’s trained by Edmond (Tarverdyan) who has had boxing fights; I actually think Edmond has won a title, anyway that was what was next for her and that’s why they called me in. She always takes a punch but she needs a lot more…I’m trying to find the nicest way to say this; as boxers we are built into what we are, we start from the basics and build up. She never really had that opportunity to start from the basics. She was straight into it.”

“She’s copping a fair bit of slack at the moment because of the loss to Holly. You can’t take away from her the kind of athlete that she is, she puts her all into everything. She got beaten by a better fighter, not a better fighter on the night, but in my opinion the better fighter.”

Edmond Taverdyan, Ronda Rousey’s head coach has been quoted on numerous occasions saying that Rousey could stand with the best in the boxing business, and win, but Prazak has news for Tarverdyan and it’s all bad.

“Edmond is a dickhead for saying that. When I was sparring with Ronda, Edmond had said that she had dropped me with a liver shot with 16oz gloves which is an outright lie. Edmond is helping the hype; he’s pushing the hype. I’m sure she would be great at it like everything else she does but she’s not a boxer right now.”

Despite not being a boxer, Oscar De La Hoya controversially put Ronda Rousey on the cover of The Ring magazine (due to hit shelves in January 2016), causing outrage amongst boxing fans. Prazak, like many other female boxers, was disappointed by the move, saying that it was clear that all involved believed that Rousey would walk straight through Holm, a mistake they are all paying for now.

“Oscar De La Hoya in his stupidity puts her on the cover of The Ring magazine and said he’s going to make her a boxing champion; well last night she fought a boxing champion and with all due respect to Ronda she got taken to school.”

“I think it’s blasphemy. I think it’s one of the worst things that Oscar De La Hoya could have done. He looked at it from a money making exercise and what it also showed, in my opinion, and obviously I can only speak for myself, is that they overlooked Holly completely. They put her (Rousey) on The Ring magazine cover because they thought she was going to walk through Holly, and that he’s (De La Hoya) going to turn her (Rousey) into a boxing champion, and then she will be a champion in two sports. It shows what happens when you overlook somebody of Holly Holm’s caliber. She was pound for pound in the world for several years and won 19 boxing world titles. You never underestimate an opponent, they faced someone who had the discipline just like Ronda but the difference was, this time, she fought someone who could really fight.”

When it comes to Holly Holm, Prazak has nothing but praise and puts her win over Ronda down to discipline, an amazing corner, and a perfectly executed game plan.

“Holly’s biggest advantage is her discipline, she listens to her corner perfectly. When I fought her I dropped her in the first round with a jab and I rocked her in the second with an overhand right and after that round her corner yelled out to her to hold on and that is exactly what she did and we had a really boring eight rounds of hugging.”

“Our fight was boring as hell but I had a lot of respect for her because she really listened to her corner and every word they said throughout the fight, I could hear her corner clearly. She obeyed their commands to the dot. After the fight she was extremely respectful, I’ve never heard her dirty a fighter and I give kudos to her for that; and when has had to step up she has stepped up.”

“I couldn’t be prouder of Holly Holm, I picked it. I was asked several times how it was going to play out and I said ‘Holly is going to keep her at the end of her reach, she’s not going to come in close, she’s going to move like Holly does, and Holly does well, and she’s going to take her down with boxing and I believe boxing won that fight. Holly’s movement around the cage, slowly pinging off with those jabs, and the hooks, it was beautiful to watch. And then her kickboxing skills kicked in.”

As for Ronda Rousey, it’s back to the drawing board.

“I’m not sure what kind of sparring Ronda was doing, I mean, it definitely wasn’t me. Ronda was out of her league, she chased her around the ring, I’m not sure if she had bad preparation but it was a really bad night at the office for Ronda Rousey.”

“My heart goes out to Ronda, she’s only ever been extremely respectful to me, I really hope that she can bounce back from this because she is a great athlete and a great champion.”

With women the main and co-main event at UFC 193 history was made on many levels. Prazak gives praise to Dana White for allowing women to take the spot light when they are so often over shadowed in the sporting arena. Moving forward, she will not be surprised if other boxers continue to make the transition into mixed martial arts due to the money currently available.

“We (female boxers) can’t get a TV slot to save our lives, so I give full credit to Dana White for seeing the business in women where boxing still can’t see it.”

“They’re (boxers) already trying to (cross over) and they have been for the last two to three years because we don’t get paid properly in boxing. These women are holding down two and three jobs and they are making the switch to mixed martial arts because they think they are going to get paid more there. It’s been happening and it’s going to continue to keep happening now that Holly has proven to be such a success in the cage.”

UFC 193 took place at Etihad Stadium on 15th November, 2015 in front of a record setting crowd of 56,124. A recap of the full main card can be found here.

Combat sports enthusiast.