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Claudia Gadelha holds an important place in UFC history, but there’s little doubt she’s working toward something bigger.
Gadelha won the first UFC women’s strawweight match, defeating Tina Lahdemaki by unanimous decision at UFC Fight Night Atlantic City in July 2014. It put her on a path that she hopes will lead to a title.
By Gadelha’s reckoning, it already should have happened. The only blemish on her 13-1 record was a controversial split decision loss to current strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk in December 2014. Gadelha has said she broke her finger in the first round of that bout.
She has otherwise been perfect, winning six fights by submission and two by knockout to rise to the No. 1 contender slot. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, who has seven first-round finishes, began her pro career in 2008 and ran off 10 consecutive wins before joining Invicta FC.
A broken nose prevented Gadelha from fighting Carla Esparza for the inaugural Invicta strawweight championship, but she made her debut in June 2013 with a TKO of Ayaka Hamasaki.
Gadelha signed with the UFC in December 2013 to compete on “The Ultimate Fighter,” which was expected to crown the organization’s first 115-pound champion. But after consulting with her coaches, Gadelha opted not to take part and instead began her Octagon career with the Lahdemaki bout.
Her loss to Jedrzejczyk at UFC Fight Night Phoenix was followed by a commanding victory over MMA veteran Jessica Aguilar at UFC 190, which put Gadelha back in the title picture.
“Me and Joanna, we need to fight again to prove to us who is the best strawweight in the world,” Gadelha said.
That’s the kind of history she’s looking for.
TRAINING: I’m grinding every day to get better and this camp I’m being smarter. I’m enjoying my training in the elevation in Albuquerque and I think this is gonna make a huge difference in my cardio.
Thoughts on opponent, Cortney Casey? I’m concentrating on getting back in the Octagon and showing how much I’ve improved as a fighter. My opponent is just an obstacle towards my goal, but she is tough.
When and why did you start training for fighting? I fell in love with jiu-jitsu when I was very young.
What ranks and titles have you held? Black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Andre Pederneiras
Do you have any heroes? My Father.
What does it mean for you to fight in the UFC? It’s a dream coming true.
Did you go to college and if so what degree did you earn? Yes. I went to Law School
What was your job before you started fighting? I started fighting very young and this helped me to pay for college.
Specific accomplishments in amateur competition? BJJ 3x World Champion at Brown belt
Favorite grappling technique: Rear Naked Choke
Favorite striking technique: Uppercut
TRAINING: Every day is a hard day of training, so I will be always prepared for any fight