“People want to identify with someone who has the courage to speak what they think,” she said through translator Fernanda Caldas Florentino. “They do not want to admire people who are afraid or fake, and how many are like that? Many. I am rare, I am unique, I am the exception. Bethe Correia, there is only one, in life and in the UFC.”
As bold as that could sound to some, she may be right. And after seven fights and nearly four years in the Octagon, the 33-year-old from Campina Grande has weathered the ups and downs of life in the big show and is not only still standing, but she’s headlining her second UFC event. Not many of her peers can claim that.
“I believe it is a recognition of my work,” she said of getting the main event gig. “I work hard, I do not shy away from challenges and I'm not afraid to face tough opponents. I'm not afraid of anything or anyone. I'm an authentic, daring athlete and I always speak the truth, which is a great quality, even if these truths annoy my adversaries. But I'm not afraid of criticism and I believe a lot in my potential, regardless of the situation. I'm happy to be in the main event, because it's the opportunity for more recognition and to get back to where I want to fight for the belt.”
Currently ranked eleventh at 135 pounds, Correia has gone 1-1-1 since her devastating 34-second loss to Ronda Rousey nearly two years ago, beating Jessica Eye, losing to Raquel Pennington and drawing with Marion Reneau. It’s been a wide range of emotions, for sure, but having gone through the mega-hype of the Rousey fight has helped her deal with everything that’s followed it.
“The fight with Ronda was one of the most incredible things that happened in my professional life,” Correia said. “The result was not expected, but I found myself even stronger than I thought I was. Many people do not know how to deal with defeat and I thought that I would be one of those people, because it's good to be unbeaten. But I learned from defeat, it gave me the courage to win, and I came back stronger, smarter and more mature. With each fight, I mature, and when I lost, I came back with more desire to learn, to develop and to be a professional of a high level.”
A victory over Holm, despite the former bantamweight champion’s current three-fight losing streak, would be a big deal, and not just because the Albuquerque native still sits at the No. 5 spot in the rankings. It’s a high-profile main event, Holm is still considered one of the top strikers in the sport, and oh, how the “Pitbull” loves to stand and trade. So why not test that striking against one of the best? But as Correia points out, this is still an MMA fight.
“I always like to test myself,” she said. “I am an athlete who is not afraid of risk and I am not afraid to test myself against her striking, but it is a MMA fight and I am an MMA athlete. I started in it and there is no area out of the comfort zone for me. I adapt well in any situation – it can be on the floor, standing, in grappling. I represent MMA, I am the face of MMA in all the aspects of the fight, as well as in attitude.”
And there it is. For Correia, winning isn’t just about technique or cardio, but about attitude and confidence. She’s got plenty of both, but it comes from a solid foundation. And as she explains it, maybe this is why the fans relate to her.
“Whenever I go to sleep, I reflect on what I do well and when I think about my mistakes, I think about how to do things different, how to do better, and I believe that my confidence comes from being very optimistic,” she said. “I see in my mistakes a chance to do right, to improve. I'm from a very strong family, and when a problem comes up, we seek the solution, we do not despair. Even if I go wrong one day, in the next day I’ll try again and I never give up. No matter what happens, I will always give my best, and I’ll always look for a solution. The world needs people like that, who do not give up. Even if they fall, they get up. That's why people identify with me.”