In a career forged in the cage, there is going to come a point where you experience defeat. For some, it comes early and often. For others, losses are few and far between. For an even more select group, they can be singular and isolated and come after a stretch of performances that lead a competitor to feel indestructible.
Given everything that has happened in the nine months since Bethe Correia shared the Octagon with Ronda Rousey at UFC 190 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, we’ve reached a point where the heated rivals could probably relate to each other a little more now. Heading into the clash, the then-champion Rousey wanted to avenge her fallen Horsewomen and make Correia pay for pre-fight comments that touched a nerve. The Brazilian was intent on proving that she, not the Olympic bronze medalist, was the one meant to rule the division with an unblemished record.
On that sweltering first night of August, Rousey was the victor and it was Correia bounced from the ranks of the unbeaten. Three months later, it was Rousey on the business end of a one-sided outing, losing her title to Holly Holm and unsure how to process the new wave of emotions flooding over her following her first career defeat.
It’s a feeling Correia knows well.
“It took me some time to understand that I had lost the fight,” Correia, who returns to action for the first time since her loss to Rousey on Saturday opposite Raquel Pennington, admitted. “After the fight, it seemed like nothing had happened; I was in shock. A week passed and that was when I began to understand things and I confess that it was very difficult.
“When we are winning, our self-esteem is indestructible – we believe that nothing can beat us. I was undefeated in everything – in amateur fights, in sparring sessions – so I thought I would win.
“When I finished the fight I was in shock and I wanted to fight again,” she added. “But after waking up, I saw that needed to fix a lot to be able to come back stronger and I have done this.”
Prior to this weekend’s return in Tampa, the Brazil native has shifted her preparations to San Jose, California and the American Kickboxing Academy, accepting the invite of the team’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu coach, Leandro Vieira, to train alongside the all-star cast of competitors that includes a pair of UFC champions, Daniel Cormier and Luke Rockhold.
Making such a move is never an easy decision, but in the wake of her loss to Rousey, Correia felt some brush-back from fans and media and identified elements of her personal and professional life that she felt weren’t in order and made the tough choice to decamp from her long-time gym and head to the Silicon Valley.
“The defeat opened my eyes to some training issues that I did not see before,” said Correia, who earned wins over Julie Kedzie, Jessamyn Duke and Shayna Baszler prior to challenging Rousey at UFC 190. “I also found out the good and bad side of the media.
“Before, during and after a fight, the media can make you happy and destroy you. In Brazil – the country that I love, always fought for and continue to fight for – I was criticized, and for this I blame the Brazilian media, so I decided to move to the United States to train and come back stronger for next fight.”
As Correia began preparing for her return, the fiery Brazilian engaged in social media sparring sessions with Jessica Eye and Miesha Tate, prior to her rise to the top of the division. While neither of the bouts came together and Correia is happy to share the Octagon with Pennington, she’s not ready to move on from her spat with the new champion – not by a long shot.
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“Miesha Tate, we have an old rivalry,” Correia began. “There are more than (a year’s worth of examples where) she offends me on social networks and mocks me.
“I want to fight with her one day to solve this, no matter if the fight is for the belt, a preliminary fight, catchweight or even in the backyard. We will fight. I always solve my unfinished business; I am the most persistent in this category.
“I was happy to return with Raquel because for me it is a great name,” Correia said of her adversary on Saturday night. “She was my favorite in the house (on Season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter) and I think she's a great striker and I'm happy with this fight. I see a chance for Fight of the Night.”
After nine months on the sidelines, her first professional loss and scores of changes, “The Pitbull” is poised to return and is champing at the bit to begin another march to the top of the division.
“I know I'm the best. Those who follow me know my abilities and it's time to prove it to those who doubt me. I feel full and strong to win against anyone in the UFC. I'm very well trained because I changed everything – I changed my life, my gym, my country and I got to know myself better; it's a new era for me.
“I will make a new history in the UFC, only much more daring and devastating.”