Ahead of Claudia Gadelha’s fight against Nina Ansaroff at UFC 231, we caught up with the strawweight to talk about her upcoming bout, what she loves about the UFC Performance Institute and that time she submitted Shaquille O’Neal.
UFC: You’re known for your takedowns, and you have a lot of takedowns in the division. Your opponent is known for her takedown defense, so how do you see it playing out?
CG: Nina is a good striker, but this is not a kickboxing or Muay Thai match. It’s MMA, and I feel like I’m more well-rounded, I’m more like an MMA fighter, and I feel like this fight is going to play like MMA. Real dirty and nasty fight.
UFC: I know you took a trip with your parents last time. Do you have any plans for celebrations this time?
CG: Yes, I do. I enjoy my family a lot, but I moved to the States and I don’t have a lot of time with them. They live in Brazil, and it’s so hard for me to be so far away from them, so everytime I can, I try to be with them. Last time I saw them was in our last trip last year in December, so now I’m flying my parents back to Vegas, and they’ll be with me for two months. We’re going to celebrate my birthday, Christmas and New Years, and a little bit of January as well.
UFC: You’ve called the Performance Institute your Disneyland. What makes it so great for you?
CG: I think it’s like a Disneyland for fighters because you have fun in that place. You have everything you need to be a good fighter in there, and I have been in this fighting game since women were not in the UFC, so I know what it’s like having nothing to train to now having everything to train. The PI is amazing. Everything we need, we have in there. All the programs for rehab and for conditioning, it’s amazing. Everybody that works in there is very professional, and I love that place.
UFC: You’ve been in the fight game for 10 years and you’ve seen the sport evolve. How have you seen your own abilities grow as the availability of facilities has grown as well?
CG: If I go back and watch my early fights in the UFC to now, I can see huge improvement, and that’s why I’m in the fight game. Because every time I go through a fight camp, every time I go through all we have to go through to fight, I become not only a better athlete, but a better person, and I’m all about that. I’m all about becoming a better person every day, and fight camps give you that. It’s so hard. It’s so much work. You learn so much about yourself and people around you, your coaches, your team, that you do become a better person, and I’m trying to improve every day. I’m trying to become a better athlete every day and the person goes with it.
UFC: Speaking of the PI and the fun things there, you got submit Shaquille O’Neal. How did that happen?
CG: I didn’t know. When you’re in the PI, uyou’re going to meet amazing people every day. I’m all about that. I’m all about being around badass people, and that’s what you see in the PI every day. One day, I walked in to train, and Dana was at the front desk with Shaq. I was like, ‘Whoa. Wow. Alright, interesting.’ Then I had my training session with my team and my coaches, and then I went downstairs and went to the rehab room, and Dana was like, ‘Hey, Claudia. I need you for something.’ I was like, ‘What?’ He was like, ‘I need you to choke out this dude.’ I was like, ‘What dude?’ He was like, ‘Shaq.’ I was like, ‘He’s 400 pounds. Are you kidding me? I just trained. I’m tired.’ He was like, ‘Come on, let’s go. You can do this.’ And you know, Dana is always like that motivator. He made me feel good, so I went upstairs, and he was doing a submission, no-gi grappling with Forrest Griffin, and after that I just jumped in, and he was so tired. That’s why I grabbed him by the neck and was like, ‘You’re not going nowhere.’ It was fun.