Making your way through the gauntlet that is the UFC rankings isn’t a piece of cake.
But slowly and surely, Irene Aldana plans to prove that she is a top contender at bantamweight. Aldana believes that a win over fellow ranked opponent Bethe Correia will help start that ascension.
Correia hasn’t fought since her loss to Holly Holm back in 2017. That wasn’t the plan however, as Aldana and Correia were initially scheduled to fight at UFC 227 last August but injury forced Correia out of the match-up.
That last minute change of opponent taught Aldana a lot and helped her grow as a fighter. She would go on to fight Lucy Pudilova and win via unanimous decision. And even though she beat Pudilova, her mind never strayed from the concept of stepping into the Octagon with Correia.
On Saturday she will finally get her shot.
Here’s our full conversation with Aldana:
UFC: Hi Irene thank you for chatting with us. You’re here in Rio De Janeiro for fight week, how are you feeling heading into Saturday?
Aldana: I’m feeling great. I’m feeling happy, motivated and ready to go. Camp was almost two months long so we’re ready to go. In this camp I added neurological training. I also trained to be more agile, more violent and improved my strength. I tried to come into this fight as more of a complete athlete.
UFC: What makes you a difficult fight for your opponents?
IA: My striking every time is more technical. I don’t care if I get hit and I’m not afraid of taking punches. I like it because I know how to react to a punch. My aggression is something that is mine my favor and my determination.
UFC: This was a fight that was schedule and then didn’t end up happening. Why does this fight excite you so much?
IA: Because it is a great opportunity for me to climb to the top five of the division. If I can make it to the top five then the belt is not that far, maybe two or three more fights and I could think about a fight for the belt. Bethe is a great opponent, she’s has a lot of an experience. She’s fought Holly Holm and Ronda Rousey, she has fought for the belt. That means it is a great curriculum for my career to fight here and she’s an exciting fighter so I think it’s going to be a pumped up fight.
UFC: Why will fans love this fight?
IA: Well she’s a striker, she’s a hard hitter and she punching really hard. She likes to stand-up and fight and that matches perfectly with my style.
UFC: What are your keys to victory in this fight?
Be mentally focused, I think that is the most important thing and to calm my nerves. Be aggressive and have the determination to go forward beside any complication that could come up in the fight. And to put all my heart in there.
Striker vs striker, this is going to be a fun one. Tune into UFC 237 Saturday at 6:15pm/ 3:15pm ETPT with the UFC Fight Pass Early prelims. The ESPN+ prelims begin at 8pm/5pm ET.
The UFC 237 main card will start at 10pm/7pm ETPT and is only available on Pay-Per-View. Order the card here.
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Gavin Porter is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com, follow him on Twitter at @PorterUFCNews