Hungary’s Melinda Fabian sold her car to get to The Ultimate Fighter 26 tryouts. Now back home after six weeks competing against 15 of her fellow flyweights, she has no regrets.
“It was absolutely worth it,” she said. “I learned a lot about how MMA works, and I took home all those experiences and the insight I got.”
She may even be fighting for the UFC’s first women’s flyweight championship later this year, but that won’t be known until the tournament airs in its entirety, so, at the moment, Fabian will fight for the first time on TUF next week against Rachael Ostovich-Berdon.
Win or lose, just getting to this point is a victory for the Budapest native, who doesn’t exactly hail from an MMA hotbed. But just like so many areas around the world, it only takes one fighter to ignite a revolution, and maybe Fabian is the one for Hungary.
“There are many talented fighters and they just cannot break out or cannot fulfill their careers,” she said. “There are no possibilities to fight, so I did it for them and for myself, to be a pioneer and show the way, that they can move and make their own way.”
That’s a lot of pressure to put on anyone’s shoulders, and while Fabian didn’t start competing in MMA to be a role model, if it happens, she’s fine with it.
“It’s not why I want to do it,” she said. “I’m just making my own way, and it’s a side effect to become a role model. It doesn’t necessarily come with it, but if it comes, then I’m happy that I can inspire people and motivate people.”
Fabian is off to a good start. While her record only stands at 4-3-1, it’s key to point out that she made it on TUF 26 after only being a pro since 2015. That’s a lot of ground to make up when in the same competition as fighters like Roxanne Modafferi, Barb Honchak and Lauren Murphy, but it’s the path all Hungarian fighters have to take at this point. There is no time to be spent in the wading pool; it’s right into the deep water, and in a place where proper training is scattered, it can be rough at times.
“This is the hardest part,” Fabian said. “We have to be complex fighters, and that’s what we try to emphasize. It’s very hard to train everything together because we don’t have the infrastructure. I have to travel hours to go from one place to another and put the work together. But the coaches always talk to each other and put the game plan together and if I train with one of them, they also take into consideration the other coaches’ work. It’s hard because it’s not one location. I have to travel all day.”
Good thing she bought another car when she got back home after TUF.
She laughs, and it’s clear that she’s willing to make the sacrifices necessary to succeed at the highest levels of the sport. And if she needed any encouragement, she can look at her efforts against UFC vets Katlyn Chookagian and Lucie Pudilova.
“When I fought with Kaitlin, I had only started MMA two months before, and I had moments there,” she said. “We knew she had a lot more experience, but I think I did very well against her. Against Pudilova, I still think I won over her. It was a split decision, and people wrote to me on Facebook after the fight that I should have won.”
She pauses, more confident than ever that we’ll be hearing her name a lot in the future.
“It gave me confidence,” Fabian said of the fights with Chookagian and Pudilova. “I know I can be at their level and more.”