The Ronda Rousey era in the UFC ranks among the most special in the company’s history. As a pioneering women’s champion, her feats inside the Octagon dazzled fans across the globe and, in some cases, even inspired others to become professional fighters.
Gloria de Paula is one of those cases. Since attending UFC 190 back in 2015, her life has never been the same.
“I started training Muay Thai just for physical conditioning. Then I fell in love and started training for competition. Then I go to MMA. After I saw Ronda Rousey vs Bethe Correia in Rio, I just said ‘Oh my God, I want to do this!’”
Now the spark lit by Rousey’s 34-second TKO that evening has led the Brazilian to Las Vegas and her first official UFC fight week.
“I’m so happy for my debut now,” the Brazilian says with a huge smile, looking around the UFC Apex. “I’ve been working a lot for this moment; I’m really happy.”
She’s not a complete stranger to the APEX, of course. It was here that back in November she worked her magic enough to impress the boss, defeating Pauline Macias with a convincing unanimous decision on Dana White’s Contender Series.
“I feel familiarity here,” she confirms. “It’s really good to be here. This feels like home.”
For her inaugural tilt, she didn’t exactly draw the easiest assignment. Although her opponent, Jinh Yu Frey, has yet to find her first win under the UFC banner, she’s still the former Invicta FC atomweight champion, not some up-and-comer. It doesn’t figure to be an easy out for either woman, and the upside is potentially huge for de Paula. She is complimented by the pairing.
“Yeah, for sure,” she agrees. “She’s a great athlete…so this is a big opportunity for me. I believe she’s coming with all her power [because] she has two losses…I believe it’s going to be a great fight for the fans.”
That’s probably a given. Another student of the famed Chute Boxe Diego Lima squad in Sao Paulo, de Paula trains alongside UFC standouts like Charles Oliveira, Thomas Almeida, and her girlfriend: Mayra Bueno Silva. Through their collective training, she’s unleashes what she terms the “Chute Boxe style: I’m really aggressive. I get in the Octagon looking for the knockout.”
While the global pandemic didn’t exempt de Paula from the training challenges that faced most fighters, she did have the distinct advantage of permanently residing with her sparring partner.
“I live with Mayra, so we never stop training. She’s the best partner I could have!”
It’s a relationship that is all the more strengthened by the acute similarities in their respective journeys. Both train at Chute Boxe. Both came into the UFC via their standout performances on Dana White’s Contender Series. Both had fights postponed due to COVID complications. De Paula accompanied Silva to her recent Las Vegas bout against Montana De La Rosa, and Silva stayed in Vegas to support de Paula this Saturday at UFC Fight Night: Edwards vs Muhammad.
“It’s fantastic for me. She helps me a lot. We’re partners in everything,” she explains. “it’s great because she has been here already. She teaches me a lot from her experience.”