UFC Portland was supposed to feature the return of numerous notable fighters, not the least of which was Julia Avila. But the Coronavirus had other plans.
The cancellation of that event didn't deter the bantamweight from staying in fight-ready shape.
"I haven't missed a day of training," she says. "I would love a full camp but I don't need one. I'm ready to fight when it's responsible."
Between training and her full-time career as a geologist, the former Invicta star has found a better use of her minimal free time than binge-watching Tiger King or endless trips to the pantry.
"I am making masks, free of charge," she announced on her Instagram page. "I am buying supplies and pay for shipping costs with the sponsorship money I raised for my UFC Portland fight."
Propelled by her motto to "stay clean, fight filthy," Avila has sent masks to hospitals, at-risk individuals, and essential personnel all over North America.
"I have single handedly made hundreds and plan on making more as long as I have the supplies," she wrote. "We are all in this together, your safety is my safety. I will not charge for face masks and all donations go directly to these efforts."
When demand started to exceed supply, family and fans pitched in to help continue her endeavors, which she intends to do as long as needed.
"I’m not @thenotoriousmma and I can’t donate money, but I am doing my part. As public figures, we as fighters need to help."
We caught up "Raging Panda" in the middle of producing these masks to tell us more.
UFC: First off, how’s everything going for you and your loved ones under quarantine?
JA: Everything is going great under this unprecedented quarantine time. Luckily my husband was able to make it back from his deployment. So he's stateside and I'm very happy. But we've been keeping indoors and keeping safe.
UFC: Tell us about the evolution from the idea to make masks to actually making them.
JA: Contrary to what you guys see in the ring, I love to create as much as I love to destroy [laughs]. I had some supplies just laying around and I noticed that people were making masks. I though "Oh, I can do that!" So I looked up some instructions and its been a go from there. I just started cranking them out. Then Grandma has a ton of materials and she started supplying me after I ran out.
UFC: You mentioned on Instagram you had some experience sewing and mending Gis?
JA: My sewing craft came in when a couple of my friends needed gis. I saw a machine and was like "Oh, I'm gonna buy that. I'm going to try to mend people's gis and patch them up." Because it's a ridiculous amount of money and not everyone can afford that. So I just started patching and sewing gis for my friends. One time I created a skirt out of a pillowcase! It was super comfortable but not the most stylish [laugh]. But like I said, I love to create.
UFC: When you were running low on supplies, it looks like your followers really rose to the occasion and donated?
JA: Grandman did help out with providing a lot of material, but she soon ran out. I do not charge for any of my masks. Your safety is my safety, so I will never charge. But I did accept donations, and in order to prove to people that I'm not using it for personal gain, I told them "you can buy me supplies if you want." But it's all free of charge and honestly I just want to help as many people as I can.
We've been doing great. We've made--I've lost count--but I'd say a thousand if not more.
UFC: Is the process getting easier now? How long does it take to crank out one mask now?
JA: Because I have a lot of material already cut out and prepped for it, from start to finish I can get one mask done in under three minutes. I'm pretty sure I could do it faster than that, but I want to make sure it's done well, so I try to keep it at that range.
UFC: What has been the response of the people who have received masks so far? Who have you given them to?
JA: People have been so grateful for me assisting them and helping them and providing this safety for them and their loved ones. The outpour of thanks and respect is amazing. And even people that I haven't been able to help out personally, they reach out and say that they're being motivated to be a part of the solution; whether it be getting out of bed and doing something productive for themselves or helping out their neighbors, it's just this small spark to start this flame of positivity. So its been really good.
I have shipped to several different military bases. I've shipped from coast to coast, border to border...even to people in Canada!
I try to help as many people as I can. No order is too big or too small. I had a local order for a non-profit foundation. I had another up in Kansas for an assisted living facility for the elderly. I've had several other assisted living facilities all over the country. And families. Anyone and everyone who would ask, please do, and I will get you masks as soon as possible.
UFC: I love the phrase “stay clean, fight filthy." It really comes across in your posts how important it is to you that we all do our part. What can folks do if they want to help you?
JA: If you want to help me, please follow me on social media @RagingPandaMMA. I'm on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. You can direct-message me, I manage all my own social media platforms. I will send you my Venmo or PayPal so you can directly donate.
UFC: In this age of social distancing, what does training look like for you these days?
JA: Since the beginning of the outbreak of COVID-19, I have not stopped training. I have continued to train, I have not missed a day. I have situated myself so that I have all of the training equipment at my disposal. Since I was a wee one I've always asked for a punching bag or some weights. If a birthday comes along, maybe I want a spin bike. My husband and I have been able to accrue a pretty good set up for us. So I haven't missed training. I have a great training partner in my husband. We have an offsite facility with 365 square feet of mat space, so I get to punch and kick some people and things--a very select few--so training is great.
UFC: Does the prospect of Fight Island intrigue you at all?
JA: Fight Island is this most exciting thing I think I've heard of in forever. It reminds me of Mortal Kombat, the movie that was released in the 90s. I would love to do like a battle royale. I think it would be a great destination for hardcore UFC fans to be in the audience, but if that's not the situation and it's just fighting amongst my peers, I think that would be so great.
Because if I can get an Amanda Nunes or a Conor McGregor, an athlete at that level--or even a cameraman who sees it all the time--if I can get them hyped up for my fight, then I think I'm doing something pretty good.
So I would love to fight among my peers on Fight Island. I think it's super cool. Regardless of the pandemic situation, I think it should come to fruition.
UFC: We were supposed to see your return at UFC Portland. Are you still hoping to get back in there sooner than later?
JA: Yes. I would love to be in the cage as soon as possible. If Dana gives me two weeks or one week...I would love a full camp but I don't need one. I'm ready to fight when it's responsible.