Whether it’s her native Brazil or her current residence in Las Vegas, Karol Rosa is right at home in warm climates. So it makes sense then that she’s loving every minute of her return to Abu Dhabi.
"It's my second time here in Abu Dhabi on a PPV card, so I'm very excited. It's been different than the first time, when we were in the bubble, so I've been able to get to know it better and I've been enjoying a lot.”
The first time was UFC 251 back in July of 2020. In an effort to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, athletes were restricted to the Fight Island hotel compound, tested regularly and fought without fans in attendance. The circumstances were far from ideal, but the results were welcome for Rosa, who cruised to a decision victory over Vanessa Melo. She’ll look to recreate the magic when she opens the UFC 280 prelims versus Lina Lansberg on Saturday, October 22.
"It's funny, because I've been fighting all these veterans now. First Bethe Correia, then Sara McMann and now Lina Lansberg. All these women I’m used to watching. I knew Lina from the fight against Cris Cyborg and others, and I'm very excited for this fight, because I like to fight more experienced girls than me. I've watched a lot of her fights and I think this will be a great fight. I think we'll open the card on a high note.
"I think this will be mainly a striking match. From what I've seen, she likes to strike, to throw elbows against the fence, and I like striking, as well. So I believe we'll spend most of this fight on our feet.”
In five UFC appearances, the McMann bout last March remains her lone setback, one that she reflects on cerebrally with silver linings.
"After my fight with Sara, I realized I can fight in all areas. I'm a jiu-jitsu black belt, and I think if I used more of my jiu-jitsu against her, maybe the result would have been different. She's a good wrestler and she surprised me, but I believe I'm well-rounded, so I learned that when things don't go my way in one area, I can try and take it to another one.”
It's one of the many facets she worked on during this camp at the UFC Performance Institute, where she has access to some of her PRVT team training partners, like Jessica Andrade, and the most advanced programs for MMA athletes anywhere.
"I did the whole camp at the PI this time, including nutrition, physical training and everything. It's a whole different experience. I didn't have to worry about my diet at all, because they did everything for me. Changes are always difficult at the beginning, but now it's been seven months since I've moved to Vegas, and I believe this was the best choice I've made for my career.”
In addition to her own career, she’s had the pride of watching her partner and teammate Denise Gomes begin her own UFC journey in Las Vegas.
"I was with her since we lived in Brazil, so being at her fight in Contender Series and cornering her in her UFC debut was very special to me. Having more experience in the UFC, I was able to share a little bit of it with her and I was very excited about it. I get more nervous watching my teammates than fighting myself, so with her I was really nervous, but I was happy about it and it was a very cool experience.”
Now it will be Gomes’ turn to support Rosa, who unapologetically believes in the adage that the sky is the limit.
“My aim is to reach the Top 5, and I would love to fight in Rio. If I win my next one and they give me the opportunity, I'd love it. One name that I have in mind now is Pannie Kianzad. I think we'd make a great fight in Rio. Who knows?
"I'm not originally from Rio, but I always told my family - I have an aunt, a cousin and a brother who love to watch me - that if I get to fight in Rio, I would take them to watch me, so I would love to fight there. My team is from the state of Rio de Janeiro, so they would come as well and my fanbase would be big. And to have my family there would be a unique experience.”
Rosa currently sits a No. 9 in the women’s bantamweight rankings, so a climb into the Top 5 feels more realistic with each passing fight. But her aspirations aren’t limited by numbers.
"I want to be the champion in my division, and if it's still standing by then, I want to pursue the title at 145 pounds, as well, and have both belts. For now, I'm focusing on getting the bantamweight belt, but I want to eventually fight at featherweight, as well.”