When Lupita “Loopy” Godinez stepped into the Titan MMA gym for the first time with a vision in her head of fighting professionally, let’s just say the 21-year-old wasn’t exactly hailed as the next Amanda Nunes.
“When I started training, I told my coaches I wanted to fight MMA,” she recalled. “And then they saw me training and they were like, 'Holy s**t, I don't think she's gonna make it, not even in a street fight.' I was scared to get punched in the face, I would turn around, and my coach didn't let me fight for one year. No way. It was that bad.”
Six years later, Godinez, 27, is about to make her UFC debut against former world title challenger Jessica Penne, and there are no doubts anymore.
“I knew I deserved to be here; it was just a matter of time,” she said. “My management said it's probably gonna be short notice, so be ready.”
It was short notice, as Godinez replaces Hannah Goldy in this weekend’s matchup. So about the second part of that comment from her manager?
“I am ready,” said Godinez, who brings a 5-0 record to the Octagon. But those five fights don’t tell the whole story for the native of Aguascalientes, Mexico. Not even close.
Now living in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Godinez and her family made the move from Mexico 11 years ago. It was a choice, but it really wasn’t.
“We had to move because some dangerous people were calling my dad and saying, 'If you don't give us money, we're gonna do this to your family,' so my dad had to make a quick decision. ‘Are we staying here and taking a risk or are we leaving and starting fresh?’ We started in Canada, no English, no school, no work, nothing.”
It’s hard to think of anything scarier for a married father of four, but it’s clear where the fighting gene in Godinez comes from. That doesn’t mean it was easy. Far from it.
“My dad and I, we would get lost in Vancouver,” Godinez recalled. “We would ask people things, but they didn't understand us. We would go house to house to clean cars, like, 'Hey, would you like me to clean your car?' But we didn't speak English, so you can imagine two strangers coming to your home, knocking on the door, trying to ask about washing your car? Some people were like, ‘What the hell is wrong with you? Are you guys drunk or something?’ and they'd close the door.
“We had nothing,” she continues. “Then we had a car, and then we were renting a home. And now my dad owns his house, they have a couple of cars. One of my sisters is representing Canada for wrestling, I'm now in the UFC. Another sister, she moved away and is married and has kids. Everything is just so cool to watch. If you met me in the beginning when I first got to Canada, I was a girl who did not speak English, and it was scary. I didn't want to go to school because I didn't speak the language, and it was difficult.”
Ultimately, as the family settled into their new country, Godinez settled in as well. There was a return to judo, which she competed in back in Mexico, as well as jiu-jitsu. The natural next step was MMA, but her boyfriend warned her that it wasn’t something to be taken lightly.
“I saw MMA on TV and said I want to do that,” she said. “He's like, if you want to do that you have to take it seriously and train hard. I started training and now we are here.”
Well, there was the part about not wanting to get hit to get over, as well as a rough amateur career that saw her go 4-4-1. But just before that last amateur bout in 2018 against future UFC fighter Sam Hughes, it all clicked.
“If you look at my amateur record, I started losing all my fights because of all my nerves and everything,” she said. “I still feel a lot of nerves because you're getting into a cage with someone that is trying to hurt you and trying to put you out, but the nerves that I feel are not close to what I used to feel. Now I put them in my favor. It took me a lot of fights as an amateur, eight or nine fights, and I was fighting every month, every couple of months, to figure out exactly what worked for me. My last amateur fight, I just felt great. Some Latin guys were playing music and I started dancing and warming up and I did really well. I think that's what works for me - dancing and just having fun. There's nothing really to worry about - there's a referee in there, I'm gonna fight and I train every day, so I should be fine.”
Finding the peace in her music and dancing just before a fight isn’t surprisingly, considering that Godinez has always looked to find something to show that side of herself in front of a crowd.
“Since I was a little kid, I always wanted to be known,” she said. “I wanted to be a singer, but I don't know how to sing (Laughs), or somebody who was in the middle of somewhere where there was a lot of people watching. I like that. And I would play and I would sing and pretend so many people were watching me. And I always liked that, I don't know why. But I didn't know I was gonna fight, of course.”
Her parents didn’t either.
“They support me in everything, but every time I tell my father I'm gonna fight, they’re like, ‘Oh no, why? We're so scared.’ When I told them I got the call from the UFC, my dad, was like 'uh huh, oh.' And my mom was kind of like that, but after a couple hours, my mom messaged me, saying, 'It's great, we support you and we're happy for you. You're doing your dream,' and all of that good stuff. So they support me. They get super nervous, but they probably wish I was a ballerina or something like that.”
Nope, no ballerinas here. Godinez is a fighter, it’s in her DNA, and on Saturday, she will do it on the highest level of the sport.
What a ride.
“I just want to give a good show,” she said of her UFC debut. “If that means I have to wrestle, if that means I have to do this or that, I'm just gonna do whatever it takes.”