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Mariya Agapova Loves Her Job

Recovered From Surgery, Flyweight Makes Long-Awaited Return This Saturday

Mariya Agapova hopes that UFC fans haven’t forgotten her.

The flyweight prospect hasn’t been in the Octagon since August 2020, when she was defeated by Shana Dobson. Following the loss, Agapova underwent knee surgery to repair a torn ACL. She has spent the time away recovering and reflecting to prepare for her bout against Sabina Mazo this weekend at UFC Fight Night: Dern vs Rodriguez.

The 24-year-old is thrilled to be doing all the things she loves again.

“I’m happy being back in Vegas,” Agapova said. “I’m happy coming back, giving an interview, cutting weight. It’s amazing. I love my job. I missed it so much.”

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Agapova suffered the first loss of her career on Dana White’s Contender Series against Tracy Cortez, after previously holding a 6-0 record. She wasn’t going to give up on her dreams of making it to the big stage, so she went back to the Invicta FC promotion and came out with two first-round finishes which led her to a UFC contract.

In her UFC debut, Agapova submitted Hannah Cifers at 2:42 of the first round and earned a Performance of the Night bonus. Just two months later, she was back in the Octagon facing Dobson when loss came again.

“I learned a lot from that experience,” Agapova said. “I understand that this is the UFC, very high level. Usually, I just take it fight by fight and I don’t care, but last time I picked the fight so soon, I didn’t have time for recovery. I didn’t have time to fix things, get myself a car, apartment, make the conditions comfortable. I was struggling so bad, and I didn’t fix it. I was trying to jump as high as possible and I f***ed up.”

Mariya Agapova of Kazakhstan secures a rear choke submission against Hannah Cifers in their flyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on June 13, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Mariya Agapova of Kazakhstan secures a rear choke submission against Hannah Cifers in their flyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on June 13, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Even though the loss stung, Agapova still kept the same mindset that only work can make you better and that’s what she was going to do - work to get better to come out victorious this weekend.

“I still have opportunity to show myself and I really want to make it better,” Agapova said. “I don’t want to lose this contract with UFC because this is what I dreamed of all my life. I want to show myself; I want to show what I can do and do my best. I want to win and have a long career, at least five years. I want to go to the belt. I want everything. I just need to be more disciplined and work hard.” 

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Discipline and consistency will need to be showcased this weekend against Mazo, who has never been submitted or knocked out in her career. Mazo and Agapova both hold a record of 9-2 and the two are both coming off losses. Mazo returns to flyweight after moving up to bantamweight for her last fight against Alexis Davis.

The Kazakhstan native knows that the win won’t come easy against a tough fighter like Mazo.

Mariya Agapova of Kazakhstan has her hands wrapped prior to her fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on August 22, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)
Mariya Agapova of Kazakhstan has her hands wrapped prior to her fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on August 22, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

The Kazakhstan native knows that the win won’t come easy against a tough fighter like Mazo.

“She was fighting very strong opponents,” Agapova said. “She lost to only really strong girls. Everyone in the UFC is really good. We have the same record, same age and that’s very interesting to fight with her because it seems like we’re on the same level. It will be a war of two good strikers. Her main weapons are her legs, and my main weapon are my arms. Arms against legs.”

Training for this fight was different for Agapova. She had to take things little by little to build herself back up to where she was and then build on that to get better. Agapova even admitted that the first couple weeks back were the toughest, with everyone beating up on her since she wasn’t at full strength.

She is looking forward to letting it all out on Saturday and continuing to prove why she is an exciting fighter to watch.

Main Event Preview | UFC Fight Night Dern vs Rodriguez

“It will be fun, for me, for you, for everyone,” Agapova said. “Let’s have fun. I haven’t fought in a while. In training I can’t really do elbows, knees, a lot of things aren’t allowed during training. When you go in the cage, you’re allowed to do everything, and you feel free. You let all your fighter soul go and walk the cage. That’s amazing. I feel good doing this and I’m sure people like watching.”

Don't miss an action-packed card this weekend at UFC Fight Night: Dern vs Rodriguez, live from the UFC APEX on ESPN+. Prelims begin at 1:30pm ET/10:30am PT. Main card begins at 4pm ET/1pm PT.