Lucie Pudilova can breathe a little easier now. She’s still as focused as she’s ever been on winning a world title, but she’s far removed from the early days of her career, when she wasn’t just taking the hard road to the UFC, but doing it as the native of a country that never had a woman represent it in the big show.
“It was difficult, but it was my own decision,” said Pudilova. “So I invested all my energy to become a successful in this sport.”
Mission accomplished. On Saturday, Pribram’s Pudilova, the first woman from the Czech Republic to fight in the Octagon, will compete on the first UFC card held in her country.
That’s a big deal. In more ways than one.
“I was very happy,” she said of the promotion’s debut in Prague. “It’s great for all UFC fans in our country and, of course, also for me, personally. UFC is the best organization in the world, so it’s the best possible advertisement for MMA in our country. The popularity of this sport is growing here, but UFC Fight Night will be the best event yet. I’m happy that my fans will have a chance to see me fighting on home soil after all these years. And I’m looking forward to their support.”
A few years back, Pudilova may have been an unlikely candidate to be the only Czech fighter on a UFC card, if only because there were few fighters ahead of her at home to look to as examples. But from the age of 16, she was determined to be a fighter, a decision that caused some worry among her family and friends.
“In the beginning, they were not happy,” she said. “But then they saw that I was serious, so they started to support me.”
With that support, coupled with hard work and talent, Pudilova began to build a reputation as a fighter to watch. She turned pro in 2014 at the age of 19, and by 2017, she was 6-1 and in the UFC.
Pudilova lost a rematch to Lina Lansberg in her UFC debut, but in the next three, she defeated Ji Yeon Kim and Sarah Moras and garnered Fight of the Night honors with Irene Aldana, putting her in a good place at bantamweight heading into 2019.
Then came the news: Pudilova was heading to Prague and fighting Carmouche. At flyweight.
“I don’t think I’m the typical bantamweight,” she said. “I’m 24 years old, so I’m still quite young and my body is closer to flyweight. When I will be older I think I will return to bantamweight. This is another milestone in my career and I had enough time to get ready.”
That’s quite a few milestones for one fight. We might as well add in that this weekend, there will be people all around the Czech Republic watching Pudilova and deciding then and there that they want to strap on the gloves and start their own fighting journey. That might be the biggest milestone.
“I’m really happy that it was me who was the first Czech female fighter in UFC,” she said. “I’m proud, but it’s also a responsibility. I believe that in the future we will have more fighters and coaches at this top level.”
All this at the age of 24. It’s almost enough to make someone forget that there’s a fight to be fought. Pudilova hasn’t forgotten. She’s not thinking about what happens on Sunday or beyond. It’s all about Carmouche.
“Nobody knows what will be the result of this fight; I’m going there to win it,” she said. “I don’t care about the future now. That’s up to UFC and my management.”
But what about Saturday? What does that look like?
“We all have some pictures in our mind, but we don’t want to make them public,” Pudilova said. “I was training hard and I’m ready to show it in the Octagon.”