Sabina Mazo kind of scoffs at the idea of her matchup with Mariya Agapova getting boiled down to her kicking game versus Agapova’s ability to get inside and throw punches. In her mind, that simplification of their styles discredits the work she puts into her whole skill set and the skill sets of everyone else in the sport.
“It’s MMA, honestly,” Mazo told UFC.com. “It’s not punching and kicking. It’s a complete game, so I think she can punch or she can kick or whatever she wants to do. I feel like I have to be ready for everything, and it’s what I’m going to do with it, what I’m going to do with what she’s going to present, what I am going to show her. It’s a complex game. It’s not only punching and kicking.”
After a quick detour to the bantamweight division, Mazo returns to 125 pounds hoping to continue her three-fight winning streak at flyweight. She learned some lessons in her 135-pound debut against Alexis Davis in February, though, which ultimately ended in a unanimous decision loss.
For one, it prompted a move away from her home in Huntington Beach, California, where she trained under Rafael Cordeiro at Kings MMA. She instead made her home in the Bay Area, traveling to different gyms to get a variety of looks in and thusly improve her game as a whole.
“I feel like the new Sabina is a lot more disciplined and a lot more focused because I got a look out there for everything I need,” Mazo said. “There’s a lot of discipline into it. It’s double work. I feel great. It gives me a lot of satisfaction, the whole work that I did. I really looked for the best of the best, and I feel like I grew and I evolved a lot in each martial art of MMA. My boxing, it’s been sharp. I’ve been working into it. My jiu jitsu, my everything, and also putting that all together. It’s a lot of mental work that I had to do, and I’m doing so. I feel great about it.”
She also notices a difference in her body returning to flyweight, namely her athleticism and movement. Mazo hopes to parlay that physicality into a dominant win against Agapova, who is returning after nearly 14 months out of action.
Agapova turned some heads in her UFC debut, an avalanche-like win over Hannah Cifers, but she was unable to capitalize on her buzzing hype when she lost to Shana Dobson a couple months later. Mazo knows her opponent’s eagerness to get back on track, but she isn’t all too concerned about what she has to present her in the Octagon.
“I have my eyes open, and I’m ready for anything,” Mazo said. “I passed through my training in absolutely every situation, so it’s not like something new is going to come. For sure, anything can happen, but I’m going to be ready there for what she shows me. I feel like a key thing is being smart in this fight. Not only go there and brawl because I already have some experience, and I feel way more mature. Like, ‘OK, no. Let’s settle this down. It’s my time.’”
The 5-foot-7 Mazo believes her length and reach gives her the tools to hang with anyone in the flyweight division, and her developing knowledge of how to use those physical gifts is intertwined with her success in the Octagon. After changing things up in training and piecing together her fight camp in a way she believes in wholeheartedly, Mazo is buzzing with confidence during fight week.
In terms of what she’ll feel like when she makes the walk, it’s more self-belief as well as a certainty that she will send a message to the whole division on fight night.
“They’ll see a different Sabina, a different version of myself,” Mazo said. “It’s going to be the best one so far. I’m going to come back just to make some statements.”