Should Tatiana Suarez win her bout against Nina Ansaroff, essentially putting her next in line for a strawweight title shot, the 28-year-old isn’t going to whine and complain if former champ Rose Namajunas gets a rematch with current titleholder Jessica Andrade.
It’s not because she doesn’t want a chance at the strap, but rather because she knows she needs as much time in the Octagon as possible.
“It’s about getting cage time,” she told UFC.com. “I’ve been on a mat since I was really young but not in a cage, so it’s just really nice to get a little bit more comfortable in the cage and becoming more well-rounded. Putting everything together. This is the hardest sport in the world. I always say that because it’s hard to put everything together and make it beautiful. It’s an art.”
Suarez’s wrestling abilities have helped her climb to a 7-0 record, most recently finishing Carla Esparza in the third round at UFC 228 via relentless takedowns and ground-and-pound. Her showing in Dallas displayed the improvements she has made in attacking while on the canvas, somewhere she feels like she grew the most in the last year.
“At first, I would take people down, I would control them, and then I would submit them,” Suarez said. “But now I’m doing a lot more ground-and-pound, and I think that’s great. Now, I’m mixing up my attacks on my feet, doing more kicks and stuff like that.”
Suarez said Ansaroff has “great technique” and is likely one of the most polished strikers she has faced so far. If Suarez can show development in her own standup abilities, it’s bad news for the strawweight division.
Given that this is her first fight in about nine months, Suarez is not only excited to get back into the Octagon but is also cherishing the routines that accompany her first fight since September, even if it’s a bittersweet feeling.
“I get sad because I’m excited for fight week, but I know it’s going to be over soon,” she said. “The fight is going to be over soon, and then I’m going to be like, ‘Oh, no. Now I got to wait for another fight. It’s over.’ I just try to enjoy it, even the hard part like the weight cut.”
Obviously, winning makes all the weight cutting and media obligations during fight week seem a little sweeter, so you’d forgive the undefeated Suarez if you find her opinion on the lead-up overly optimistic. But the joy also comes from an awareness of where she is and getting to do something she says she loves.
That said, another win puts her in the thick of the title conversation, which she has seemed destined to enter with each win that she racks up. Ansaroff is no slouch, having put together a complete performance to beat perennial contender Claudia Gadelha at UFC 231. That fight is one Suarez learned from because Gadelha’s grappling background. Although Brazillian Jiu Jitsu isn’t a one-to-one comparison with Suarez’s wrestling chops, she did think Gadelha did well against Ansaroff once the fight went to the ground, but Gadelha lacked a sense of urgency to get the fight there.
It should come as no surprise if Suarez makes this a grappling-heavy bout. She hasn’t given any indication that she’ll fail, either, and while a win reaps high reward, her mind remains locked in on the task at hand.
“I’m not really focused on I have to win because I’m going to get a title shot,” Suarez said. “I’m really focused on just winning because I want to win and I love to win and I love to compete.”
Zac Pacleb is a writer and producer for UFC.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ZacPacleb.