The last six years have seen the massive growth of women’s MMA in the UFC, making fight fans feel like the ladies have been around forever in the Octagon. And while some countries have produced more fighters than others, looking at the rankings from 115 to 135 pounds will show one double-champ (Amanda Nunes) and seven top 15 contenders emerging from Brazil, making it a better time than ever for fighters like UFC newcomer Virna Jandiroba.
“In the world in general, the scene for the ladies is the best there ever was,” said Bahia’s Jandiroba, who debuts against Carla Esparza this Saturday in Florida. “And in Brazil, it’s not any different, and you are seeing a similar scenario with the female divisions today as you saw in the early days of the sport for the men. As much as the Brazilian scene in general is in one of its worst phases ever because the economy here is in terrible shape, the women here have at least been able to compete on a regular basis, and that has made for quite a quick development for this generation of fighters.”
The 30-year-old Jandiroba is one of the leaders of that new charge from Brazil, as she’s raced out to a 14-0 record since turning pro in 2013. Included are 11 wins by submission, an Invicta FC title at 115 pounds and one successful title defense, making it clear that Jandiroba is no ordinary UFC debutant.
“As a martial artist I am looking to test myself,” said Jandiroba, who points to Demian Maia and Muhammad Ali as two of her fighting heroes. “To properly test yourself you have to look for the best opponents and today it's undeniable that the best are in the UFC. So this is where my journey has taken me, and now I have the chance to fight the best of the best.”
Adding to the unique nature of her first Octagon battle is the fact that unlike many of her peers, making the trip from Brazil to the United States for a fight isn’t a new experience, as she’s been in Missouri (twice) and Utah as a member of the Invicta roster. And while some might not think that’s a big deal, it is.
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“I believe that it makes the whole process a lot smoother,” said Jandiroba. “I know all that I have to do differently compared to when I have to fight back home. And it is a lot of different things. (Laughs) Just having gone thru the visa, medical and travel process so many times makes this one just an extension of the other ones. I can imagine that for a Brazilian having their first fight abroad being in the UFC, it must be a really hard process.”
With all the “fun” of paperwork and medical exams out of the way, Jandiroba can focus on the fight, and she will get one out of former 115-pound champion Esparza, who will be charging hard as she looks to snap a two-fight losing streak.
“She is a major name in the division currently and in the division's brief history,” Jandiroba said of Esparza. “So she is someone that I can measure myself against to see where I am on the world stage.”
As for her new division, Jandiroba says, “It is easily the toughest women's division in the UFC today and one of the most entertaining ones pound-for-pound.”
If you can’t tell by now, “Carcara” can’t wait to get in there with the best strawweights in the world and prove that she’s one of them. In the process, don’t expect to see her fighting safe to protect her “0”.
“I don't think it gives me any edge,” she said of her perfect pro record. “This is a sport where no one retires undefeated; if you retired undefeated you probably quit before you should. Losses are a part of the learning process and I know that when mine comes it will help me grow as a person and as a martial artist. I am in search of opponents that will allow me get to a new level of learning and improvement.”