This might not have been a promising start to an interview with Vanessa Demopoulos.
“This question alone could make me cry,” she said.
Nah, come on, this is the most positive person in mixed martial arts, so you can guess the reaction when she was asked how she would describe the last year.
“This has been the best year of my life,” said the 34-year-old, who looks to extend her current winning streak to three when she faces Maria Oliveira on Saturday. “This has been the most exciting year of my life; I've gone through so many career changes and life shifts. My whole life has changed. I got to quit my job, I'm full-time in MMA, I do commentating now, I do fight analysis for UFC FIGHT PASS, I get to be a full-time fan and a full-time fighter. I get to be full-time in my passion. This has been amazing for me. This has been everything that I ever dreamed of and worked towards happening at once.”
Yeah, that’s a “Lil’ Monster” reaction. She laughs.
“They say it takes ten years to become an overnight success, and it took me a little longer than that, but when you say overnight, that's really what happened to me.”
Like she said, the Ohio-born Arizona resident didn’t fall out of the sky and into the Octagon in the summer of 2021, but it wasn’t until her January submission of Silvana Gomez Juarez, which was followed by a celebratory split and a post-fight interview with Joe Rogan that went viral, that the world got taken in by the charismatic strawweight. Add in a June victory over Jinh Yu Frey, and everybody was on board. But now you have to wonder, does Demopoulous think it’s only going to get better from here, or is she waiting for the other shoe to drop?
“I've had nothing but shoes dropping on my head my whole life,” she laughs. “This is all up from here. This is just the beginning. I'm so excited to finally start my life. That's the way I feel about it. I haven't even done anything yet. You're seeing the tip of the iceberg like I just showed up. And there's a party already. We're in the pre-season the way I'm looking at it.”
In a world where complaining and negativity are the default modes, Demopoulos’ positive outlook on life is not only unique, but refreshing. And while there will be those who try to take her down, spoiler alert, she doesn’t care.
“I feel like negative people are always gonna try to bring you down, and in the same way that negativity doesn't always want to accept my positivity, I choose to not accept the negativity,” she said. “How's that? (Laughs) I disrespect it. I don't want to accept it, and that's my choice. It's already difficult enough when you're cutting weight, when you're training, when you're tired, when you're on the grind and on the move and you've got haters on you. I choose to disrespect negativity. If you don't want to respect my positivity, that's cool, that's your choice. But it's also my choice not to respect the other side of the fence. I'm so grateful for everything that I have, everything that I am. Even on the hardest day in the gym, I'd rather do that any single day of the week than anything else. I'm grateful for the hard days.”
They’re only going to get harder from here on out as she navigates a stacked strawweight division, but Demopoulos doesn’t blink.
“Now that I'm here, I think I work harder than I've ever worked before, which is scary.”
Scary for her opponents, and a good thing for her growing fanbase, one that hopes she will one day get to the top and put a gold championship belt around her waist. Is that the goal for her?
Yes and no.
“I'm gonna be so much more than that,” she said. “The title? Hell yeah, that's happening, but that's only gonna happen one fight at a time. You're gonna see my name in lights. I am meant to be a fan favorite, a champion, an entertainer. I'm an entertainer in my soul. I love the people, I love the fans. And once I'm done being a champion, once I win the belt and get to impact millions of people with my own story, I get to be a commentator after that. I get to be a part of the UFC, I get to help other people to rise. This is so much bigger than just becoming the champion. The vision goes farther than that. I'm gonna be something amazing. And you guys get to watch it.”
UFC Fight Night: Nzechukwu vs Cutelaba took place live from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada on November 19, 2022. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!