Undefeated Tatiana Suarez says she feels she’s “going to be a little like Khabib Nurmagomedov” heading into UFC 238

first_imgJoin DAZN and watch more than 100 fight nights a yearTatiana Suarez is currently gearing up for “Biggest Fight 5: Chicago Showdown,” which stars the undefeated strawweight contender facing off with surging veteran Nina Ansaroff in the final preliminary card bout slated to hit the cage when UFC 238 goes down this weekend at the United Center. The elevator pitch is simple and compelling, as all good elevator pitches should be: two fighters on four-fight winning streaks in the UFC collide with the opportunity to fight for championship gold hanging in the balance.In the movie version of this week, Suarez would a bundle of nerves and anxiety, questioning whether or not she’s capable of winning such a big fight, against such a skilled opponent, on such a grand stage, with so many people watching because the hero always has to always overcome themselves or the odds or both in order to make the inevitable happy ending feel like it has been earned.But in reality, the undefeated 28-year-old is trying to shake the tail end of a head cold and brimming with confidence, having already survived a far more difficult fight than any she’ll encounter inside the cage.“I kind of expected to be here,” says Suarez, apologizing for how the nagging cold has impacted the way she sounds. “Going into The Ultimate Fighter, I believed I was the best in the world and being on (the show) was just an introduction to my career.“I expected to be here. I knew I could be here. I knew this was where I belong and I just needed the opportunity to show the world what I can do.”Suarez’ introduction to the larger mixed martial arts audience came on Season 23 of The Ultimate Fighter, where after defeating Chel-C Bailey to earn her way onto the show, the then 3-0 newcomer was the first overall selection in the strawweight competition. It was on the long-running reality TV competition where people learned about the path that led Suarez to mixed martial arts and saw her potential on full display.A wrestler since the age of four, Suarez was a two-time bronze medalists in the world championships of freestyle wrestling and entered 2011 as the top-ranked wrestler in the United States in her weight class. A spot on the Olympic team and an opportunity to compete at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London was a foregone conclusion, but when lingering pain and tingling in her arm prompted her to get an MRI and CAT scan, the doctors found a bulging disc in her neck and a cancerous growth on her thyroid.Just like that, everything changed.Suarez had her thyroid and several lymph nodes removed and underwent radiation treatment.But after having her Olympic dreams dashed, she yearned for competition, which led her to Brazilian jiu jitsu and Millenia MMA. Her grappling acumen prompted a shift to MMA, where two amateur wins in early 2014 led to Suarez making her professional mixed martial arts debut on four months later.She won that fight and every fight since, but it’s the battle she fought outside of the cage long before chasing championship gold in the UFC was even a consideration that gives her the ability to approach each consecutive “biggest fight of her career” with calmness and ease.“I just think it gives me a different attitude when I go out there,” Suarez says of her victory over cancer. “People always say some people are scared and I don’t feel that way because, obviously, I’ve already been in the biggest fight of my life — going through cancer — so now in these fights, I don’t get nervous. It’s just, ‘Alright — let’s get this done.’”And that’s all she has done since arriving on the biggest stage in the sport.Suarez cruised to the strawweight finals on The Ultimate Fighter, submitting JJ Aldrich in the quarterfinals and Kate Jackson in the semis before making quick work of Amanda Cooper at the finale. Three years (less a month) and four wins later, the Fontana, California resident is a perfect 7-0 and sits at No. 2 in the strawweight rankings, behind only former champion Rose Namajunas.Despite her sterling record and one-sided mauling of the division’s first titleholder, Carla Esparza, last time out, some within the MMA community still seem to overlook or forget about Suarez when throwing out ideas about who should be next to challenge for the title.When Michelle Waterson beat Karolina Kowalkiewicz in March, pushing her winning streak to three, many took to social media declaring that it was time to for the highly marketable, highly visible 33-year-old to get her chance to fight for UFC gold.“Unfortunately, her fight was first, but a lot of people (said I was next in line) for me, so I didn’t really have to talk anyway,” Suarez says in regards to the suggestions that Waterson be next in line to compete for the strawweight title. “At least most of the people who really follow this sport put it out there and I think Dana knows, so I’m just like, ‘Let’s get here (to UFC 238), put on a good performance and that will speak volumes.’”Part of what created the opportunity for people to even consider Waterson as a candidate to fight for the belt is that Suarez has been out of action since mauling Esparza in September — not by choice, but by circumstance.It also doesn’t help that in today’s era of social media clout and public awareness translating to greater opportunities, Suarez is far more inclined to let her performances speak for her.“I obviously want to be very active, but the UFC didn’t have the matchups they wanted, so here I am,” she says, explaining the reason for her extended absence since rag-dolling and finishing Esparza at UFC 228 in Dallas last September. ”(The UFC) asked a couple of fighters who turned it down and they were waiting for a couple of fights like the Claudia (Gadelha) versus Nina (Ansaroff) fight, which I’m now fighting the winner, so that’s what they were waiting for I think.“It is difficult because I think not as many people know about me, but I feel like I’m going to be a little like Khabib — this killer who is humble too,” Suarez adds in regards to her lower profile despite all of her success. “It’s not organic for me to be a smack-talker. For me, it’s more like, ‘Just watch and I’ll put on a good show.’”Which is what she intends to deliver once again when she finally returns to the cage on Saturday night against Ansaroff.The 33-year-old Florida native’s rise to this point is also film-worthy, as she’s rebounded from an 0-2 start in the UFC to collect four straight victories and emerge as the championship contender her fiancée, UFC bantamweight and featherweight queen Amanda Nunes, always proclaimed her to be. Whenever an emerging talent is working their way up the divisional ladder for the first time, their careers take on a movie-like quality, where the initial stern test they face inside the Octagon is labeled “The Biggest Fight of His/Her Career” and each subsequent victory presents the opportunity for a sequel.Just like in the movies, not all of the sequels go well, while others result in a surprise hit garnering a sequel or a DVD two-pack becoming a three-film box set or even larger anthology collection. But while Suarez recognizes the strengths of Ansaroff’s game and acknowledges the quality wins she’s collected on her journey to them sharing the cage at UFC 238, this weekend is all about continuing her story and getting another film in this series lined up for production.“(I’m just going to) dominate from the time the fight starts until the end of the fight; dominate wherever it goes,” she says, offering her thoughts on hos Saturday’s crucial strawweight battle will play out. “Dominate and overwhelm her with everything that I have. I can be very overwhelming and I just don’t want to let her breathe.”If all goes as planned, expect to see “Biggest Fight 6: Fighting for Gold” later this year.last_img

Related Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *