By the time Gloria Bravo steps into “La Jaula” on Saturday night (Nov. 11), as part of the “Copa Combate” mixed martial arts (MMA) extravaganza in Cancun, Mexico, it will mark the first time the Chilean submission specialist has seen action since late 2016.
Sorry, no warm-up fights here.
Bravo (4-2) will share co-headlining duties with Melissa Martinez, the young Mexican upstart who made her Combate Americas debut by planishing Yajaira Romo back in June, “Super Mely’s” second violent finish in as many attempts.
Good luck intimidating “Gloriosa.”
The 31-year-old strawweight recently jettisoned her abusive ex-husband, who spent years controlling her by way of physical and emotional abuse. And to silence the doubters, Bravo posted video of his handiwork on Facebook.
“I’m not ashamed to say, ‘I am and I was a woman beaten by her ex-husband,’” Bravo said. “I will no longer be a victim. I uploaded that video to protect myself and to help motivate other women to speak up.”
Bravo, the winner of three straight with three nasty submissions, will compete in front of the largest audience of her combat sports career, thanks to a joint telecast between Telemundo and NBC Sports Network. A win would not only elevate her status in the 115-pound rankings, it would create more opportunities to provide for her son.
“This is not a game, or something that I’m doing to be fashionable,” the Shotokan brown belt said. “This is the life I chose since I was very young. My desire to represent Chile in international competition led me to the world of jiu-jitsu and ultimately, Combate Americas.”
The world’s first and only Hispanic-based fight promotion continues to grow under the leadership of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) co-founder Campbell McLaren, who will re-introduce the world to the eight-man elimination tournament he created nearly 24 years ago in Denver, Colorado.
“All eyes will be watching our Copa Combate tournament fighters this weekend in Cancun,” McLaren said. “But don’t be surprised if the Bravo-Martinez fight steals the show.”
For such a high-profile return, Bravo — on loan from Blackhouse Santiago — packed her bags and flew to Las Vegas, Nevada, to train under the tutelage of former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Miesha Tate.
In case you hadn’t noticed, Bravo is taking this seriously.
“I knew it was a big risk to accept a fight against a finisher like Martinez, but I came to win,” Bravo said. “Working with so many high-level athletes at Xtreme Couture has given me the confidence to perform at my peak. I don’t know what my opponent is doing in camp, but I know she’s not training with Miesha Tate.”
The winner will undoubtedly position themselves atop the ever-expanding women’s strawweight division, which is likely to rival the stacked 105-pound weight class in terms of depth and talent by year’s end.
The introduction of a championship title is more “when” than “if.”
“Gloria already has the heart of a champion,” Tate told MMAmania.com. “I don’t have to teach her that. She’s such a fast learner, she definitely added some new tools to her game this fight camp.”
What started as one of the most turbulent years of her life can end with the biggest victory of her career. But the pressure of representing Chile, making her son proud, and not getting smashed on global television doesn’t seem to be rattling Bravo.
In fact, she’s having the time of her life.
“I’m very happy. I’m ready to move forward and do my job,” Bravo said. “I’ve learned a lot and I have a lot of new skills. Chileans are strong people and I’m also a strong woman. Chilean women always come out on top.”
For much more on this Saturday’s Copa Combate event click here.