WINNING FIGHT OF THE NIGHT HONORS on your UFC debut is not an achievement that many MMA fighters out there could boast about. Irene Aldana, however, entered into this elite list thanks to her three- round brawl against Leslie Smith at UFC Sacramento.
The 28-year-old Mexican pushed the veteran Smith to her limits during the fight, and despite losing via a unanimous decision, Aldana held her head high for obvious reasons.
With 2016 now in the books, she now has her eyes set on 2017.
Irene Aldana: My goal in the UFC is the title and I’m going to work hard until I get it and be able to defend it. But one step at a time, first I have to work on getting back to my next fight with a win, get focused and stronger, and hope to keep climbing to the top 10 of my division
When Aldana tries to climb the UFC rankings next year, she would not only be doing it for herself, but will also be carrying the hopes of her country. 2016 has been an important year for WMMA in Mexico. A month before Aldana made her UFC debut, Alexa Grasso debuted in UFC by defeating Heather Jo Clark. The presence of Aldana and Grasso in UFC can only make matters better for the nation.
Irene Aldana: Mexican fans have been very crucial for my career; they have been with me in the good and in the bad. I have received a lot of support messages and that’s so motivating for me to keep going. It’s a hard sport, but to see all this love from this entire people makes it all worth it. I do believe more Mexican talent its coming. Keep an eye on my team mates, there are some guys ready to jump up to the stage and make big things.
The influence of Mexican fans through the career of Aldana has been huge. But there is one other factor that cannot be ignored: The Invicta Fighting Championship.
Irene Aldana: Shannon is one of the most amazing women I have ever known. She and Julie were amazingly supportive to me, always were looking for what was best for me, I’m only thankful for everything they did, and wish all the success I know Invicta is going to be much bigger than is now.
Aldana fought two times in Invicta in 2016 and secured wins in both of them, but she still has some unfinished business in the promotion with Tonya Evinger. Aldana and Evinger faced off back in 2015 with Evinger winning and the Mexican had been pursuing a rematch for some time. But with her UFC debut, the fans might have to wait a bit longer.
Irene Aldana: Well, we are in different companies now, so I don't think a rematch is on the table anymore, I definitely wanted that rematch when I was in invicta, because I wanted the belt and that represented a challenge for my career. I personally wanted to show that I could win. But I think this is just a thing of the past, now I’m focus in the UFC competition.
In the closing stages of the interview, we also managed to ask Aldana about Indian MMA star Manjit Kolekar, who made her Invicta debut this past year against Kaline Medeiros. Manjit had high praise for Aldana in a recent interview and apparently, the emotion reciprocates.
Irene Aldana: I had some time to chat with her in Invicta during the weight cut; we were sharing the sauna. She is a nice person, a great athlete, talented. I wish all the best for her
Aldana does not have a fight scheduled for the time being, but with the performance that she gave against Leslie Smith and the history that she has in Invicta, don’t be surprised if Aldana goes on to become a force to reckon with in the UFC Women’s Bantamweight division.
Get the latest in the world of Sports, Teams, and Players! Free Delivery to your Inbox.