As the cage door shuts behind Jessica Aguilar and Megumi Fujii tonight at Bellator 69 it is the culmination of different roads traveled entwining to bring two of the sport’s greatest ambassadors together to battle.
For Fujii, the chance at retribution inside a Bellator cage. Fujii’s only career loss came at her last Bellator appearance in a split decision to Zoila Gurgel. Fujii returned to her native Japan, and. after looking unbeatable in three appearances since, returns to the United States to face Aguilar.
For Aguilar (or “Jag” as she is known otherwise,) the consensus #2 strawweight fighter in the world, a dream comes true on Friday - The opportunity to become recognized as the world’s best.
“My goal is to become #1, and that’s where I’m going. That’s my goal. That’s all I see.”
That was Aguilar speaking to Fighters.com prior to her November 2011 fight against Lisa Ellis. That night saw both fighters bloody and batter each other for 15 minutes straight. Ultimately, Aguilar, draped in the familiar flag of American Top Team, saw her hand raised victorious by unanimous decision. A similar unanimous decision followed against Patricia Vidonic, putting Bellator 69 and Fujii in her sights.
The fight was hinted at as early as the end of February. Fujii replied to a fan on Twitter that her next fight would likely be “May 18th in the United States,” however, it went fairly unnoticed until rumors circulated in March and were confirmed later in the month.
Bringing to a close a whirlwind 75 day period for mainstream women’s MMA (starting with Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate, carrying into Invicta FC‘s inaugural event, and now closing with this) Aguilar and Fujii haven’t built a rivalry based on heated exchanges, trash-talking and disdain. Rather, their rivalry is formed from mutual respect for each others’ talents, and cultivated by the same goal – being the best. At times where fighters engage their fans for support and proverbial battle lines get drawn, Fujii and Aguilar regularly exchange pleasantries, even stopping to wish each other a Happy Birthday (both celebrate their birthdays within two weeks of each other which coincidentally fell during their training camps for this fight.)
It’s rare to see either fighter without a smile on their face, and both fighters work feverishly to acknowledge their fans and engage with them through social media, rarely leaving a fan without a response. This is one of the few things they both share in common.
Both fighters debuted in professional Mixed Martial Arts later than most. Fujii was 30 when she took her first fight, the first of 22 straight victories over a six-year span. At 38, she shows no signs of slowing down, having defeated Karla Benitez in under 90 seconds at her last outing on New Years Eve. The fight was a historic one, marking the first women’s fight in a DREAM ring.
Aguilar was nearly age 24 when she accepted short notice bout in 2006 against Ellis. Since then, Aguilar has won 13 of 16 including just a single loss in the last three years. She and Fujii both have never been stopped in her careers, losing only by decision.
Both Fujii and Aguilar are immensely skilled, high energy grapplers. Fujii’s ability to overwhelm an opponent with her skills are second to none, and Aguilar has proven in recent fights that her mix of methodical, yet relentless, grappling and well-timed strikes are game to derail any game plan conjured up against her. Neither fighter is known for powerful striking, preferring to test their skills on the ground the majority of the time. Their combined 26 career submission victory are testament to that. In comparison, Aguilar only has one TKO win in her career, as does Fujii. This surely will not be a slugfest. Rather, a test of high level skills that go down as one of the greatest single bouts in women’s MMA history.
Whether you smile and believe with Aguilar, or are one of Fujii’s Mega Megu Cats, when that cage door closes and the introductions begin, make sure you are in front of your television or computer when they touch gloves and fight to prove who is #1 in the world.
Bellator 69 begins at 8:00 PM EST, 5:00 PM Pacific on MTV2 in the United States. Since Bellator no longer airs live in Canada, Canadians will have to catch the online feed at Spike.com.
PHOTO CREDIT – BELLATOR