This Saturday night the second and third ranked fighters in the world of their weight class step into the cage in a can’t-miss fight with definite title ramifications with a bout featuring two of the elite female flyweights in the world.
At Bellator 58, fan-favorite Jessica Aguilar takes on Lisa Ellis-Ward for the second time. Aguilar, affectionately known as “Jag” in the MMA community, is one who enters challenges fearlessly with a positive attitude and undying passion for what she does. Rarely will you see her without a smile on her face, or passing along words of inspiration to others.
Aguilar was originally scheduled to fight Zoila Gurgel at a Bellator event in October, but broke her foot while training and was sidelined for a few extra weeks. When asked about her current status and mobility, she assured fans she was okay, saying, “I’m great. My foot’s healthy. I’m good to go! I’m ready for Saturday,” in an exclusive conversation with Fighters.
Ward and Aguilar are meeting in the cage for the second time. They first fought in 2006 when Ward, in her fifth pro fight, met a debuting Aguilar who was filling in as a last minute replacement. Aguilar had only been training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for a matter of months, and had been honing her skills for a full MMA fight for less than a week. While she lost in the second round, she took the defeat as invaluable experience, another indicator of her always-positive demeanor.
“I don’t regret anything, you know? It’s all about the story. (Back then) this was never my dream, and this was never my passion. I didn’t even know what I was doing. I don’t know that I was going to continue practicing and fighting. I didn’t have a real plan. I just kind of did it. That’s who I am – I’m a daredevil, I’m a spontaneous kind of person. I’m grateful that I got my first taste of MMA when I did, and how I did it, but I don’t have any regrets.”
Despite having a few options on the table that night against Ward, her training throughout helped decide fighting was for her.
“For me, I just thought “Oh my gosh, look what I can do,” Aguilar explained. “There was just so much to learn, like in the submissions and grappling. I just wanted to learn more. It was like an addiction. So I started competing, and I started winning. I’m an athlete by nature, and I’m competitive, and that’s what drew me, and that’s what caught me. Now it’s become my passion and I’m so happy that I am where I’m at today.”
She does, however, urge female fighters in her shoes to think twice before jumping in, warning that, “Looking back, I can tell other female fighters not to do that — not to go into fights with five days training. I don’t really have any regrets, but I would tell other female fighters to find a gym, start training and get educated on the sport. Get some experience first before they go on to their first professional fight. If they go out there and do it? That’s fine, but I would advise not to”
Since that debut in 2006, she now has eleven wins to her name, as was as multiple Gold Medals representing Team USA in International Grappling Championships, and has earned a Purple Belt in BJJ. A self-professed workaholic, it isn’t unlikely that Aguilar will put in many long days, and uses every possible second as an opportunity to improve.
“My sleeping is a part of my training. My eating is a part of my training. Everything I do from when I wake up to when I go to sleep is a part of my training. Hours that I put into the gym? About 6-8 hours. In between, I’ll have my naps, have my meals. I’ll work, do my thing. It’s all a part of my lifestyle. From when I wake up to the time I go to sleep, it’s all to do with my training. It’s just my lifestyle.”
With that vigor, enthusiasm and her focus, Aguilar has vaulted herself into the spot of a highly ranked flyweight and has put herself on the map as a future Bellator champion. Her best exposure may well be her performance in last year’s women’s 115 lb tournament, where she defeated Lynn Alvarez with a rarely seen arm triangle choke before fighting Gurgel in the semi-finals. That fight, which ended in a controversial Split Decision, saw Aguilar pushing forward in a grueling battle many saw in her favor. Two judges, however, saw it differently (despite the other giving it to her 30-27 in her favor) and she was eliminated from the tournament.
“I just know I need to finish the fights now, you know. Not leave it in the judges hands,” proclaimed Aguilar.
Finish she has. She bounced back with a quick 1st round submission victory in March, and now rides six of seven victories coming into November 19. This Jag is much different than the one that fought Ward five years ago.
“I know Lisa well. We’ve travelled together for the US Grappling Team. We’ve seen each others’ Bellator fights. I’ve seen her fight. She’s seen me fight,” Aguilar said, adding how much trust she puts in her coaching. “I leave the strategy and the videos in the hands of my trainers. I just focus on me – on how healthy I feel, on how my training is going, and to be ready for whatever comes.”
While not looking past Ward, Aguilar has a clear-cut goal for her MMA career. “My goal is to become #1, and that’s where I’m going. That’s my goal. That’s all I see.” she said.
Asked if the ranking meant more than a championship, she replied “Yeah, it does. The belt doesn’t mean anything to me. I know I won that fight, and I believe the #1 pound for pound fighter in the world is still Megumi Fujii. I mean, I’d love to have the ranking more than the belt.”
She outlined some of her long-term goals for us as well, revealing she would like, “To help other females grow in the sport. For me, it’s all about helping. We all have to help each other. I’m not against anyone. We’re all a team – This is all our sport. I want to help everyone I can help, and maybe one day create my own charity. I haven’t figured what I want to yet, but I want to help, you know? I like to help. That’s what I’ll do. One day I’ll have my gym, one day I’ll have my clothing brand. Those are just ideas and things, but you know, that obviously takes money and investors and things, but with time, everything will come. She was quick not to dismiss her current goal, however. “Right now, my main focus is to become #1, and then after that, everything else will fall into place.”
It has been quite the journey for Aguilar thus far, and as she nears that goal, she wanted to take a moment to recognize some of the many people that have helped her so far, making sure to show love to the entire group.
“I want to my sponsors, just thank them thank them thank them all for all the support they’ve given me. They keep me alive. They give me the opportunity to do what I love to do and I’m very appreciative. I really don’t want to miss anyone. I want to thank my fans, the MMA media. Without you guys I wouldn’t be here! I’m so grateful and honored to be blessed with such a fanbase, and the media support and everybody behind me.”
She stopped to laugh and add that she doesn’t use her Facebook fan page much, but asked for all of us to “please please please like it” and continued with her thanks. “My team. Miami Sports Performance. American Top Team. Palm Beach Boxing. I couldn’t do it without my team either. I have the best trainers in the world. Just everyone, you know! I’m blessed.”
Before finishing up, Aguilar made sure to offer up the words of inspiration that she leaves her friends and fans time and again.
“Like I always say – Just smile and believe. You know, there’s times where you’re going to be down. It’s gonna be okay. Just smile and believe!”
Back we say – Smile and believe, Jag. Saturday is your night to shine!
She also has a website including more of her story, links to all of her sponsors, photo galleries, booking opportunities and her merchandise (Jagwear) at www.jessicaaguilar.com.
PHOTO CREDIT – KIMURAWEAR