If you don't know who Jessica Aguilar is by now, you've been missing out.
The World Series of Fighting (WSOF) strawweight champion has been a permanent feature in the world of women's mixed martial arts (MMA), blazing through her opposition in numerous promotions to rack up a record of 17-4.
The Mexican-born fighter steps into the cage this Saturday night (June 21, 2014) to defend her title against Emi Fujino. Their bout is just one of three championship tussles on the main card.
"She's a tough opponent, and she's fought some top contenders," Aguilar tells MMAmania.com. "She's been around for a while, she has a lot of skills. She's tough, and I know she's hungry and coming strong."
Aguilar even praised her opponent, too, who is known to be quite scrappy when the Japanese veteran is trading on her feet.
"I love the Japanese," said Aguilar. "I love that they always come to fight, so I know that's going to be a good fight."
At 32 years old, Aguilar has quite a bit of mileage under her belt. Making her debut in 2006, she's fought professionally 21 times in just eight years, suffering the majority of her defeats early on in her career.
Her stock could only rise from here, and stages will get bigger down the road.
A child doesn't acquire his or her first pigskin without dreaming of playing in the National Football League (NFL), or buy a pair of skates and settle for anything less than the National Hockey League (NHL). Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) rules the sport, and the organization has been the pinnacle of mixed martial arts (MMA) for the past couple of years now. When fans think of fighters, the ones who come up are those who compete inside the Octagon, and the majority of fighters who compete have their sights set on working for the Las Vegas-based organization when given the chance.
For the female fighters, the promotion could be on their radar more than ever, especially since UFC has plans for a 115-pound division after The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 20 wraps up, which will be a program full of women's strawweights champing at the bit in order to become the promotion's first-ever champion in that weight class.
Still, Aguilar is content where she is, and happily abides by her current promotion's side, showing gratuity in trying to become the world's best fighter.
"It's a pleasure and honor to be fighting for WSOF, and be their first champion, and now defending my title for the first time," explains Aguilar. "It means a lot to me, it keeps me busy and keeps giving me an opportunity to prove why I'm the best strawweight in the world. It's really important to me to represent the WSOF brand the right way, and to represent the top athletes in the sport."
Still under the coaching of American Top Team (ATT), Aguilar keeps busy with her video blogs during her fight camps, and despite some unfortunate circumstances involving her promotion and other fighters in the past, "Jag" couldn't be happier with the way things have turned out.
"I have nothing bad to say about WSOF," said Aguilar. "They've been great to me. They communicate with me very well, and they've kept their promises to keep me busy."
When reflecting on her career, she felt a little rusty at the beginning, taking fights shortly after becoming a professional. That's where she found her team, and built a longstanding relationship with her coaching staff.
"I was always an athlete growing up, and I'm the kind of person that if I do something, I want to be the best at whatever I do, whether it's a sport, or whether it's my job," Aguilar tells MMAmania.com. "So, when I fell into the sport, it was a challenge to me because it was something new, and there was always something new to learn. When they offered me my first fight, there were a lot of things I didn't know I was doing. I went back to the gym, started training, and another promotion called me to fight, and that's when I decided to go to the best team in the world."
Training under the ATT banner, it isn't difficult for Aguilar to find the inspiration to keep moving forward with her career. She didn't intend on emulating someone she watched compete while growing up, nor did she have someone in the sport to look up to.
Her biggest inspiration is her mother, and both of them have gone through their fair share of tragic occurrences over the years. With that being said, the Florida-based combatant simply can't use quitting as an option.
"I inspire myself," Aguilar said. "My motivation is my mom. She's worked so hard to raise three kids on her own. My father passed away when I was six years old, so she's been my motivation. It's about not quitting, and she never quit. She made it through the loss of my father, and 10 years after my father's death, my older brother passed away. So, she's made it through that, and she continued going, and she's still going today. She's my motivation. I think about that, and I think about she didn't choose that life. I choose to be in this sport. I choose everything I do. It's about not giving up ... it's like my slogan: ‘you smile and believe.' Whether you're having a bad day or not."
That said, it could be the reason why the revered strawweight shakes off her losses inside the cage. She hasn't tasted defeat since 2010, a questionable split-decision loss against Zoila Frausto Gurgel at Bellator 31 in one of the most controversial decisions of that year.
Nevertheless, she hasn't forgotten what it's like to lose, but losing in one's personal life outweighs defeat in a sporting competition, and that's where there's a divide for the veteran.
"I don't like to lose," Aguilar said. "I'm not a sore loser; I'll lose, and I'll go back, get better and not leave it to the judges. I've lost my whole life, actually. I lost my father when I was six years old, my brother when I was 15 years old ... those are losses. These fights are something for me to keep improving myself. Those are losses I can't replace. These I can. I just keep on improving, but I never forget the losing part."
Aguilar has been punching her way to victory over the years, which explains her impressive record. For female MMA fighters, sometimes marketing comes easy, since some fighters use their beauty to sell themselves. Some see it as sexual exploitation, while others enjoy the happenings of a Felice Herrig weigh-in outfit, or how Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate was a contest between two skilled fighters who "happened to be beautiful."
For the WSOF champion, it's all about how to sell yourself, but you have to know how to throw a punch, too.
"Hey, this is a business, and you have to use whatever you can in your own business," Aguilar admits. "So, if it's beauty ... hey, use it. I just think everybody's different. I think everybody has their paths and their different tactics for their business, and whatever works for them, works for them. I just respect everyone, and if it's working for them, great. But at the end of the day, you're getting in the cage and you're fighting."
As time passes, some of "Jag's" other goals include racking up more world titles, being a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and if all goes well after fighting, Aguilar is looking to dabble into the world of acting. The scrapper would like to pursue an acting career, possibly embarking on a second journey when her fighting time starts to wind down.
Aguilar's number one on-screen assailant would have to be Danny Trejo, who was also a fixture at WSOF events in the past.
"I'd love to do a movie with Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt," said Aguilar. "Those are the kinds of actors I look up to. George Clooney, and even comedy like Ellen Degeneres; she's a great comedian. I'd love to do a funny movie as well. Adam Sandler is one of my favorites."
With her aspirations set high, Aguilar is undoubtedly expecting more tough fights in the future, besides the wars she's previously engaged in.
She admits her toughest fight was against Carina Damm in the Bodog promotion during 2007, because she went up a weight class and only competed in the sport for approximately one year. She bemoaned her lack of movement and closing of the distance in that fight, which inspired her to make the changes after being frustrated.
But it's not like she has plans to move back up to the flyweight division any time soon. For the champion, it's about cementing her place as the world's top strawweight fighter before everything else, and proving that it's only going to be a matter of time until everyone has her name at the top of their ranking list.
"This is my division. I'm staying here, and whatever the future may bring, I'm going to wait for it. But right now, I'm 115, and I'll keep proving why I'm the best at 115."
There you have it.
Check out our WSOF 10: "Branch vs. Taylor" preview and predictions right here.