Tomorrow night (May 18, 2012), Jessica Aguilar's dream has an opportunity to come true.
That's because "Jag" will be battling Megumi Fujii, a legend of women's MMA and the current top-ranked 115 pound female fighter on the planet.
No slouch herself, Aguilar sports a 14-3 record and is the consensus number two-ranked strawweight. She's been clamoring for a shot at the Japanese legend ever since before she was a participant in the Bellator season three women's 115 pound tournament alongside Fujii.
Both ladies lost extremely controversial decisions at the hands of Zoila Gurgel, but have been unstoppable since. Aguilar has gone on to defeat the likes of Lisa Ellis and Carla Esparza under the Bellator banner in 2011 and has more than earned her shot to potentially be the top ranked women at 115 pounds.
Before she steps into the cage tomorrow night on the Bellator 69 main card, Aguilar spoke with MMAmania.com during a special guest appearance on The Verbal Submission where she talked about her in-fight decision-making process, her dream fight finally coming to fruition and even Dana White's "business-like" opinion on women's MMA in part one of this two-part interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's get right to business. It's fight week, you're a few days until you're stepping into the cage. What's going through your head right now? Do you kind of get more moody or are you just as outgoing and happy as you always are?
Jessica Aguilar: It depends on how the weight cut is going. When the weight's on track, it's easy to be in a good mood. (laughs) Right now, everything is really nice. My weight is fine and I feel good and I'm really looking forward to this fight. It's been a fight I've been wanting for a long time and I'm finally getting it so I couldn't be in any better spirits right now.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): This is a fight you were talking about wanting even back in 2010 before the Bellator season three women's 115 pound tournament. Now it's finally happening so what do you feel with it being this close to fruition?
Jessica Aguilar: Well it's all business. The mindset is that I've trained and I just feel like everything I've done in my whole career has been working up to this fight. It's been a long road with a lot of training and I'm just so honored to be here fighting against somebody who's really been an idol of mine so to have this opportunity now, I can't even express how grateful I am to Bellator for making this happen.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You mentioned how a bad weight cut can affect your mood heading into a fight. Now your last fight in Bellator against Lisa Ellis, I think I remember that was a bad weight cut. Did you have some issues then?
Jessica Aguilar: Yes, I hurt my foot in my previous fight so the training camp was tough. When you have a broken foot it's tough to do cardio. I wasn't having an ideal training camp for the Ellis-Ward fight so it was a tough cut. This time, it's business as usual. I've never come in heavy other than that fight. I usually come in underweight but that was just extenuating circumstances and that will certainly never ever happen again.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): It's been really nice to see the evolution of your striking game. I remember your first fight in Bellator, you took your opponent down and submitted her right away but since then, you've stood and traded with everybody. I know that you put in a lot of time working on it, but how far do you feel your striking has come and how confident are you on the feet now?
Jessica Aguilar: I feel like I've always had it in my back pocket and I really just never got a chance to use it because I always was so successful on the ground. I'm definitely very confident in my striking. This is the kind of sport when you have to be completely well-rounded and if you have any holes in your game, other people will capitalize on that. I spend a lot of time on the ground and a lot of time wrestling and doing all the things I need to do. You have to have the full package and my striking is something I'm proud of.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): With this fight being between the number one and number two 115-pounders, the winner will be the number one 115-pounder in the world but do you think the winner of this fight will have a claim to be best pound-for-pound female fighter?
Jessica Aguilar: That's a tricky one because the pound-for-pound rankings right now, there's a couple key players that aren't in the rankings at the moment. It depends what you're going by. Are you going by the quality of the victories or the records overall. If you look at Megumi's record, 25-1, that's ridiculous but they say if you beat number one, you should become number one. I think obviously for the 115 I'll have that claim but for pound-for-pound, I don't know. That's tough. There's a lot of really tough girls on there.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): In Megumi's last fight under the Bellator banner, she fought Zoila Gurgel and she stood. It was surprising. I thought she won, but still it was surprising that she stood and traded with Zoila throughout the five round fight. Would you be surprised if she stood with you for the full three rounds?
Jessica Aguilar: No, I don't think I'd be surprised. I think Megumi wanted to prove that she can stay there and trade and bang with someone that's known for their striking. She had a point to prove and I do too. Everyone thinks I'm a ground fighter and of course I am a ground fighter, but I wanted to show people what I can do and I think Megumi felt the same way. Honestly, I would not be surprised at all and it will be very interesting to see what happens in there. Wherever it goes, I'm prepared.
Ben Thapa: I wanted to ask you about the third round of the Ellis fight. You kind of came out and were throwing a bunch of overhands but then you seemed to "come to" and you started snapping jabs and that seemed to set off a great chain of events for you. What caused the shift from "overhand, overhand, overhand" to working the jab?
Jessica Aguilar: To tell the truth, in the heat of the battles, it's hard to remember what clicked in my head at the moment but I can tell you that I have a fantastic corner and my coaches a lot of times, if they see something that's missing or they see a hole or something that I need to capitalize on, I've got the benefit of American Top Team and the fantastic coaches that will tell me what to do. A lot of times, it's just listening to your corner.
Sometimes your corner will say, "Hey, throw some jabs!" and you'll start throwing jabs and turn it all around. It's that eye outside of the cage that's the big help and a lot times, it's instinctual. You see something isn't working and you try something else. I can't honestly say that something went off in my head where I went, "Oh, try this now." It's probably a combination of the coaches and the instincts.
Gerry Rodriguez: What do you think about Dana White's thoughts on women's MMA as a whole?
Jessica Aguilar: I think that his problem is he's a businessman. Obviously, he feels like, how's he gonna put together a division if there's no depth to it. "There's not enough females out there" has been his take but now when you look at these cards like with Invicta and he sees that there's depth out there with females and I really think that Ronda Rousey is sparking his interest. He sees something with her that he really likes and she's done some promotional things and she's gonna open up the doors for females to get into the UFC.
Again, I think Dana's gonna look at it and say, "Am I really gonna have enough females to put together competitive fights?" We'll see what happens but we're at such an infancy stage of MMA for the females and I think if we're having this conversation five years from now, we'll definitely be seeing females on the big stage for MMA. There's no doubt about it. The girls are coming out now and they're training and it's just a matter of time before there's a ton of competitors out there. I'm excited to be a part of it.
You can follow Jessica Aguilar on Twitter @JagATT.
Stay tuned tomorrow for part two of our interview with Jessica Aguilar where she talks about Megumi Fujii's legendary ground game, working with American Top Team coaches like Marcos Da Matta and punching people you like in the face as hard as you can.
To listen to our full interview with Jessica Aguilar, click here (audio starts at the 22:00 mark).