It took 10 long years for Nicdali Rivera-Calanoc to reach the “now or never” point in her combat sports career, which culminates with the Combate 10 mixed martial arts (MMA) event later tonight (Jan. 19) on Azteca America and UFC Fight Pass from inside El Plaza Condesa in Mexico City.
Rivera-Calanoc, 31, made her cagefighting debut in 2006, a technical knockout win over Sarika Patel at ACF: “Showdown at Sundown” in Stillwater, Oklahoma, way back in March of 2006.
To put that in perspective, Anderson Silva had yet to make his UFC debut, Mirko “Cro Cop” had yet to win the PRIDE Open Weight Grand Prix, and Conor McGregor was a senior in high school.
Across that span, the veteran “Night Queen” saw action in multiple promotions, including DEEP, HOOKnSHOOT, and Invicta FC. Heck, she’d probably be in UFC if the world’s largest fight promotion had bothered to pay attention pre-Ronda Rousey.
A lot has changed between now and then, including Rivera-Calanoc’s decision to commit to the atomweight division once and for all, a place she insists is “so fucking hard to get to.”
“I’m the best shape I’ve been in a long time, probably since 2012,” she told MMAmania.com just a few hours before her fight. “I haven’t fought at 105 in two years. Mentally, I knew that whoever they picked to fight me was going to bring it and I feel like I’m in a ‘now or never’ position in my career.”
Representing the “never” is grizzled ex-strawweight Lisbeth Lopez Silva, a tenacious brawler fresh off a two-fight winning streak, both of which took place in Mexico. Not surprisingly, the locale of Combate 10 became an instant talking point between the two fighters.
“I was born in Mexico and both my parents are Mexican,” Rivera-Calanoc said in response to Silva’s claims she was a “fake” Mexican. “That’s all she can say ahead of our fight because she knows there isn’t anything fake about what I’m bringing to the cage.”
Looming on the horizon is a future title shot for Combate Americas. While promotion CEO Campbell McLaren wouldn’t commit to a firm date, a 105-pound championship is expected to find its way to “La Jaula” later this year.
Rivera-Calanoc knows that her path to the division crown leads directly to Kyra Batara. “Mogwai” outpointed “Night Queen” when they first went to war in late 2015, following that up with back-to-back technical knockout wins under the Combate Americas banner.
While Rivera-Calanoc is eager to avenge that loss for the world’s premiere hispanic-based MMA promotion, she’s not about to start looking ahead.
“I wanted to make sure I gave everything for this fight,” she said. “I didn’t want to leave Mexico City and think ‘Oh, I could have done this better, or I could have done that better. I have literally done everything I possibly can to have the best camp. I feel so strong, I feel faster, more focused, and I really believe I can be the best.”