Diana Belbita has gotten to be a part of quite a few unique experiences in her young life thus far.
Currently residing in Stoney Creek, Ontario, Canada, the Romania-born Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Strawweight prospect made the move to North America roughly three years after her coach persuaded her into getting serious about this mixed martial arts (MMA) journey. Coincidentally enough, at the time of her signing with the sport’s ultimate proving ground, Belbita was competing on Romania’s version of Exatlon, the famous Survivor-type reality television series that Jorge Masvidal also notably competed on.
It’s safe to say things have gotten pretty serious since.
Before “Warrior Princess’” arrival in the Octagon, however, she was a part of history as the potential Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki (KSW) Flyweight champion. After a successful promotional debut in Oct. 2016, Belbita had earned a crack at the inaugural title. In doing so, she fought in front of the second biggest MMA crowd of all time with 57,776 in attendance at Warsaw, Poland’s PGE Narodowy colosseum for KSW 39. By comparison, the May 2017 event held 600 more attendees than UFC 243 in Melbourne, Australia, the third biggest of all time.
“Usually what happens around the cage doesn’t bother me at all,” Belbita told MMA Mania. “I don’t even notice. From what I read in the media, I saw that there were like 55,000 people at that event so that arena was huge. But I didn’t even notice. Usually, that happens with my fights. It doesn’t bother me. If I have a full arena, it’s fine. If it’s nobody there, it’s fine again.”
Full crowd or no crowd, Belbita, 26, has certainly seen it all just 21 fights into her professional career. From fighting in a raucous colosseum to a silent UFC Apex facility, a lot has changed for both women involved in that historic clash.
Belbita battled her now fellow UFC roster member, Ariane Lipski, for the KSW title, coming up short via first round armbar submission. It took experiences like that one to help lead the judo brown belt down the path she’s on now as a budding 115 pounder.
“It was weird, first of all, because I didn’t know the level of MMA in Romania and the level of MMA in Europe at that time so I didn’t know how to fight,” Belbita said. “I was just a striker, a kickboxer that knew some judo, and if you look at my old fights you will see I have no footwork, no head movement, I’m just walking forward and throwing punches, I don’t know. Honestly, I can’t rewatch my old fights because I was so bad.
“When I fought Lipski, even my coaches at that time — I was training in Romania — they were like, ‘Oh, it’s good for you to stop and fight, it’s a good experience,’” she continued. “I kind of felt they were not believing in me so I couldn’t believe in myself either. Lipski at that time, she was good. She was huge. She was ready for that fight, I was not ready for that fight at all. But I was like, ‘Okay! I will do it.’”
The mental warfare that goes into combat sports is often unlike any other. For Belbita, it’s been somewhat of a battle not only against the woman standing across from her but herself to get her there and overcome them.
“Usually, I underestimate myself and super estimate my opponent,” Belbita said. “Usually I’m thinking I have to work harder, the other girl works harder than me, I have to work harder, harder, harder. Every time, I’m like okay, I’m not here to win, I’m here to do my best. So, this is what I did there. I tried to do my best and I couldn't do much, but you know, everything happens for a reason.”
Four fights into her UFC run and Belbita is seeking her second career Octagon victory in what will next be a rebound effort off a closely contested split decision defeat in Feb. 2022. Continually growing and racking up experience, she’s starting to feel more and more comfortable with her abilities and where they can take her.
On Sept. 17, 2022, at UFC Vegas 60, Belbita will get back after it for a showdown with Thailand’s Loma Lookboonmee. Unlike some of her last so many opponents, Belbita doesn’t expect any friendly embraces from the Muay Thai specialist.
“I know Loma is a tough, very tough opponent,” Belbita said. “Especially because she at some point was close to top 15. But I don’t know why I like the match up. When UFC asked me for this fight, I told my coach, ‘Yes, tell them to send us the contract. I want this fight.’
“Why do I want this fight?” she continued. “Because I know this girl doesn’t give up. She’s not stepping back. I don’t like when I have in front of me a runner, when someone hugs me — I hate hugs, I don’t like the huggers, I’m not a hugger — so I really expect her to stay and fight. Stay in front of me, come forward, and fight. There will be a point in the middle of the cage where I will meet her and probably one of us will fall down. It can be me, it can be her. I’m not saying, ‘Oh, I’m great, I’m so good.’ I know I will be a huge underdog for this fight and I really like it. I’m a money maker when I’m usually favored to lose. When I’m underdog, I win (laughs). There will be a war. I’m not stepping back, she’s not stepping back. Let’s see.”