Amanda Ribas might just be one of those fighters that has that elusive “it” factor that is so often referenced in the star-making process.
As she prepares to face Marina Rodriguez at UFC 257 on Saturday, Ribas has emerged as one of the promotion’s most intriguing female talents thanks to an impressive four-bout winning streak and an infectious, bubbly personality. Though Ribas is something of an interview darling now, she entered her Octagon debut unsure if she would be able to make a lasting impression on the MMA community.
“Before I did my debut in the UFC, I always talked to my dad and mom, ‘How do you sell the fight?’” Ribas said during a virtual media day. “Because I can’t do trash talk, it’s not like me. I don’t do sexy photos. And we were talking about it, and people liked my personality. This is so good for me because I feel relaxed.”
That alone would not have been enough to stand out, because in the UFC, the bottom line is winning. Ribas has done that well, posting notable triumphs over Mackenzie Dern, Randa Markos and Paige VanZant. Rodriguez could be Ribas’ most difficult test to date. The Brazilian muay Thai specialist has been competitive in a split-decision loss to Carla Esparza and a majority draw against Cynthia Calvillo and owns victories agianst the likes of Tecia Torres and Jessica Aguilar during her UFC tenure.
“I feel it’s a really tough fight because she throws elbows, she throws kicks, she has really good striking,” Ribas said. “It will be good for me because I can show in this fight my striking too, not just on the ground. For me, it will be an amazing fight.”
Ribas knows a victory over Rodriguez could put her on the right track for even bigger things the rest of the year.
“I think if I beat her I can fight with a Top 5 [opponent], maybe,” Ribas said. “I hope if I win this fight I can fight with a Top 5 because I want to go to the top.”
While Ribas’ first three Octagon appearances came at strawweight, her most recent triumph over VanZant took place at 125 pounds. The 27-year-old is willing to compete at both weight classes in 2021, but her main goal is the strawweight crown.
“I want to fight 115, 125. The UFC wants me to,” Ribas said. “My focus is, of course, on 115. Maybe at the end of the year I can fight for the belt. Of course, step-by-step — 115 first, this fight first. If a victory comes, I want to fight a really good name, too. If the UFC needs me I can do more fights at 125. Maybe this year I can do three or four fights.”
Although Ribas is already gaining traction as a popular figure in the sport, she doesn’t have immediate designs on doing commentary or working to build a crossover brand just yet. That would detract from her primary focus.
“I see myself [doing that], but I think in the future,” she said. “But right now I like to [use] my rest time [off] to rest. Sometimes when we have a lot of jobs, sometimes we don’t have time to train. Now my focus is training. Maybe for me, it’s not the time to do that.”