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UFC Vegas 54: How a canceled bout could turn into biggest break of Amanda Ribas’ career

·Combat columnist
·5 min read
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Amanda Ribas can barely speak two sentences without at least giggling, and oftentimes, laughing uncontrollably. The Brazilian mixed martial artist has rapidly gained popularity, not only because of her fighting style but because of her laid-back, easy-going personality.

She’s grown up around fighting.

Ribas’ father, Marcelo, is a highly regarded coach in Brazil. Her brother is also an MMA fighter. She has black belts in both jiu-jitsu and judo. Fighting has been a part of who she is for as long as she remembers.

So she doesn’t get stressed out about things and she’s willing to take on challenges. When her original opponent, Michelle Waterson, fell out of their strawweight bout, she thought it was really bad news.

All of the other strawweights were booked.

“I was a little sad when they told me Michelle was hurt,” Ribas told Yahoo Sports. “It was like, ‘Oh my goodness. I am [going to go] seven months without a fight.’”

She had her management inform the UFC that she wanted to fight and was willing to do so at flyweight if that would get her a bout. Sure enough, it did.

A lot of fighters wouldn’t have even thought of trying what she’s going to try. Ribas is ranked ninth at strawweight but accepted a fight against Katlyn Chookagian, the top-ranked flyweight. Chookagian has reeled off three consecutive wins and is 6-2 in her last eight, with her only losses to champion Valentina Shevchenko and former strawweight champion Jessica Andrade.

Ribas, though, said yes immediately. They’ll meet Saturday on the main card at Apex.

“I grabbed this opportunity, this huge opportunity, with my hands, my arms, my legs, with everything that I have, because I want to do my best,” she said.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - OCTOBER 30: Amanda Ribas of Brazil has her hands wrapped prior to her fight during the UFC 267 event at Etihad Arena on October 30, 2021 in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - OCTOBER 30: Amanda Ribas of Brazil has her hands wrapped prior to her fight during the UFC 267 event at Etihad Arena on October 30, 2021 in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

Ribas is 11-2 overall and 5-1 in the UFC, with the only defeat coming at the hands of the red-hot Marina Rodriguez. Rodriguez stopped Ribas in the second round of their bout at UFC 257, the middle of three consecutive fights she had in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

But Ribas responded with a win over Virna Jandiroba at UFC 267 on Oct. 30.

That’s led her to the fight with Chookagian and what it’s done is create options for her. If she wins, having defeated the No. 1 contender at flyweight, it makes sense she’d enter the rankings high in that division and have positioned herself for an eventual shot at Shevchenko’s title.

If she loses, it was up a class and taken under extraordinary circumstances, and so it shouldn’t impact her standing at strawweight much, if at all.

That leaves her a slew of possibilities.

“If I do really good, really well, in this fight, I’ll put my energy toward 125,” she said.

She took the fight because she’s a fighter at heart and she knows the value of inactivity. She lost more than two years of her career to the use of a tainted supplement that contained ostarine, an anabolic agent. On June 7, 2017, she failed a USADA drug test and was suspended for two years.

But Ribas appealed the suspension, insisting she hadn’t taken a banned substance. USADA investigated and determined that the positive test was the result of a contaminated substance. It vacated her suspension, but she went from May 21, 2016, to June 29, 2019, when she made her UFC debut by choking out Emily Whitmire as a result of the issue. She’d subsequently passed four consecutive tests.

So when Waterson was out, Ribas wanted no parts of sitting out a long time so she sought a fight and was offered Chookagian.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - OCTOBER 30: (R-L) Amanda Ribas of Brazil punches Virna Jandiroba of Brazil in a strawweight fight during the UFC 267 event at Etihad Arena on October 30, 2021 in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - OCTOBER 30: (R-L) Amanda Ribas of Brazil punches Virna Jandiroba of Brazil in a strawweight fight during the UFC 267 event at Etihad Arena on October 30, 2021 in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

“If we stop or we take a long time off without fighting, we’re stopping our lives,” Ribas said. “My life is fighting. It’s my job and I need to be active. If I’m not active, I know other girls are. They’re getting better and their rankings are getting better. Training is different than competition.

“You train to compete, not just train without competing. So for me, it’s really important to compete.”

And because of that attitude, she’ll get an unexpectedly significant fight on Saturday. When she makes her walk and enters the cage, she’ll do so with a huge grin.

Former UFC contender Roxanne Modafferi was known as “The Happy Warrior,” but it might be a nickname that Ribas could usurp. She has such a joy for what she does.

“I love this, [even doing interviews],” she said. “I really believe if we put our best vibe, our best energy in whatever we do, the vibe comes back to us. And I like to come here [to the media center] and sometimes, I am tired, but it’s so good to see you people, you reporters, interested on me. This is amazing. It makes me happy because people are interested in seeing me do my job. I enjoy that and I’ll keep trying to do a great job, [not only fighting] but doing interviews and talking about myself and this [sport].”