Tomorrow night, ATT’s Jessica Aguilar will make her 2011 debut at Bellator 46 against 5-1 Carla Esparza. However, by this point last year the submission savvy 115-pounder had fought twice before a solid showing in Bellator’s Season 3 women’s tournament and a subsequent November win.
Rather than let the sudden break in activity allow frustration to fester as some might, the 29-year old has remained positive and focused on a training schedule often involving more than five hours a day in various forms of MMA-related preparation. In fact, Aguilar’s sunny disposition rarely dims as she made evident in a conversation with Five Ounces of Pain earlier this week.
In the conversation, the 10-4 Aguilar shared her thoughts on her upcoming bout on Saturday, as well other fight-related topics, but also offered up her approach to life in general and showed why her work ethic in the gym is only matched by her dedication to optimism.
Aguilar’s life intersected with Mixed Martial Arts after an athletic career in her youth although one absent any form of combat.
“I’ve been an athlete all my life but never did combat sports. I did basketball, track, softball, soccer, golf…all those sports…but never trained anything related to MMA until I moved to Florida a few years ago. I just kind of fell into the sport.”
“I was offered my first fight in an American Top Team tournament I’d registered for,” she continued. “They were looking for a replacement for Erica Montoya to fight Lisa Ward. I had only five days to train for that fight but I took it and here I still am today. I was offered the opportunity and I took it, ran with it, and I’m grateful and honored to be here. Mixed Martial Arts became my passion.”
The partnership with ATT, a place she’s called home since 2006, eventually stuck after one of Aguilar’s acquaintances recommended someone who could provide a more-rounded gameplan where training was concerned, an introduction ultimately changing the mat specialist’s professional life forever.
“I needed all the arts…Muay Thai, ground… all of it and they didn’t have complete training at the place where I was at the time. She was taking private classes so she took me to ATT and introduced me to Marcos DaMatta,” a man who remains Aguilar’s main instructor. “I signed up, he said here’s the schedule, I showed up for classes, and here I am and I’m still with American Top Team five and a half years later.”
Working with the famed Florida-based camp alongside fighters like Mike Brown, Jorge Masvidal, and many more, is something Aguilar rightfully feels is in her favor based on the quality of partners, saying, “It’s a huge advantage for me. I get the best training. I train with the guys so when I go in there and fight with the girls it’s easy. They take care of me very well. I get respect there. They treat me like I’m family. I love my camp and I’m grateful I landed where I did.”
Her countless hours of commitment to success have set her up for Saturday’s fight with Esparza, a ground-based competitor like Aguilar though one “Jag” is more than ready for if action hits the canvas.
“I love the ground. That’s my first discipline and my strongest discipline,” said the winner of seven by submission. “I’ve trained really hard with my stand-up, my wrestling, so I’m going to be comfortable anywhere. Everyday I learn something new so whatever she wants to take the fight, and wherever I want to take the fight, I’ll fight. But I want to end up on the ground. I’m looking for the submission but I have some surprises I might come out with so you guys better stay tuned!”
Though her eyes are squarely on Esparza, Aguilar is hopeful a victory at Bellator 46 will set her up for a rematch with divisional champ Zoila Gurgel. The two fought in last September’s tournament semi-final where Gurgel walked away winner albeit due to a razor thin Split Decision.
“When things go as planned this weekend – after I win – I want that opportunity at Zoila,” she began before making it clear her desire is based on the belt and not personal. “It’s nothing against her. She fought her fight and it’s not her fault. They gave her the decision and she went on to win the belt. Congratulations for her. But I want that rematch.”
True to form, the loss to Gurgel also didn’t spoil Aguilar’s interest in giving another Bellator tournament run a go even if doing so required a change in weight.
“Absolutely,” she replied enthusiastically when asked about repeating the feat. “My plan for this year is, after this win, to get a chance at the belt and finish 2011 with the 115-pound title. I’ve also heard rumors about there being a 125-pound tournament, and I’d also go up in weight to fight (if so).”
Her positive outlook on life and openness to accepting all challenges stems from a saying, one of many fans can find offered up on a frequent basis through her Twitter feed.
“My favorite quote and what I always go by is, ‘Smile and believe.’ I like to stay positive as possible. I like to make people smile and I like to smile a lot. That’s why every time I write an email I sign ‘Jag’ with a smiley-face. When I write my signature it has two eyes and a smiley face. I just like to be positive. I read motivational quotes and I like to put them out there for other people.”
In the end, Aguilar offered appreciation for the people who have helped her whether directly or through motivation, saying, “I’d to thank all the fans for helping me out and supporting me. My sponsors who have helped me throughout my career. I’d like to name all of them but I don’t want to miss anyone,” before adding a final message. “Look out, watch my fight this weekend against Esparza, and hopefully by the end of the year I’ll be fighting for the 115-pound championship belt!”
Aguilar has finished nine of the ten opponents she’s beaten and hasn’t been finished since her professional unveiling in February 2006. She’s won five of her last six fights, the exception being the loss to Gurgel, with three of the victories coming in the first frame. You can learn more about “Jag” by visiting her website.
PHOTO CREDIT – BELLATOR