When UFC strawweight Alexa Grasso (11-2) came into the UFC in 2016, she held an undefeated 8-0 record and was one of the most feared strikers coming out of the Invicta FC organization. And to the surprise of many including Grasso herself, her UFC career fell a bit short as she went 2-2 going into her fight last Saturday night against Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC 238: Cejudo vs Moraes in Chicago.
But one fight can change it all as Grasso won in a unanimous decision as she dismantled Kowalkiewicz for three rounds in the UFC Prelims on ESPN. “She’s somebody that we were watching for a long time before she came into the UFC,” said UFC President, Dana White. “Then she came in and really didn’t live up to the hype. “Then coming into this week, I was like ‘wow’ she’s in the best shape I’ve ever seen her in. I don’t know what she changed or what she is doing now but she looked phenomenal this week and it paid off tonight against a very tough woman.”
It was a long year off for Grasso. Her last fight before her win over Kowalkiewicz was just over a year ago to strawweight title contender, Tatiana Suarez, who was also on the same fight card in Chicago. Grasso lost that fight in the first round via rear naked choke and then a few months later was slated to fight Angela Hill but had to pull out due to a knee injury which would require surgery. “Nobody likes to lose,” explained Grasso. “When you lose you feel the deepest sadness and anger and anxious, but this is the thing about mixed martial arts, they teach you a lot of life. That even when you are on the floor or you are in the toughest situation, you need to move forward. If you want something you have to move forward and work hard for it.”
And moving forward was all anyone was talking about during her fight last weekend in the United Center and Grasso later talked about that being part of her game plan. Both Grasso and Kowalkiewicz never stopped moving towards each other the entire fight, but it was Grasso that would land pretty much everything she threw, which included crisp punches, calculated kicks and hard knees. “She always goes forward, so you have to be worried and when I was trying to go forward, she kept landing things on me, so I had to move all the time because she is dangerous,” said Grasso. “She is a very explosive fighter. She always goes forward, so I was ready for that, so of course we studied our openings. I think my game plan was good for her.”
As a fight between current strawweight champion Jessica Andrade and #6 ranked Weili Zhang was just made today for the UFC China card in late August. Going into this fight, Grasso was ranked #10. And if her next fight or two are anything like her fight against Kowalkiewicz, she may not have to wait long for her title shot in the division. “I want to be climbing in the rankings,” said Grasso. “So, anybody in the top ten I would love fight and I will be ready to fight.”
As Grasso was one of the many Latino faces on the UFC 238 card which also included Tony Ferguson, Tatiana Suarez, Jimmie Rivera and Henry Cejudo, Grasso quickly made herself a household name on Saturday night but always remembers where she came from and the support she has across the border. “There are a lot of people in Mexico that can’t come to the United States so they will be very proud and happy to have me be in a huge event like UFC,” explained Grasso. “And thank God, there is a lot of people in Mexico that loves me and supports my career.”
Grasso may not have to wait long to perform for her hometown fans as the UFC is set to return to Mexico for a fifth time this September and she and she definitely has her eyes set on that card. “I wish UFC could add me to Mexico’s card,” said Grasso. “I just want to be in Mexico. My Mexican heart makes me keep going, overcoming all the challenges. I want to continue going up in the strawweight ranking and I would love to get my next fight in my country, in September.” And although the UFC has not made any fights official for that event yet, UFC President Dana White hinted that she may be on it. “We haven’t started messing with that one yet,” said White. “But I’d like to get her on it.”
Photo credit: Getty Images/Zuffa, LLC.