UFC fighter Cynthia Calvillo (7-1) is ready to become a household name. Aside from her first-round submission win over Poliana Botelho this past November, the #12 ranked strawweight is coming off almost a year layoff from the sport but is ready to build off her win and continue her journey to the title. Calvillo is set to take on Cortney Casey (8-6) on the main card of UFC Fight Night: Ngannou vs Velasquez this Sunday night on the first full fight card on ESPN. “For any professional athlete, their dream is to be on ESPN,” explained Calvillo. “So being able to be a part of the first full card on ESPN, it’s amazing to be a part of history. I’m extremely grateful to be a part of that.”
Before her layoff, talk of Calvillo being a future champion were quickly swirling around the MMA world. Her brawler-style type of fighting mixed with a dash of ground game wizardry had many excited to see what she would do next and if she could continue winning in the fashion she was. “My goal is to be the world champion. I see myself fighting everybody, especially anybody in the top five,” said Calvillo. “And I had a little hiccup but it was nothing crazy where I got exposed in any way. I’m ready to fight everybody and anybody that’s going to get me closer to the title. I feel like two more wins I will definitely be in talks for title contention.”
Calvillo made headlines for missing weight in her last fight, the first time ever that’s happened in her career, and it later came out that it was not her fault. But missing weight did spark some questions as to whether Calvillo would stay at strawweight or move up divisions. “For me, I want to go for greatness and I feel like I’m in a really good position in the strawweight division,” explained Calvillo. “So, I would hate to just leave where I am at in the strawweight division and move up to flyweight. I’ve got to see how my body reacts to the next couple weight cuts and if it’s something I can do healthily and my body allows it, I’ll continue at strawweight and get that title and then move up to flyweight.”
On Sunday night, Calvillo will be sharing the spotlight with another Mexican fighter who is looked at as one of the best heavyweights in the history of the sport. After a two- and half-year hiatus, former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez will make his octagon return fighting in the main event of the night. With a win on Sunday evening, Calvillo wants to show that she can also do what Velasquez did in his career, being one of the biggest and best representatives of Mexican fighters in the UFC. “I was born in raised in San Jose, California and Cain actually trains there at AKA. My parents were born and raised in Mexico and I’m super proud of my roots and how I grew up, “said Calvillo. “I didn’t grow up in the best neighborhood and it was a predominately Mexican community. When I grew up there, the idea that they gave us was never to be anything great to even dream about being a pro athlete was something that I ever though was reachable. And to be able to accomplish that and even to be able to start later in my career at twenty-three and start late and come from where I came from and have crazy dreams, to be able to show that and represent all of the community that we can do this, I’m happy and I’m proud and I’m hoping that I can be the first Mexican-American female champion.”
As Rose Namajunas, Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Jessica Andrade sit atop of the division, a win over Casey this weekend would shoot her up the rankings and most likely set up a fight with someone in the top five and show everyone that one loss doesn’t have to define her career. “I want to show people that I’m a real fighter, I take this seriously and after this fight they can see me as a true title contender and can look up to me and know no matter what happens you can always rise up and come back and get back on top,” explained Calvillo. And as this is the first time ESPN will have a complete fight card on its network, Calvillo looks at this as the perfect opportunity to showcase her talent and give her fans and everyone watching a fight worth seeing. “I just want to represent everybody and want them to know I’m super appreciative and grateful for all the fans. We couldn’t have this without them. To be able to have this and live this as a career, I’m extremely grateful that people enjoy watching me do what I love doing.”
Cynthia Calvillo will fight Cortney Casey at UFC Fight Night: Ngannou vs Velasquez, Sunday, February 17th on ESPN. 8pm CST.
Photo credit: Getty Images/Zuffa, LLC.