An old Chinese proverb says, pearls don’t lie on the sea shore, if you want one you must dive for it. That sentiment could not be more fitting for a fighter that shares a name and a lifestyle with that saying. Invicta FC flyweight, Pearl Gonzalez (9-3) had a very busy 2018 since making her move to Invicta last March and since then has gone undefeated in the all-women’s MMA organization. For her hard work, the Chicago born fighter has been given a chance to cap off last year and start this year off with Invicta gold as on Friday, February 15th from Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas she will face Vanessa Porto (20-8) for the vacant flyweight championship at Invicta FC 34: Porto vs Gonzalez. “When I was first released from the UFC, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to fight anymore,” explained Gonzalez. And they say everything happens for a reason and there is no doubt in my mind that happened for this reason now.”
Looking back on her short-lived time in the UFC before making the switch to Invicta last year, Gonzalez reflects on that time and is thankful that it got her to do some self-reflection and rebuilding in order to be the best version of herself and who she knew she could be. “I think that when I was in the UFC, when you look to the next level in whatever you are doing, it requires a new version of you,” said Gonzalez.” “And I think that when I got to the UFC, I didn’t change my identity of who I was. And so therefore I didn’t do well.”
It would appear from how active and successful Gonzalez was last year that we are now witnessing a fighting Phoenix that has risen out of the ashes of her former self. “To go over to Invicta, they have allowed me to blossom into the fighter I am now and to give me the freedom to be myself and show my character,” said Gonzalez. “This past year has been a year of rebuilding and rekindling my fire and passion for this sport, so the biggest blessing in disguise was being released from the UFC so that I could go to Invicta and really find myself. Sometimes you have to get put on your butt to reinvent yourself.”
This is Gonzalez’s first title shot and Porto’s third. And with a title fight comes a grocery list of nerves that would normally not be there for just another fight. “It’s another step, it’s a main event, a big fight card, it is for the title, there’s two more rounds added in there, so yes there is nerves going into this,” explained Gonzalez. “But I can say this has been the hardest training camp of my life and I’m more than prepared. My team has done an amazing getting me conditioned and having me ready for five rounds.” And one of those teammates is Bellator women’s flyweight champion, Ilima-Lei MacFarlane. “She just got out of her fight camp for her fight last December,” said Gonzalez. “So, I was already training with her and all of her camp for five rounds, so we already have a good system. I am nervous but I train even harder so there are no uncertainties.”
When watching a Pearl Gonzalez fight, it doesn’t take long to notice that her passion and love for the sport and when asked she attributes the way she carries herself to her Latin roots. “I am Latina and proud of it and I am very grateful to represent my culture and our people,” expressed Gonzalez.” It’s very dear to my heart to be an inspiration to all young women and all young kids in general, especially young girls and young women and it’s very dear to my heart to set a good example to live and to set the bar for them so they can raise it. You don’t have to be a victim of your circumstances, you can be a product because of it and that’s what I live by.”
With just under two weeks until her title fight, Gonzalez already exudes the confidence of a champion. And having seemingly won the battle against her former self to get to this point in her career, having the title belt around her waist would only solidify all the ups and downs over the last two years. And if her new found love for herself and the sport shows its face on fight night, the “Chi-Town Princess” may finally get the crown she has been working so hard for up to this point. “My last fight, I was not happy with my performance,” explained Gonzalez. “We’ve been working so hard in my gym to grow and get better and I am very excited to showcase some of my skills that I wasn’t able to show last fight. I’m 100% percent committed to my sport, my team and my craft.”
Pearl Gonzalez will face Vanessa Porto for the vacant Invicta FC flyweight title at Invicta FC 34: Porto vs Gonzalez on Friday, February 15th streaming live and exclusively on UFC Fight Pass at 7pm CT.
Photo credit: Dave Mandel, Invicta FC