Bellator prospect Alejandra “Azul” Lara stole the show earlier this summer and will look to display more of her ever evolving game when she meets Veta Arteaga this Friday at Bellator Fight for the Troops.
By now you’ve seen Alejandra Lara’s message. Her call to action written in black marker to help the Amazonian rainforest, a part of which resides in her home country of Colombia. The photo quickly made the rounds across social media in the MMA world and beyond. There was no bigger agenda behind the statement. Quite simply, Lara saw a situation that she felt needed assistance and used her voice to help find it.
“Well, I didn’t expect it to receive the reaction that it did. I did it without thinking much about what was going to happen. It was in me and I decided to do it. If you notice my other messages in Bellator, I wear the same makeup resembling the jungle. It’s something that I feel and visualize and the reaction is good because it tells me people got the message.”
While the message on her body was clear, it was made louder by the fact that she delivered a throttling performance over Taylor Turner 24 hours later to get back in the win column. On a card featuring several growing talents in the promotion, Lara stole the show back in August and immediately re-injected herself into the flyweight conversation.
It’s easy to forget that “Azul” is only 25 years old and still growing as a martial artist. Last year, she burst onto the scene with a title fight against Ilima-Lei Macfarlane in what was only her second fight in Bellator. Her effort led to another showcase, this time against surging contender Julianna Velasquez. While coming up short in both bouts, Lara has not been discouraged but rather is using the experiences and growing from them.
“I truly believe that I have transformed a lot this year in all aspects. This year I started from 0 with the basics. I was working in Italy with my team. I changed the way I move, kick, how I punch. Obviously my strength is my striking, but I feel more confident and stronger in it than before. My transformation since starting in karate has taken years and I feel very different. My wrestling is another thing I’ve been working on and I love. I was working on it since before my fight with Lena Ovychynnikova. They did not expect me to know how to wrestle. It’s something different than anything else but now I feel I have more basic details and more tools to use in my favor.”
.@AlejAzuLara always has a smile on her face in and out of the cage!
— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) December 13, 2019
Her recent surge in popularity comes at the perfect time for Bellator’s return to the Hawaiian islands. The card will feature three major fights in the division: Champion Ilima Macfarlane against Kate Jackson, Julianna Velasquez against Bruna Ellen, and Lara against Arteaga. While fighters like Josh Barnett, AJ McKee, and Erik Perez will also be in action, it is clear that the women of the flyweight division have been set up to be the focus of the weekend.
“I think it is a beautiful opportunity to be able to share it with them as comrades and not just as rivals. We know that women’s MMA has a larger audience. For example, the fact that the fight with Ilima broke the record with more than 800,000 people watching. I believe that people now know that there is much more to women’s MMA than what was originally expected.”
From an outside perspective, Friday’s fight certainly feels like deja vu. Lara is once again competing against another contender in a fight with major title implications on the night before the flyweight championship is on the line. Not for nothing, it is also going to be held in exactly the same venue at the Neal S. Blaisdell arena. When asked if the fight this Friday is redemption for not getting the victory last year, Lara maintains that she does not carry any demons from her last trip to Hawaii into her latest bout.
“For me, the scenarios are very different. For example, when I fought for the world title it was just my second fight in Bellator. I showed a lack of experience but I needed to see that in order to see my mistakes and work on them. I have a lot of time to do it, now I feel that I am a totally different fighter. I feel well prepared, totally different, and not as apprehensive as before. I think that you always go in thinking about winning. I don’t believe you ever go in thinking ‘I am going to lose this one.’ “
3️⃣ subs 💪 and 4️⃣ KOs 👊.
— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) November 30, 2019
Lara will be taking on Veta Arteaga, the most recent title challenger who went three rounds with Macfarlane back in May. Artega made her way to the title with victories over Brooke Mayo, former title challenger Emily Ducote, and Bellator kickboxing champion Denise Kieholtz. “Azul” enters the bout recognizing exactly what makes her a high level threat.
“Her style is to bring a lot of pressure. She’s always coming forward. She has finished most opponents by tiring them out and taking them to the last round. Her technical isn’t always the cleanest or most spectacular but I have to be careful of her game and respect what she brings. She has a lot of heat and right now I think she is a great match-up for me.”
Finally, she predicts there will be no major upset in the main event on Saturday although she admits a bit of personal motivation behind her pick.
“I believe that Ilima will win again. I hope that she does because after winning this fight there is a better chance that I can get a rematch with her. But of course, anything can happen.”