Helen Peralta is nothing if not outspoken. The Ultimate Fighter 30 flyweight, who has competed for LFA and Invicta FC, joins the PFL Challenger Series later this week.
While that’s in the immediate future, Peralta (6-3) was more than happen to cover any number of topics from her adventurous combat sports journey in a recent exclusive interview with Cageside Press.
Take her TUF 30 run. Peralta has been open about her Ultimate Fighter experience being lacking to say the least. During her first weigh-in after the show, for Invicta FC 49, Peralta turned up topless with a blunt message stencilled on the tape covering her nipples: F*ck Disney.
Peralta remained coy about what exactly inspired that message. After all, she may need to play nice with Disney. “PFL is on ESPN, which is owned by Disney. So I can’t talk about it,” she said with a laugh. That said, Peralta laid out her issues with the last season of The Ultimate Fighter, and gave us a glimpse of what viewers missed out on.
“Pretty much everything. That was the most watered down season of The Ultimate Fighter,” Peralta exclaimed. “I did it because I wanted people to know more about me, besides me just beating people up. There’s so much more to me as a person, I wanted people to be able to relate. I opened up a lot more because I thought they were going to do a better job editing it. There was a lot of fun in the house, a lot of drama in the house, but they pretty much didn’t show absolutely anything.”
“That was the most boring season of The Ultimate Fighter; I happened to be in the most boring season of The Ultimate Fighter because of the way they edited it.”
Among the scenes left on the cutting room floor was Peralta undergoing a second weight cut after being eliminated from the show. “I did a second weight cut just in case somebody dropped out. Nobody else wanted to cut weight, they just wanted to keep ordering food because you just order things and it’s brought to you. So when I was cutting weight some of the girls were like ‘oh you don’t have to cut weight, you don’t have to be hungry if you don’t want to.’ I’m like ‘dude I didn’t come here to eat, I came here to beat people up.'”
The show didn’t air any of that, however. “I wish they did because it would let other promoters know how committed I am to the game. That one kind of hurt. I know nobody missed weight and they didn’t need me, but the fact that you didn’t even use the footage — that really pissed me off.”
There were lighthearted moments too; an Oreo-eating game with Juliana Miller, who Peralta became close with — they might get to train together soon — and Peralta doing some cooking in the TUF house.
Peralta, however, is more about authenticity, something The Ultimate Fighter often lacks. That’s why she liked Miller, in fact. “She’s awesome. You know, she’s real. Most things now, we live in this make-believe world with these alternative facts and make-believe realities, I can’t handle it. That’s why you don’t see anything about me personally on social media. It’s all bullsh*t, it’s bad for you. I can’t be part of that.”
Peralta doesn’t expect you to fit in her box though. In fact, she admits she doesn’t have one herself. “You just have to be yourself. And she is herself.” Struggling with the fakeness of modern culture, while yearning to open up and show more of herself on the reality fighting show, wasn’t easy.
“Yeah. That’s why it was so much work for me just to be there,” said Peralta. “I feel like I got kidnapped for five weeks and got nothing out of it.”
Up ahead is the PFL Challenger Series, bringing in women’s flyweight for the first time. There’s been little word on what the plan is for the female 125lb’ers; Peralta was able to shed some light on the league’s plans.
“What they’re doing, because they don’t have a flyweight division, this year, they’re going to build it,” she revealed. “And then the people that stand out with their performances, those people are going to be part of the tournament in 2024.”
For Peralta, it’s Lisa Mauldin opposite her Friday night in Orlando, FL. From the sounds of it, she’s more than ready to go.
“I’m just going to press play. I haven’t watched her fights. She comes from a grappling camp, I heard she might be a kickboxer too, but I know kickboxing is off the table,” suggested Peralta. “At this point, people should know that it’s never a good idea to stand up with me. So I’m expecting her to try to come, try to hump my leg for 15 minutes, and I’m going to stop her from doing that, because I don’t like that kind of stuff.”
That comment about not watching her opponent comes from past experience: Peralta realized that so many opponents were dropping out of fights, she was essentially wasting her time. “You feel sh*t because you spent so much time preparing for one person. Then I realized, I’m like ‘wait a minute, I have to work on myself.'”
“The only person I should be focusing on shouldn’t be the other person I’m supposed to fight, according to the contract. It should be me. So I decided to switch the focus and focus on me, so that I can be the best I can be for that night. Then if for some reason I lose my opponent, maybe an injury, maybe she gets bitchitis, or whatever the reasons are, if the opponent changes, it wouldn’t effect me at this point.”
One opponent who did show up to fight Helen Peralta was Aline Perez, sister of UFC middleweight champ Alex Perez. The pair faced off in LFA in November, where Peralta spoiled the Brazilian’s MMA debut, winning a decision.
That said, she believes Perez has a future in MMA.
“Absolutely. I’ve never been hit that hard, and I train with a lot of different female athletes. Alex is also big, so is she, but it’s not like muscle mass. It’s genetic, I think the bone structure is just thicker,” Peralta said. “You can’t really train that. You can start kicking plaintain trees to make your shin a little denser, but their whole body is just like that. And they throw with their entire fist.”
“I think if she gets a little bit better in the grappling department, that girl is going to go places.”
Peralta is also a veteran of BKFC, having gone 2-0 in the bare-knuckle organization. Part of her taking up bare-knuckle was an injury that prevented her from training in MMA. But she’d consider going back, if things were a little different on the promotion’s end.
According to Peralta, BKFC was originally about just pushing good fighters. That soon changed. “They started with all the celebrity things, and the rappers, and all the sideshows because they wanted to increase viewership and social media. Again, it’s all this fake world, and I don’t understand that fake world. All of a sudden I didn’t have enough followers to get paid properly.”
“So I was like ‘followers?’ I don’t know. You are the promoter. I’m the fighter. If you want me to have more followers, promote me. That’s the name of your title! I’m cool as f*ck, I’m cute, I’m always doing cool stuff, I’m a badass— you can use that, and I’ll make myself available. I don’t show my ass on social media, I don’t have an OnlyFans, and my tits are small, so I can’t use them for views. So just promote me as a fighter. Trust me, there’s a lot of different aspects that people can relate to.”
That didn’t happen. “Instead they wanted the easy way which is, we’re just going to use people that already have big names, give them all the money and pay the rest of the fighters nothing. And I decided I wasn’t going to be part of it.”
No wonder Peralta is on board with the PFL and it’s sports-first mentality.
“I love the tournament and the way they have the season. I love the structure, I love what they’re doing. It’s actually pretty cool.”
Watch our full interview with PFL Challenger Series flyweight Helen Peralta above. Peralta faces Lisa Mauldin at PFL Challenger Series 2023 Week 5 in Orlando, FL this Friday, February 24, 2023.