It’s been a long road back for The Ultimate Fighter 23 winner Tatiana Suarez, who has not competed since 2019.
It’s safe to say she’s excited to make her return at UFC Vegas 70 this weekend, though she’s trying not to say just that — mainly because she’s been saying it over and over of late. “I’m happy to be here. I would say excited, but I’ve said that around 50 times so far, so I can’t say that word anymore,” Suarez (8-0) said during Wednesday’s UFC Vegas 70 media day.
Asked if she was nervous ahead of her first fight in nearly four years, Suarez said that “I don’t feel nervous.” Then came that word again. “I’m excited, actually. Oh shoot, there we go. I caved in about a minute in. You got me. But yeah, I’m just happy to be here. I’m not nervous, I’m just ready to perform on Saturday.”
What has kept Suarez out was repeated injuries, first to her neck, then to her knee. “I tore my ACL, my MCL, my LCL, my meniscus. It was a brutal injury, it was so tough to come back.” Suarez had to sit and watch fellow patients in rehab get back on their feet well before her. “I had to relearn how to walk, and run, it was crazy. I guess if I do an injury, I just gotta go all out.”
Despite the trials and tribulations, Suarez refused to stay down. A good quality for any fighter to have, especially one with title aspirations. “When I got the knee injury, it was definitely discouraging for a couple of days, I just laid in my bed and cried. But then I picked myself up like I always do, and I was literally on the airdyne bike with one leg and two arms, just like, going ham.”
“There’s nothing that’s going to deter me from what I’m destined to be, and I believe that. So I just picked myself back up, and then here I am.”
Key was not giving into the frustration of being injured and unable to train — at all, for a time. “If I was focused on my frustration, I would probably never get here. So regardless of my frustration, I just made sure to stay motivated and just remember that I want to be the best in the world. And I have to have that mentality whether life’s going my way, or not.”
In her return to the cage, Tatiana Suarez is moving to flyweight to meet Montana De La Rosa, who she called “a great opponent.” But the flyweight move isn’t likely to last.
“I think I want to go down to strawweight. I think that’s where I fit. I can’t wait to go back down once I’m done with this fight,” she stated. Taking a 125lb fight now was all about getting back in the swing of things.
“I just wanted to get my foot in the door, and focus on getting back to competition, and not really worry about the weight cut. Make sure that my body was healthy. I wasn’t in a calorie deficit the entire camp, so that’s always nice. Then coming into fight week, I don’t really have to stress too much about the weight cut, so that’s nice too.”
That weight cut will come soon enough. “I like the challenge of getting back down to my natural weight class, and being lean and fast and stuff like that,” she finished.
Watch the full UFC Vegas 70 media day appearance by Tatiana Suarez above.