Going back to her amateur run, featherweight Amber Leibrock has been plugging away at her fighting career for a decade now. But despite fighting for major organizations like Invicta FC and Bellator MMA in the past, her breakthrough moment didn’t arrive until her last fight: a head kick finish of Martina Jindrova that made the ESPN SportsCenter highlight reel.
So how does it feel to go viral? We asked Leibrock just that in a recent exclusive interview.
“It feels pretty good. I didn’t realize like the SportsCenter, top 10 thing, I didn’t realize that was such a big deal,” Leibrock (7-4) admitted. “And everyone was like ‘oh, that was a huge deal! Athletes, that’s a milestone.’ So it was pretty cool, it was really, really cool. It was nice to see all the hard work come full circle. It was nice.”
Of course, Leibrock has been doing her thing for years now, having shared the cage with the likes of Megan Anderson, Arlene Blencowe, Janay Harding and others.
“I’ve been a professional for eight years, I’ve been a featherweight the whole time. I’ve never been lower, I’ve never been higher. I’ve always felt like this is my division. And it’s nice to kind of finally be at the table and have my name be out there,” Leibrock told us. “No one’s been speaking it for this whole time, so now everyone knows I’m here, I’m ready, I can fight. It’s nice, it’s really cool.”
With six points from her first-round finish of Jindrova, Leibrock now sits in first place overall in the women’s featherweight division. Her second fight of the season comes against Larissa Pacheco, who claimed gold at lightweight last year, and is looking to become the PFL’s first two-division champ.
It’s a match-up Leibrock loved the moment it was made. “I was excited. I loved it. I loved the match-up as soon as I’d seen it. It’s exactly what I’ve been wanting,” she stated. “I want to prove I’m the best in the world and the only way to do that is to fight the best in the world. People can cherry pick fights all day, but that’s not me. That’s not how I’ve ever gotten down. I’ve always fought some of the biggest names from start to finish.”
Pacheco, who became the first woman to defeat Kayla Harrison last year, will be her biggest test yet.
“I was excited for it, I’m up for the task, and I really believe in myself and I’m fully confident that I can go in there and get my hand raised,” Leibrock said. “I think it’s going to be a beautiful fight, I think it’s going to be a war, I think that it’s going to be fight of the night, and I think it’s going to be stylistically a great fight for her and I. I’m a huge fan of Larissa and I’m excited to share the cage with her.”
Amber Leibrock got her start in MMA by winning a Tuff-N-Uff amateur tournament, which rewarded her with an Invicta FC contract. After losing an amateur bout in 2013, she claimed victory in her next three, then defeated Marina Shafir in her professional debut — one of Ronda Rousey’s “Four Horsewomen.”
“It’s been a roller coaster,” Leibrock said of the journey she has been on for the past decade. “I was a last minute replacement for that tournament, I think I came in on a week’s notice, and I finished Pam Sorenson, went three rounds with Paola [Ramirez], ended up fighting Marina [Shafir], had this could kind of momentum going, and then ran into some trouble with Megan [Anderson], and obviously when I went to Bellator I ran into some more trouble.”
Leibrock believes she’s been “pretty high in the sport,” though not to the highest of highs just yet — that will come with a title. “I’ve obviously been to the lowest part. It’s definitely been a roller coaster of a journey, but I’ve loved every minute of it, every minute of it has been much-needed.”
And despite some struggles, she wouldn’t change a minute of it.
“I wouldn’t be the person I am today or the fighter I am today if my journey wasn’t the way that it’s been, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’ve been in the cage with some of the best, I’ve been in the best organizations and now I’m here with PFL, and it just all feels like it’s right and it’s all happened for a reason.”
Watch our full interview with Amber Leibrock above. Leibrock collides with Larissa Pacheco in the co-main event of PFL 5 on June 16, 2023.