Irene Aldana Looks To Join Teammate Grasso As The Latest Mexican UFC Champion


Vancouver – Call it fate, karma, or plain luck but UFC bantamweight Irene Aldana went from fighting the #2 ranked bantamweight in the world to getting the call to fight for the title against Amanda Nunes at UFC 289 on Saturday night.

“I was training in my gym, in Lobo Gym, I was just ending my wrestling/jiu jitsu session. I was two weeks from fighting Raquel Pennington so I was ending training camp (for her),” Aldana told reporters including Cageside Press on Wednesday.

“Saw my phone, saw that Mick Maynard called, and I returned the call. He was like ‘Ok we got to say this to you. Julianna (Peña) is injured. She broke her ribs, and we wanted to offer you to fight Amanda in her place.”

The surprise came as Aldana was finishing up training camp to fight Pennington at the UFC APEX in May, but turning down the chance to fight for the title was not an option. The Mexican standout was ready to accept the challenge of the women’s GOAT.

“Great, yeah, we’re in! ‘So we need you in two days in New Jersey to make the press conference’ (Maynard told her). So it was crazy. One day I was preparing to fight Raquel the next day I was fighting for the world title against Amanda, the greatest,” she said.

“Was really crazy, but it was awesome.”

The call for the title came not long after teammate and UFC flyweight champion Alexa Grasso defeated one of the greatest fighters of all time to win the belt.

“Very inspiring (watching Grasso win the title). Great motivation for me seeing her accomplish that, not just accomplishing, but the way she accomplished that. She shined that night. Valentina Shevchenko is not an easy fight we all know that, and how she did it, how she managed all this it was awesome. It was great to see that,” said Aldana.

“We got to Guadalajara (Mexico) after her fight with Valentina. She went to my home and showed me her belt, and the first thing she said was ‘You’re next’.”

Aldana is just the latest Mexican fighter who will be fighting for a title in the UFC. Brandon Moreno finished his rivalry with Deiveson Figueiredo recently to remain flyweight champion, Yair Rodriguez is the interim featherweight champion, and is fighting to unify the titles at UFC 290, and of course Grasso’s title win just months ago.

“I see someone else’s success and it gives me strength. When Brandon won I was so excited, so motivated. I cried when Yair won, I cried too and I was so motivated. And Alexa I also cried and I was so motivated. I don’t know, it’s something about Mexican DNA that we love combat sports. We have a great history in boxing. We have great teachers in Canelo, Chavez and Barrera and in those amazing fighters. We like the fight. We love the heat of the fight,” she said.

“We’re not going backwards. We’re always going forwards, and we have a lot to learn from them. I think those fighters represent all of Mexicans’ heart, not just fighters, but all Mexicans have that in their DNA. We’re really passionate about things.”

It’s not just the Mexican fighters that have been all about the current rise of Mexican champions in the UFC. The fans in Mexico have really shown their warriors the love that only their countrymen can show them.

“I’ve been having a lot of support from Mexico. It’s been really nice to see all the messages, all the support. My coaches tells me to leave the phone alone, I love to see all the messages, it fulfills me really nice. They have been supporting us very well,” Aldana said.

“I hope so (for a UFC Mexico in 2024).”

Watch the entire media day scrum with Irene Aldana above. She challenges Amanda Nunes for the women’s bantamweight title at UFC 289 on Saturday night.


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