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Sports helped UFC strawweight Claudia Gadelha beat drug addiction

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Esther Lin, Invicta

Claudia Gadelha could be one win away from a title fight if she beats undefeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC on FOX 13 on Dec. 13, and the Nova Uniao fighter would be closer to her dream after almost destroying her own life 10 years ago.

Gadelha, a jiu-jitsu champion who made her transition to MMA in 2008, told Tatame magazine that competing in sports helped her beat drug addiction when she was 15 years old.

"That was when I started using drugs. I did everything: using (cocaine), smoking marijuana," Gadelha, who had family issues at that time, said in the interview. "Sports got me out of drugs when I was 15. I wanted to start working out and doing exercises, but my mother wouldn’t let me. At first, I started working out without telling her. I remember I skipped school to go to the gym."

Born in Mossoro, Rio Grande do Norte, Gadelha started training at Kimura Nova Uniao with Jair Lourenco, and getting beat up in training after going out helped her realize she needed focus.

"I reeducated myself as a person," she said. "I liked to drink, to go out, and sports gave me another idea of life. I saw that if I went out the night before, I wouldn’t be able to train well the next morning."

Six years after her first professional MMA fight, Gadelha scored a unanimous decision win over Tina Lahdemaki in her UFC debut. A win over Jędrzejczyk on Dec. 13 likely earns her a shot at the The Ultimate Fighter 20 winner, who will be crowned the first UFC strawweight champion the night before.

"Signing with the UFC was the best moment of my career," Gadelha said. "It made me see that everything I went through was worthy."

"I think that this is my belt," she continued. "I’m trying to achieve something in this career for 10 years. I don’t think anyone is as focused as I am. It’s not a dream you have for three or four years, like many of those girls have. It’s something I dream about 10 years. I’ve been working for a long time for this. I will do everything inside the cage to bring this title to Brazil."