Livia Renata Souza will make her Invicta FC debut on Friday night, and it’s going to be the biggest night of her life.
The Brazilian prospect, who signed a contract with the promotion after going 6-0 in just 18 months, will headline Invicta FC 12 against strawweight champion Katja Kankaanpaa, and expects a tough battle at Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium.
"She’s a veteran. Nobody becomes champion easily, so I respect her a lot," Souza told MMAFighting.com. "She has an excellent grappling and I respect that, but when the fight starts I will go there to take her title. I have nothing to lose. It’s my first fight in America and my Invicta debut, and I will do everything I can to take the belt from her."
Souza will fight for a world title only 25 months after making her professional MMA debut, but the 24-year-old fighter brings a 17-year experience to the cage.
"I started competing in judo and jiu-jitsu when I was 7, so I’m used to competition. It’s all very natural for me," Souza said. "I’ve always competed, wanted to see how far I could go. I was 7 when I entered my first tournament in judo. My father was always addicted to sports, and I found out I was born to fight. I realized I had talent, and looked for the best coaches to help me.
"I always watched tapes of my opponents’ previous fights in judo and jiu-jitsu, and I brought that with me to MMA," she continued. "My fights show that. I know what my opponents do in every situation, and I know how to block it and do what I have to do to win."
Competing since an early age made her parents follow her steps in judo and jiu-jitsu, but her father is the only one to continue watching her live.
"My mother doesn’t like watching me fight MMA, but my father loves it," she said with a laugh. "He curses, yells, celebrates. He’s very passionate. He’s my biggest critic, actually. Ever since I started competing, it’s never perfect for him, and that helped me becoming a better fighter. I can win a fight in 30 seconds or one minute without getting punched in the face, but I have always something to work on."
Having your biggest critic by your side during a seven-month training camp isn’t the best idea, though, so Souza hid the news from her father.
"I only told him about this fight recently or he would be all over me," Souza said with a laugh. "I had seven months of an intense training camp. I was basically living in the gym, had no social life. I focused on her game and trained hard, so I didn’t want to tell him about the fight."
Some fighters like to treat every bout like any other, but Souza refuses to be like that. She knows this is the biggest fight of her life, and brought that intensity with her.
"It would be irresponsible to treat such an important fight like any other fight," Souza said. "Every athlete dreams to fight for a world title, and I’m fighting for the world championship in the biggest women’s MMA promotion in the world after just two years of training. That’s wonderful, a big step in my career. Every fighter would like to be in this position.
"And I would be lying if I told you I didn’t think about it," she said of going to the UFC after winning the Invicta FC gold. "Every MMA fighter wants to be in the UFC, it’s like the World Cup. Invicta has a partnership with the UFC and that’s great for women’s MMA. I was happy when they started that partnership, but I can’t think about it right now. I have to live the present. I have to become the world champion in Invicta before talking about the UFC."
"I will be among the top three or four," she said. "I leave that for the media to vote. Rankings don’t mean anything when you’re fighting, actually. Joanna, Carla and Gadelha are above me technically. I’m not saying I wouldn’t fight them, but they are ahead of me and deserve to be. I respect every fighter equally, doesn’t matter if they are at Invicta or in the UFC.
"I believe Joanna is the No. 1, ‘Claudinha’ is the No. 2, and I would be really happy to be the number three with only two years of MMA."