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Why Invicta FC flyweight champion Jennifer Maia turned down TUF 26 opportunity

Jennifer Maia will defend the Invicta FC title against Agnieszka Niedzwiedz.
Esther Lin, Invicta FC

Jennifer Maia is one of the top flyweights in the world, so why wasn’t she on the 26th season of The Ultimate Fighter?

The UFC recently crowned its first women’s flyweight champion with a special edition of the company’s reality show, and Maia, the current Invicta FC 125-pound champion, was not listed as one of the contestants.

Set to defend her Invicta FC belt just seven days after Nicco Montaño won the inaugural UFC title with a decision win over Roxanne Modafferi, Maia said that she got a call from the promotion to be on the reality show, but turned down the opportunity.

"They invited me to be on The Ultimate Fighter, but since I’m the Invicta champion I thought that I don’t need to go through TUF to be in the UFC,” Maia told MMA Fighting. "Sometimes you’re not in a good day there and end up losing, and it’s not smart to leave a promotion where I’m the champion to try something.

"I spoke with my manager and coaches and decided to stay, and hopefully we put on a great fight now and they will call me in the future in a better position, and it doesn’t take long for me to fight for the flyweight title. I’m the Invicta champion, it doesn’t make sense to start from zero in the UFC.”

Maia, who headlines Friday’s Invicta FC 26 card against Agnieszka Niedzwiedz in Kansas City, defended her title for the last time in September 2016, beating Modafferi via split decision before undergoing knee surgery, and believes that seeing Modafferi do so well on the reality show proves that she’s one of the best in the world.

"I’m happy that she was winning (in the reality show) because I defeated her, and that shows my level,” she said. "We compare ourselves to other athletes in the division. Having defeated her doesn’t bring me comfort, but makes me happy with the work that I’ve done so far.”

With a newly created division in the UFC and the need of talents, the Brazilian fighter hopes the UFC is watching her work Friday.

"I trained hard to put on a great fight and a good title defense,” said Maia, who looks for her sixth straight victory in MMA. "We’ll see if the UFC calls me or if they will wait a little bit. We’ll see."

"I’m getting better every day,” she continued. "This camp was one of the best I’ve ever done. The plan is to evolve every time you prepare for a fight, and I had fantastic support from my teams. I continued doing what I always did, only better, and fixed the mistakes I did in my last fight."

Niedzwiedz earned a shot at the Invicta FC gold after racking up a perfect 10-0 record in the sport, including seven finishes, and Maia expects a war in Kansas City.

"I know that she’s a judoka, also has some jiu-jitsu skills,” Maia said. "Based on what I watched in her fights, I know it’s going to be a war, a tough fight, but that’s what I trained for. I’m focused, and I will get the win.

"I believe she will do what she always does: stand and trade a little bit, but always bringing the fight to where she does best, which is taking her opponent down and fighting there. I worked on my takedown defense, to avoid going to the ground, but if we do there, I won’t be in trouble.

"I’ve fought some great opponents throughout my career, like Vanessa Porto and Leslie Smith, so it’s always a new challenge. The fact that she’s still undefeated doesn’t scare me at all."

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