UFC debuts are hard enough. Now compound that with your fight getting pulled and re-booked just one day out and the Internet talking about a very personal thing in your life. That was Pearl Gonzalez’s first foray into the Octagon.
Gonzalez admitted to Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour that she was not as focused as she should have been at UFC 210 against Cynthia Calvillo in what ended up being a third-round submission loss.
Who could blame her? Gonzalez was told by the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) minutes after successfully weighing in that she could not compete due to her breast implants. The UFC was able to save the bout hours later, after the commission spoke to Gonzalez’s doctor, but the damage had been done.
All that drama was going on in Buffalo and social media was blowing up, discussing private things that Gonzalez likely would not have publicized if given the choice.
“I think that mentally it kind of pulled me away from the task at hand and the task at hand is always to win,” Gonzalez said “And so, not that it at all is an excuse, it was a lot for me to take in and go through.”
Gonzalez (6-2) still fought well in defeat and will surely be given a second opportunity in the UFC, hopefully without all the hullabaloo. The Chicago native isn’t angry at the commission, but she wishes they had addressed the implant issue earlier — not 30 hours before the fight — since it was on her medical documentation.
“Did they look into it enough before they jumped the [gun]?” Gonzalez said. “No, but at the end of the day there was nothing I could do about it. I don’t blame them. They did jump the gun, but we all do that in our lives, I believe.”
Gonzalez, 30, placed some of the blame on herself for the story circulating the way it did. She said when she left the room with commission officials, she told her coach about the situation through tears loudly and people around heard.
“I should not have ran out and was crying and emotional and telling him, ‘I can’t fight! I can’t fight, I have breast implants!’” Gonzalez said. “I kind of jumped the [gun] myself. I kind of overreacted in that moment in front of the public. It kind of transpired and went everywhere from there.”
The UFC and Gonzalez were able to put commission officials on the phone with her doctor, who had to take the call while stepping away from surgery, Gonzalez said. The doctor told the commission “you can run those over with a car and nothing will happen” and it was not at all a safety concern, Gonzalez said.
“They are safe,” Gonzalez said. “I did that research before I got the procedure done. Is it a silly rule? Absolutely. I can’t change other’s rules. Hopefully other states that have this rule will use me as an example to change that rule.”
This isn’t the kind of pioneer Gonzalez wanted to be when she embarked on her MMA career. But on the bright side, the wild situation got her a lot of publicity, including a press conference she was asked to do by the UFC after the fight was put back on. Public opinion was in Gonzalez’s corner from the outset.
While attention is always nice for fighters who badly need to stand out in order to maximize earning potential, Gonzalez would have preferred if things were quiet and she went out and beat Calvillo. The hubbub certainly didn’t help her in that case.
“It was a lot to take in,” Gonzalez said. “I thought I did the best that I could to kind of put that to the side. But I realize today after the outcome of the fight that I could have done a lot more to stay focused and completely have that tunnel vision for that fight.”