UFC Mexico was a mixed bag for many, including bantamweight contender Irene Aldana.
The event, which took place this past month at Arena Ciudad de Mexico in Mexico City, hosted one of Aldana’s most impressive and dominant wins in her MMA career. It was also her first UFC outing in her home country, and her first win since a setback to Raquel Pennington that snapped a three-fight winning streak.
But along with those positives, UFC Mexico also saw some very controversial results, which brought more controversial reactions from the crowd that night in Mexico.
“It was a behavior that embarrassed me a lot, and I feel ashamed of that,” Aldana told MMAFighting. “I wasn’t expecting that they were going to act that way, or anything of that level. It was very rude.”
In the headliner between Yair Rodriguez and Jeremy Stephens, a commission doctor waived-off the highly anticipated fight just 15 seconds in after an accidental eye poke from Rodriguez rendered Stephens unable to continue.
And in the co-main event, an exciting, back-and-forth battle between former strawweight champion Carla Esparza and Alexa Grasso ended in a majority decision win for Esparza. Many thought Grasso had done enough to win, and they loudly booed the result.
The unfavorable results for Mexican fighters led to one of the most hostile and disrespectful crowd reactions in UFC history. Both Stephens and Esparza had beer thrown on them and had to be escorted out of the arena by security.
“The fact someone poured beer on Carla is a complete insult,” Aldana said. “I wouldn’t like to fight somewhere and have beer poured on me. I think this is something that you can’t let slide or tolerate. I think we need to talk to the people. It’s not really anyone’s fault. These things happen, and I understand that people get angry and get upset. But that’s not the way to be heard.
“I’m very proud of Mexico and the people of Mexico, and I know that it wasn’t everyone –only a few. It’s not fair that for those few people, everyone has to pay the price. It was very disappointing to see that disrespect from the public. My dad had beer thrown at him.
“I just want to publicly apologize to everyone who was affected at the event and outside of it, because that’s not an image that we want to portray. Maybe they were too passionate – plus, some alcohol (was involved). But either way, it’s not justifiable.”
Aldana doesn’t believe the attack towards Stephens and Esparza was personal, but more toward the controversial results for both bouts.
“I don’t think the attack was directly towards them,” Aldana said. “The person that threw the beer on Carla had to be drunk and upset about what happened, and I wish that wouldn’t have happened. But I’m happy they stopped him, (and) from what I was told, the guards were able to spot the guy and detain him.
“The Mexican people are very warm and receive people who are visiting very well. That was just a moment of anger towards the decision, the judges (and) the outcome. I hope they don’t feel personally attacked and understand that it was just the fault of a few people who got out of hand. We don’t have to generalize.”
Esparza also alluded that the incident was fueled by a few “bad apples” in the crowd in her post-fight scrum with the media. But despite it being an issue only involving a some fans, Aldana is concerned that the UFC might be discouraged from returning to Mexico.
“I loved fighting in Mexico, and I would love to fight here again, but I’m not too sure the UFC wants to come back after what happened,” she said. “It be a real shame to see them not come back and lose the opportunity to fight in Mexico again because of the few idiots in the crowd.
“I think that can happen, and I wouldn’t blame them if they don’t want to return. Maybe they can take certain measures like stop selling alcohol at a certain time. I know it’s nice to be there as a spectator having your beers and all that. But I do think there are strategies worth looking at to make sure crowds don’t get out of control and avoid these type of things.”
Despite the unfortunate situation with the crowd, the win over Vanessa Melo at UFC Mexico was still a very important moment in Aldana’s career. Now ranked eighth in the division and being 4-1 in her last five outings, Aldana will continue to look to climb the 135-pound ladder.
“Robles” is happy with her performance that night in Mexico, and her progression in her game.
“I’ve had harder fights in the UFC, harder opponents, but this was a different test because it was against someone I didn’t really know what they were going to bring to the fight,” Aldana explained. “I wasn’t sure of her fighting style, so it was something that I had to figure out in the moment, but I felt really good.
“I was actually more happy with the fact that I felt very comfortable in the Octagon, and I tried new things than the actual victory. I experimented with new techniques that in the past I wouldn’t have dared to try, a lot of new kicks, knees, and a little bit of everything.”
Aldana hoped to get a rematch with Pennington next after hearing of Holly Holm’s injury. But she was informed by the UFC that they’re looking to rebooked the matchup for a later date. Regardless, the 31-year-old fighter still got high-profile bout, as she was recently booked to take on second ranked contender Ketlen Vieira at UFC 245 in December.