Virna Jandiroba has been calling for a shot in the UFC for more than three years now, and it took a while before she was finally offered a deal.
The jiu-jitsu specialist grabbed the microphone and shouted “Dana White, my time is now” after a win over UFC veteran Ericka Almeida in April 2017 in Brazil. The UFC never called, but Invicta FC did.
Jandiroba needed less than a year to score three wins in the United States, capturing and defending the Invicta FC strawweight championship. Just as she was preparing to defend the title again in June, the UFC finally called.
Former UFC champion Carla Esparza was in need of an opponent after Livinha Souza withdrew from UFC Fort Lauderdale due to an injury, and Jandiroba immediately agreed to fight on April 27.
“It’s a dream come true for me, a dream that also became a dream for everyone around me,” Jandiroba told MMA Fighting. “I thought it would happen quickly, but that’s probably because I was too anxious [laughs]. I thought the offer would come right after I fought Mizuki (Inoue, in March 2018), but it didn’t. I think it came at the right time, though. It happened the way it was supposed to happen.”
Though the call to enter the Octagon didn’t come as fast as Jandiroba hoped, she expects that being an undefeated athlete and a former Invicta FC titleholder might help her now move faster up the UFC rankings.
”I sure hope so,” Jandiroba said. “I’m taking one step at a time, no rush, but I’ve never denied what my goal was in the Invicta FC and now in the UFC. I have great ambitions. Because of my history in MMA, I believe that it could happen faster.”
Will Jandiroba be at the top of the 115-pound division by the end of 2020, then?
”You know what, I’ll answer that after this fight,” she said with a laugh. “That’s my goal, yes. That’s obvious. I want the UFC belt.”
“Carcara” starts her journey in the Octagon on Saturday, and sees Esparza as the perfect foe style-wise to be able to showcase what she has to offer.
Unbeaten in 14 professional bouts with 11 submission wins, Jandiroba believes “The Cookie Monster” “is a fantastic matchup” for herself.
”I also love this fight because she has a big name,” Jandiroba said. “Her fighting style matches up really well with me, so I think it’s great. I like that I’m making my UFC debut against someone like her. I’m not expecting an easy fight, or course not, but that’s exactly the fight I need to debut with the right foot in the UFC.”
Jandiroba added that Esparza “would be doing me a favor” if she shot for a takedown in the fight, as she is wont to do. “She’s a good girl, really strong, and has great wrestling, but I also have a great variety of takedowns and have something else on the ground,” Jandiroba said.
”I’m more dangerous than her on the ground. No big changes in my strategy. I’ll trade with her on the feet, but always focusing on doing my best, which is the ground game.”
Esparza holds wins over the likes of Rose Namajunas, Cynthia Calvillo, Tecia Torres, Angela Hill, Nina Ansaroff and many others, and has only been submitted once before in her MMA career, when she met pioneer Megumi Fujii in her fourth professional bout in 2010.
”She has a good defense,” Jandiroba said of Esparza’s jiu-jitsu skills. “But I’ve seen holes in her ground game, like in her fights with Cynthia Calvillo and Claudia Gadelha. She exposes herself too much, so I believe that I’ll submit her, for sure.”