RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — It’s been a while since Bethe Correia entered the Octagon.
The bantamweight, who once challenged Ronda Rousey for the UFC championship, is set make her return at Saturday night’s UFC 237 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, against Irene Aldana — and that match-up alone has been in the making for a while now.
Correia vs. Aldana was originally planned for Jan. 2018, but the Brazilian was forced out of action due to an eye issue that required surgery. Seven months later, at UFC 227, Correia was once again removed from the card after the promotion deemed her unfit to compete due to her previous eye problems.
”The way things happened, it was really frustrating for me,” Correia told MMA Fighting. “Fights getting cancelled is something normal in this sport, it happens, but the medical situation we got into, the misinformation, people thinking I was hiding information from the UFC about my eye situation, that got me very frustrated. I was cutting weight, a thousand times more emotional… But it’s over now. I got more mature after all that. Everything that happened made me stronger and better prepared.”
In the end, extra time off was good for Correia. The Brazilian brawler flew to Thailand to train for 15 days and reflect on her career, but laughs that she “didn’t expect my sabbatical period to be that long.”
”I’ve never been so long away from a fight in my life, but I try to look the bright side of everything,” Correia said. “I had a war with Marion (Reneau) in Fortaleza and went straight into a short camp for a five-round with Holly (Holm) in Asia. It was really intense. I realized I needed some time for myself after that, a moment to reflect on my career and what I had to improve.”
A lot has happened over the past two years, but Correia sees everything as a learning experience.
”I’m really glad that I’m fighting Irene,” she said. “If they are booking this fight for the third time, that’s because it has to happen. I’ve watched her last couple of fights, that were supposed to be against me, and she’s a true brawler. She has that typical Mexican spirit. I think it’s going to be a great fight.”
All she plans is on winning, Correia says — “If it’s a knockout, that’s wonderful,” she adds. With fellow Brazilian Amanda Nunes reigning supreme in the UFC bantamweight and featherweight weight classes, Correia doesn’t see herself too far from the top of the division despite her 1-2-1 run since challenging Rousey.
”The division needs me. Coming back to fight, coming back to the wins,” Correia said. “Things were way cooler when I was more active. I think the division needs Bethe Correia coming back and winning this fight. I will always be a strong name fight for the belt. People are begging for me to come back.”