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UFC Vegas 11’s Mayra Bueno Silva inspires girlfriend’s pursuit of own Contender Series deal

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Mayra Bueno Silva and Gloria de Paula train together at Chute Boxe Diego Lima in Brazil.
Photo via Mayra Bueno Silva

Mayra Bueno Silva entered the UFC through Dana White’s Contender Series in 2018, and now it’s time for her girlfriend Gloria de Paula to walk the same path.

“Sheetara” returns to action at Saturday night’s UFC Vegas 11 against Mara Romero Borella, and the initial plan was to have “Glorinha” compete for a UFC contract three days later versus undefeated strawweight Pauline Macias. The DWCS bout was moved to Nov. 4 since the UFC is going to Fight Island next week for a series of five shows in Abu Dhabi, but the plan remains the same: two wins, one bonus and a contract.

Silva (6-1) and de Paula (4-2) met each other in 2016, when both fighters moved to Sao Paulo to join Chute Boxe Diego Lima. Sheetara was 1-0 as a professional MMA fighter at the time, while de Paula was still getting ready for her first test in a cage.

The UFC flyweight will be the first to enter the octagon, and having previous experience on the Contender Series definitely helped her girlfriend get set for such challenge.

“I can help her in a mental aspect,” Silva said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “That’s a chance everybody wants, but everybody gets a bit scared knowing that Dana White will be there, watching. I try to take the focus away from that because, to me, the UFC and the Contender are like any other fight. You can’t let that go in your head and pressure you. It’s her dream, but it’s just like every other fight.”

“It’s the fight of my life, right?” de Paula agrees. “When I went to Las Vegas with Sheetara for her Contender Series fight in 2018 I told everyone I wanted to be in the UFC through the Contender because it was so cool. When the opportunity came, I was freaking happy. When I saw how things worked backstage, there was no other way for me.”

De Paula explained that she was so inspired by her girlfriend’s success in her first octagon appearance on DWCS that she flew back to Brazil and scored a third-round knockout just eight days later at Max Fight. Even though her DWCS bout was pushed back to November and she wasn’t able to travel to Las Vegas to stand by Silva at UFC Vegas 11, Glorinha still counts on her advice.

“It’s so much easier for me because she knows everything I’m gong through,” de Paula said. “She makes me grow and gives me strength, both mentally and physically. Contender is like all or nothing, but I feel no pressure. It’s more like motivation for me. I’m working hard because I want to go there and impress Dana White. I won’t leave without a contract [laughs].”

Silva is happy for her girlfriend’s success, but first focuses on the task standing in front of her as she attempts to bounce back from her first career loss, a “Fight of the Night” decision setback to Maryna Moroz at March’s UFC Brasilia.

That card was the last UFC show before a long break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but being in a relationship with a fellow MMA fighter helped in that sense as both traveled to the country and built a gym in de Paula’s parents’ house, only returning to Sao Paulo when they felt it was safe enough.

Silva had to deal with a long list of issues going into UFC Brasilia after a knee injury she suffered in her victorious UFC debut forced her to go through the longest layoff of her MMA career. The inactivity affected her weight cut as well, leading to overtraining.

“I know Mayra Sheetara wasn’t there that night,” Silva said. “I know I’m much better than that. I think I would win 10 times if we fought 10 times more, but that was her night and all I can do is look straight ahead, fix my mistakes, and be humble enough to understand that there was a well-trained athlete in the cage that night and she was superior.

“It was chosen as the ‘Fight of the Night’ and I look on the bright side of things, I’ve grown as an athlete because of that, but that’s stuck in my throat. I know it was a mistake a made to overtrain and f*** up. I’m not mad because I lost, I’m mad because I didn’t perform well.”

Silva paid some debts and started to buy her mother an apartment in her hometown of Uberlandia with the extra $50,000 check she pocketed that night, and now aims to win another bonus in Las Vegas.

“I don’t leave my house for nothing but putting on a show,” she said. “I know the UFC only hands out four bonuses and I never plan on not being one of those four fighters. It’s not just for me, it’s for Gloria and my family as well.”

Her UFC Vegas 11 opponent is in desperate need of a win in the company as Borella lost in four of her last five octagon appearances, and Silva feels she’s the ideal matchup.

“I haven’t been able to show my grappling in the UFC yet,” Silva said. “I tapped the best grappler in the UFC in my debut, Gillian Robertson, but couldn’t show more because I hurt my knee. I couldn’t show it against Maryna either because I had issues. When they offered me Mara I thought, ‘this is the perfect fight,’ because she’s a grappler and I’ll have the opportunity to show how good my grappling is.”