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BJJ wiz Virna Jandiroba ‘delighted’ with striking after realizing she can — and must — hurt opponents in UFC: ‘I was too friendly’

Virna Jandiroba (left) scored the first TKO victory of her MMA career against Kanako Murata in June.
Zuffa LLC

It’s no more Ms. Nice Girl for Virna Jandiroba.

Jandiroba transitioned to MMA after years of jiu-jitsu competition in Brazil and was always straightforward with her plans in the cage: She wanted to tap you as quickly as possible, with no unnecessary damage caused. That style led her to UFC wins over the likes of Mallory Martin and Felice Herrig with combined 11 significant strikes landed before the fight-ending submissions.

However a switched flipped in her subsequent appearances. Jandiroba landed 63 significant strikes in her decision defeat to Mackenzie Dern — a fight she still feels should have “a least” been a draw — and 36 significant strikes en route to a stoppage victory over Kanako Murata six months later.

“I think I was too friendly,” Jandiroba laughed while speaking to MMA Fighting ahead of her UFC 267 with Amanda Ribas, which goes down Saturday in Abu Dhabi. “I think the fact I did those three rounds of striking [against Dern] transformed me deeply. It’s quite symbolic, but it transformed me deeply not only for making me not be afraid [of striking], but also showing me it’s OK for you to be aggressive in here.

“I guess many times I was holding back with my aggressiveness and only using my jiu-jitsu. I was too friendly, too nice. I want to continue being a fighter that respects other fighters, but one that gets in there and expresses herself with all she’s got.”

Jandiroba said the fact she was “educated in jiu-jitsu,” with the mindset of defeating opponents without hurting them, eventually worked against her in MMA.

“Even my jiu-jitsu was one that I wouldn’t do a crossface on someone. Like, you don’t have to hurt your colleague to win,” Jandiroba said. “I think I had that rooted inside of me and that fight transformed me. I think and act differently now, so it was positive.”

That new mindset continues into UFC 267 as she faces Ribas, a 10-2 prospect who makes her first walk to the octagon since losing by knockout to Marina Rodriguez in January.

“Nothing personal,” Jandiroba said, “but I’m going there to fight and I want to win, so we’ll do what we have to do. There’s a very interesting line from a nice movie, Spirit, about horses, that says, ‘Sometimes a horse has got to do what a horse has got to do.’ Sometimes we just have to do what we have to do in there.

“I’d say 95 percent of my opponents in the UFC were grapplers so I’m well-adapted to that. I’ve trained jiu-jitsu but also my striking, not only for this fight but in general. I’m finding wonderful paths [on the feet], I’m delighted with the possibilities we have.”

Happy to be facing someone ranked above her in the 115-pound division, Jandiroba feels she has “all the weapons to win the fight on the feet and on the ground” in Abu Dhabi, a place where Ribas first made a name for herself with a big win over Paige VanZant in 2020.

Jandiroba is ranked No. 14 in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings while Ribas sits at No. 11. The Brazilian won’t look past Ribas, but she hopes the UFC keeps booking her against the elite of the strawweight division moving forward, including names like Claudia Gadelha, Tecia Torres, and Michelle Waterson.

“I think Michelle Waterson, who’s a very popular girl, would be a great fight,” Jandiroba said. “It would be wonderful, but I’m here for anything. I’m here to work, one step at a time.”