Karol Rosa is just getting her UFC career started, but isn’t in the game for anything other than the bantamweight championship.
Rosa kicked off her octagon run with a pair of decisions over countrywomen Lara Procopio and Vanessa Melo in previous years. Finally back in action to face Joselyne Edwards at UFC Vegas 18, which goes down Saturday night at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Rosa has her eyes set on gold.
“I think this division is very thin so, to get to the belt, it gets easy as long as I win my fights,” Rosa said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “I’m entering my third fight now. With five or six [wins] in a row — or even less —, I should get to fight for the belt.”
The 135-pound class sees Amanda Nunes sitting at the top of the mountain for many years now, a series of title defenses over Ronda Rousey, Valentina Shevchenko, Raquel Pennington, Holly Holm and Germaine de Randamie. “The Lioness” has also become the featherweight queen during that time, defeating Cris Cyborg and Felicia Spencer at 145 pounds. She’s scheduled to defend her featherweight throne on March 6, taking on Megan Anderson.
Rosa, a teammate of former UFC strawweight titleholder Jessica Andrade at PRVT, hopes to crack into the top-15 of the bantamweight division even if Edwards doesn’t being the name value that her original opponent, Nicco Montano.
It might take some time until she’s close enough to a chance for the championship, but Rosa thinks time is her friend.
“I always try to evolve and I think I’m showing that in my fights, I’m showing more aspects of my game,” she said. “I’ll be way better than I am now when I get to the belt. I’ll be more complete. It is just a matter of time for me to get there. My master [Gilliard Parana] and I are not in a hurry. It could be the end of next year, but I know I will be [the champion].
“Fighting with Nicco would bring more attention and I could even enter the ranking, but my master and I are sure that I’ll be bantamweight champion and we’re not in a hurry. Whoever they put against me, it’s all good. I’m glad they found this opponent, otherwise I wouldn’t have anyone to fight now.”
UFC Vegas 18 will mark the return of Rosa to the cage after a scare in September. The 26-year-old Brazilian fell ill during her weight cut for a clash with Sijara Eubanks in Las Vegas and was hospitalized. Rosa said she “ended up dehydrating too much” after taking the fight on days’ notice with 23 pounds to lose.
“I usually cut to 135 pounds with a month, a month of a half, but since I took that one on such short notice, I had no time to adapt to my diet and dehydration,” said Rosa, who walks around 160 pounds. The lesson learned, she said, was to “never get to fight week that heavy” and probably not accept a short notice fight again.
Rosa guarantees the change of opponents for Saturday doesn’t affect her strategy even though Edwards and Montano have different fighting styles.
“I had a four-month camp for Nicco, always giving my best in training,” she explained, “so the switch doesn’t change anything because my goal is to knock her out or submit her, and I feel well prepared and confident.
“Nicco’s game is different because she has a good ground game, she goes for takedowns when she’s in trouble on the feet, but this girl… Edwards, I think, I don’t remember her name [laughs], from what I’ve seen from her, she stays on the feet. She just got her blue belt [in jiu-jitsu] but she doesn’t have such great jiu-jitsu. She has takedowns, but doesn’t progress that much on the ground.”
Born in Panama, Edwards improved to 10-2 as a professional after defeating Yanan Wu in her UFC debut on Jan. 16. Rosa wasn’t surprised or impressed by her performance that night, and predicts a stoppage victory Saturday night.
“Knockout or submission,” Rosa said. “How it’s going to be, in which round, that I don’t know, but I do know I will win.”