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Virna Jandiroba reflects on how losing to Mackenzie Dern changed her as a fighter and woman

Virna Jandiroba meets Kanako Mutata in the preliminary portion of UFC Vegas 29.
Zuffa LLC

Losing a decision to Mackenzie Dern changed Virna Jandiroba.

The former Invicta FC strawweight champion, who meets Kanako Mutata in the preliminary portion of Saturday night’s UFC Vegas 29, spoke with MMA Fighting about how that 15-minute contest this past December went deep in her heart and soul.

“[That fight] touched on things that are very deep, not only as an athlete,” Jandiroba said. “Ever since I got in the UFC, I’ve talked about being more professional. Not that I wasn’t professional before, but understanding how the whole process works in a broader way and live every process of the fight. The lesson here is that I have to be more decisive in my fights.”

Jandiroba doesn’t feel ready to open up entirely about this process at the moment, but also reflects that her loss to Dern affected her in a positive way, transforming a pure grappler into “a new athlete” after standing and trading on the feet for 15 minutes.

“[This fight] affected me because we’re emotional beings,” she said. “It’s hard to talk about it because it really were deep things. I’m not feeling very comfortable to talk about it right now [laughs], maybe I’m still in this process of formulation. But fights always mess you up a little bit, right? I think I’ve learned a lot, too.

“I’m an emotional person, even if I don’t look like one, and this fight brought that up, to be more professional in that sense. ‘OK, put less emotion in the fight and do your job.’ It messed with me deep in that sense, because it goes to your roots, your emotions, and they have to be under control.”

One of the things Jandiroba revealed as an emotional topic going into that fight was lack of recognition and attention that fighters from the Northeast region of Brazil receive from media — and sometimes even the UFC itself, with lack of promotional push in the country.

“I want to be seen, we want to be seen as a whole, as people,” Jandiroba said. “That’s something we feel here, and I think that was triggered in this fight. It’s not about Virna, it’s something historical in Brazil, and I kind of took that baggage and felt it a little bit. We all feel that way a little bit, and it’s not something I want to carry. That motivates me as well, of course, I want to show the Northeast, but I want it to be lighter.”

Jandiroba currently holds a UFC record of 2-2 after a 3-0 run under the Invicta FC banner, and welcomes a “tough challenge” in Murata. The Japanese fighter, who also won the Invicta FC belt before joining the UFC, improved to 12-1 in the sport with a decision victory over Randa Markos in her octagon debut this past November.

“She’s another tough grappler [I fight] and I’ve prepared for a tough athlete, so nothing she does will surprise me,” Jandiroba said. “Kanako has great wrestling and good takedowns, but I believe I’m very comfortable on the feet and on the ground. She might have the advantage in this transition, but I have an advantage everywhere else.

“She leaves openings [on the ground], and we’ve seen some. She exposes herself a little bit on the ground and we’ve worked on them. I’m way more confident with my hands now, and I might have advantages on the feet as well. I feel I have knockout power now, you know? I’ve been through this process of transforming and feeling, perfecting my hands and feeling I have that knockout power too. But the ground will always be my first option.”

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