Watch Alejandra Lara at any point during fight week and you’ll catch a spark of what makes her one of Bellator’s most popular flyweights.
Whether it’s striking a pose during the morning weigh-ins, dancing her way down the entrance ramp, or slinging strikes in the cage, Lara does everything with a distinct energy, which isn’t surprising at all given her background. The Colombian fighter was diagnosed with hyperactivity at a young age, a condition that she learned to channel in a positive way with help from her mother.
Lara spoke to MMA Fighting about growing up with hyperactivity ahead of her fight with DeAnna Bennett at Bellator 266 on Saturday in San Jose, Calif.
“Right now I think that’s a superpower,” Lara said. “In that time, all my life, it was like a problem and everyone in school was like, ‘You’re different, you’re weird,’ or something like that. I thank my mom a lot because she understood, ‘Okay, you have a lot of energy? Let’s go spend it.’ So I started in a lot of different kinds of sports and artistic disciplines that make me what I am today.”
Name a physical activity and Lara has probably at least tried it, including acrobatic variations of dance and yoga, not to mention the MMA training that put her on her current path. She took her first pro bout 10 years ago at the age of 17, actually a few months before Bennett, who built up her name as a contender in Invicta FC.
Before fully dedicating herself to fighting, Lara actually considered pursuing a career in education where she could work with children living with hyperactivity like herself.
“I actually started in university to study teaching for children because I always had this thing with education,” Lara said. “The system has a problem with people who are different and I know how to handle those kinds of kids. There are a lot of kids that understand differently, but you just have to keep their attention for a bit of time and they can do giant things. It’s important for me to share that message that it’s not about ‘do you have a problem,’ no it’s not about that. We all are different and we have different ways to learn and to live and that’s good.
“For me it’s like, don’t tell me I’m hyperactive. I’m born this way and it’s a superpower.”
Given her diverse interests, finding the right balance hasn’t always been easy for Lara. She admits that her fight preparation has prevented her from being at her best, pointing to her disappointing split decision loss to Kana Watanabe in April. Lara said she made mistakes with her weight cut and felt weak and dehydrated from the second round onward. She also missed weight in a recent win over Veta Arteaga.
Those mishaps led Lara to completely overhaul her training and diet. She now aims to put on an impressive performance against Bennett and vault herself into some high-profile rematches (Lara has already had fights with champion Juliana Velasquez and top flyweights Ilima-Lei Macfarlane and Watanabe) and possibly another shot at a Bellator title.
“After my last fight I felt very frustrated because I couldn’t show what I trained,” Lara said. “I couldn’t show my improvements in a lot of things. I started reevaluating my history and everything that I did and I feel that right now I have my confidence back because I’m not the same child I was when I started with no experience at all.
“When I started in Bellator, I definitely had no experience compared with the people I had to fight with. In that time it was just potential and just instinct, right now I’m a completely different person and I have faced the most dangerous girls in my weight class and they know I’m tough. They know I don’t care who I’m gonna face in my next fight, it’s gonna be hard for her, so I feel very confident right now and ready for the next challenges.”