Tatiana Suarez has been away from the octagon for a long time, but her goals haven’t changed in the slightest.
The undefeated fighter makes her long-awaited return to action this Saturday when she fights Montana De La Rosa in a flyweight bout at UFC Vegas 70. When Suarez steps into the cage, it will be her first fight since June 2019.
At UFC Vegas 70 media day on Wednesday, Suarez was asked if she still feels it’s her destiny to wear UFC gold and she didn’t mince words with her response.
“I think I’m going to be a champion and I think I can’t wait to get the belt and then defend as many times as I can and then because a lot of people like to focus on the whole ‘double champ’ or whatever it may be, I think it’s really cool when you have a champ that’s so dominant in their division and they defend multiple times,” Suarez said. “I want to defend my belt multiple times before I go up to flyweight and do all that stuff.”
Prior to her lengthy layoff, Suarez (8-0) was one of the strawweight division’s top contenders. She dominated the competition on season 23 of The Ultimate Fighter and then won her first five UFC fights. That run includes one-sided victories over two-time strawweight champion Carla Esparza and Alexa Grasso, who challenges Valentina Shevchenko for the flyweight title at UFC 285.
Saturday’s flyweight booking is more a matter of convenience for Suarez, who plans to make the cut back down to 115 pounds soon.
“I think I want to go down to strawweight,” Suarez said. “I just think that that’s where I fit and I can’t wait to go back down once I’m done with this fight. I just wanted to get my foot back in the door and just kind of focus on getting back to competition and not really worry about the weight cut, make sure that my body was healthy. I wasn’t in a calorie deficit the entire camp, so that’s always nice, right? Then coming into fight week I don’t really have to stress too much about the weight cut, so that’s nice too.
“I like the challenge of getting back down to my natural weight class and being lean and fast and stuff like that.”
Suarez took her time returning to action after suffering a severe injury in 2019 that forced her out of a bout with Roxanne Modafferi that was to take place at UFC 266. According to Suarez, she tore multiple ligaments in her knee, which left any hopes of an early return to competition completely out of the question.
“When I got the knee injury it definitely was very discouraging for a couple of days, I literally just laid in my bed and cried,” Suarez said. “Then I picked myself up like I always do and I literally was on the aerodyne bike with one leg and two arms and just going H.A.M. and I was like, there’s nothing going to deter me from being what I think that I am destined to be and I believe that. So I just picked myself back up and then here I am.”
Standing in the way of Suarez’s dream comeback is De La Rosa (12-7-1), a gritty grappler who has compiled a solid 5-3-1 record in the UFC. Suarez is known for her powerful wrestling, so De La Rosa could turn out to be a favorable style matchup if the Suarez we’ve seen in the past returns on Saturday.
Suarez aims to score a crowd-pleasing finish and after that, she’s leaving the rest in the hands of the matchmakers.
“I definitely want to get a dominant win,” Suarez said. “I want to get a finish, I always look to finish. We’ll see, I don’t really know, that’s up to the promotion. I just like to do my job and then that’s it, they can do whatever they want. But I know that if I keep winning, it’s just a matter of time before I’m holding the belt. So I’ve just got to do my job, that’s all I’m focused on and that’s all that matters.”