Virna Jandiroba has transformed herself as a woman and athlete over the past 12 months.
The former Invicta FC strawweight champion, who beat Angela Hill via decision in May 2022 and returns Saturday to battle Marina Rodriguez on the preliminary card of UFC 288 in Newark, N.J., opened up about her personal struggles on this week’s episode of MMA Fighting podcast Trocação Franca.
“I had [knee] injury and went through a lot, so I was forced to look at things from a different perspective in my life,” Jandiroba said. “I think a lot like [Miyamoto] Musashi, the way is in everything. This moment made me way more mature, making me look at other things in life, look at what I was leaning towards to and what I was not. It has given me more balance. That was very positive, slowing down and seeing [life] from a different perspective.”
Being a professional MMA fighter since 2013 after spending a good amount of time competing in the jiu-jitsu circuit takes its toll, both physically and emotionally.
“I spent a great portion of my life being only an athlete — and that’s great, or maybe it’s not, It’s questionable — but that has stopped me from advancing in other aspects of my life,” Jandiroba said. “Sometimes our complexes take us far but also stop us from taking steps in other areas. ‘Ok, you brought me here, but I want to be different now.’ I want more balance. I don’t want to be only an athlete now.”
One of the things that Jandiroba put aside to focus on becoming a top 15 ranked strawweight was love, and also quality time with her family. When forced to take a break to undergo knee surgery, “Carcará” had to be there for her father, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Father and daughter had surgery at the same time, and they’re both healthy now.
“Family [time] and love life were things that didn’t really exist to me,” Jandiroba said. “The good thing is that I put all my energy into [fighting], but that was energy coming from frustration. That’s good fuel, too, but there are other good fuels. There are other things we can turn [into fuel]. My father got sick and we were facing a lot of strong things. I’ve been closer to my family now and it was great, man. I feel like a person that is capable to love and be loved, and I think it will also reflect inside the octagon and everywhere in your life.
“I’ll use other fuels now. Those have burnt well, but it has also stopped me from moving forward. There are other things like life, love, great things we can use as fuel. That’s great. It’s new for me, so let’s see [laughs].”
Jandiroba is 4-3 under the UFC banner with quality wins over Hill, Felice Herrig, Kanako Murata and Mallory Martin, and beating a top contender in Rodriguez could get her closer to the conversation for a shot at the belt in 2024. Jandiroba loves the idea, but “[I] feel like a champion already — and that’s very important.”
“A win over Marina now gives me the opportunity to talk about [the title],” Jandiroba added. “The UFC is a bit unpredictable, but I think it becomes more real and possible. A submission, a knockout, whatever, depending on how the fight ends, it changes a lot. But that’s consequence. It would be great, but my focus is on going there and putting on a great fight and securing the victory.”