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Invicta FC champ Jennifer Maia knows flyweight title shot might be close, but sees UFC as new start

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After defending her Invicta FC title for the second time, in a headliner against then-undefeated Agnieska Niedzwiedz, Jennifer Maia got the call most fighters wait for.

It was the UFC, offering her a meeting with contender Valentina Shevchenko, who’d be making her 125-pound UFC debut after a narrowly failed stab at the promotion’s 135-pound title.

Now, we’ve seen fighters in similar positions before. They may not be at their best. The timing might not be ideal. The preparation window might be insufficient. But they say yes anyway. After all, one could wonder, what do they have to lose?

Maia, however, did have something to lose: the possibility of a good showing. She was still carrying the bumps of bruises of a 25-minute battle, which she entered coming off surgery. She believed she simply didn’t have enough time to prepare. So she turned it down.

“I didn’t want to get too excited with the call to get into the UFC and end up not doing a good fight,” Maia told MMAjunkie. “I wanted to enter the UFC at 100 percent. That’s why I said no, so I could wait for the right time. ”

That time happens to be now – more precisely, Saturday, when Maia (15-4-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) meets ex-title-challenger Liz Carmouche (11-6 MMA, 3-4 UFC) at UFC Fight Night 133. The flyweight encounter closes out the UFC Fight Pass-streamed preliminary portion of the evening at CenturyLink Arena in Boise, Idaho.

Maia, of course, is not exactly your average debutante. Coming off six straight wins, including two Invicta FC title defenses, the Brazilian is undeniably one of the world’s top 125-pound fighters and, as such, already enters the octagon with some expectations around her.

Maia, however, doesn’t put that type of pressure on herself. Whatever happened on her way to the UFC is part of her past. And now, as emboldened as she’s been by the experiences of a career that dates back further than a decade, the flyweight is on to a fresh future.

“I’m thinking that I’m building a new story inside the biggest event,” Maia said. “Whatever happened served as experience to get me ready to get to where I am now.

“… I did very tough fights, against very tough opponents, and that worked toward preparing me well. My first Invicta FC title fight was a dream for me. It was a war, against Vanessa Porto. And I also defended the title twice. All three of those were five-round fights. This only strengthened me to make my own way inside the UFC.”

As an Invicta FC champion coming into a wide-open division that’s still under construction, Maia is certainly off to a good start.

Shevchenko, we know, is now expected to face “The Ultimate Fighter 26” winner and inaugural women’s flyweight champion Nicco Montano – most likely at UFC 228, on Sept. 8. Anything other than that, title-wise, remains a big question mark. Meaning that a good win on Saturday could, feasibly, put Maia in a good spot.

Is that how Maia views it, too?

“I think it might happen (to fight for the title next),” Maia said. “But you never know how the promotion is going to go, if that’s the fight they’ll make. I hope I can do a good fight, maybe another one after this, to fight for the title soon.”

That, ultimately, is Maia’s focus now: fighting well in Saturday. And, in order for that to happen, she knows she has to get past a tough opponent in one of the protagonist’s of the UFC’s first women’s bout.

Thankfully, Maia is also confident in the work she’s put in for Carmouche, not only at the gym but also outside of it; for the first time, she was assisted by a mental coach that joined her mid-camp. That, Maia says, was something that didn’t actively pursue – but appeared at the right time, helping her deal optimally with natural anxiety and pre-fight nerves.

Between that and the experience she’s had on the spotlight with Invicta FC, not to mention the confidence that the steps taken this far were the right ones, Maia is not fazed about the idea of making her first walk toward the octagon.

“I’m a little anxious with my debut in the biggest event, but at the same time I’m very happy,” Maia said. “I’m doing something that I enjoy doing, which is fighting. I feel happy to have made it to where I have when I think of the road that it took to get here.”

For more on UFC Fight Night 133, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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