Irene Aldana is calm, aggressive, and looking ahead

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Bantamweight Irena Aldana earned her first UFC win last month by battering the incredibly durable Talita Bernado at UFC Fight Night 124 for three rounds and also continued her pattern of apparently improving a great deal from one fight to the next. One reason that the rising bantamweight seems to be improving so drastically with each contest is that she’s still relatively new to the sport.

While many modern elite MMA fighters started their training in childhood, Aldana didn’t become exposed to the sport until she was in college. Soon after beginning martial arts training she began fighting and knew right away she was in love.

“I knew I loved MMA after I won my first fight,” she says.

“There’s nothing like having your arm raised after winning a fight.”

The talented newcomer was soon thrust into the big leagues, debuting in Invicta FC less than two years after her very first pro fight. Now, five and a half years into her professional MMA career, Aldana seems to be hitting a major stride – smoothly tagging opponents on the feet with sharp strikes thrown in fluid combination, and finding increasing success in wrestling exchanges.

Aldana’s training at Guadalajara’s Lobo Gym is certainly paying off but the Mexican warrior’s progress may have as much to do with psychological adjustments as physical training.

Aldana reveals that her earlier big-fight defeats were usually preceded by the wrong mindset – one focused too much on the stage and a pressure to win, which led to her sometimes being both too tense as well as laid-back in her contests.

“With my losses in the UFC and Invicta, I didn’t relax enough,” she says.

“My team worked with me to have a different mental approach, this time, to focus on being more tactical, and aggressive. Everything we did in training camp was done with that new attitude and it made a difference. I could tell in training camp for this last fight that I would be a different person – that I would be back to my old self – in the fight.”

Indeed, Aldana seemed to strike that elusive balance of calm, mixed with opportunistic aggression perfectly against Bernardo. She stayed balanced on her feet while throwing long punches and kicks, rarely overcommitted to any strike, yet snapping each one, and managed to hit thudding shots that dropped her game opponent.

Afterwards, Aldana reaped the emotional reward to her mental discipline. “Winning again felt amazing,” she continues.

“It’s a sense of relief.”

After a little rest to heal minor injuries, Aldana is already back to work in the gym and hoping to stay active in 2018. “I know I can continue to improve, and it’s great that people are noticing it,” she says, humbly.

“This is what I love to do, and I put everything I have into it.”

About the author:
Elias Cepeda is a host of Sports Illustrated’s Extra Rounds Podcast, a staff writer at FloCombat, and has a weekly column for The UG Blog.

elias cepeda