The beginning of a fighter’s career is the result of the experiences they have had in our life, one simply can’t always put it in words what exactly prompted a person to take up something this dangerous as a profession. Some take up a path cause it leads to fulfillment of their dreams whereas some take it up cause they have no other way out. Pearl Gonzalez however belongs to a very different category. Gonzalez didn’t have what you call a normal childhood. She had a troubled childhood, making things very difficult for her. That is when her father understood that Pearl was meant to be in an aggressive field.
So at the age of 11 her father got her into combat sports training. And now that she’s just days away from fighting the biggest fight of her career, Gonzalez looks back and clearly is amazed at how far has she managed to come. “It’s amazing,” Pearl said. “I have waited many years for this day to come. I’m truly blessed to have such an opportunity and when I look back I feel great.”
No matter how long the road is we all find companions, same goes for the former XFC flyweight champion. She always had people who inspired her and believed in her. One of her prime supporters was her father. Gonzalez’s parents were addicted to drugs. Her father became clean before her mother and hence she was raised by him for a long time. Being a single parent is difficult enough and Pearl on top of that had her own troubles. But despite all of this her father always believed in her and pushed her to chase her dreams. As stated above, it was her father who got her into combat sports.
Another person who helped Pearl was her aunt. She was Pearl’s mentor and It was she who helped Pearl dream big, get her direction in life and help her move out from the hell she used to live in. And then Pearl also had her biggest supporter, her husband. Time and again women MMA fighters have expressed that their husbands have not been supportive of them taking MMA as a career, some have even gone on record to say that their husbands wouldn’t allow them to continue their sporting career. But Pearl’s husband, on the other hand, has not only encouraged Pearl but has also helped her in finding sponsors and keeping her financially stable.
And then it was her coach. Pearl wanted to quit the fight business because of the negativity around it. It was her coach who got her back into fighting by convincing her that not all coaches are the same, that not every promotion is the same and that everyone is bound to have some bad experiences. “People around me have been very supportive of me,” Pearl said. “They may have not necessarily helped me in my training but they have helped me in every little way they could. They have always believed in me and have been there for me.”
Everyone faces some challenge or the other which they need to overcome. For Pearl one of the challenges was discipline of food. The Chicago native didn’t have much knowledge about the importance of nutrition. She was someone who grew up on cereals and hence didn’t have a proper disciplined diet. She had to develop a nutrition plan and had to learn the importance of a proper diet.
Learning how to control emotions and feelings, being focused and performing under high pressure are important aspects of the fight game. All of this can be achieved if an individual is mentally focused; some can do so easily but for others it ends up as a challenge. Gonzalez belonged to the latter category. As an individual she found it very difficult to focus and faced difficulty in being mentally prepared in the beginning. With time however she did learn how to control her emotions and maintain focus, thanks to meditation.
But did this pressure ever poison her growth as an athlete? Nope, not according to Pearl. The pressure was overwhelming at times but Pearl was able to use it as the catalyst for her development. Pearl is someone who has always overcome challenges, so the pressure didn’t stop her from giving her very best every time she entered a fight.
This time round at UFC 210 the stage is going to be larger, the audience is going to be larger and the stakes are going to be monumental. Pearl Gonzalez will go one on one against hot prospect and unbeaten strawweight Cynthia Calvillo. She will be fighting on the main card of a pay-per-view. Making her UFC debut on a PPV card is big enough but fighting a big name just adds as a golden touch. Most fighters are an emotional wreck when they have big fights announced, some even break mentally when they realize the gravity of fighting on a big stage. Pearl however isn’t bothered by all of this.
“No, I feel no added pressure,” Pearl said. “I don’t look at it that way. Am I nervous? Yes. Am I anxious? Yes. I am a human, I’m bound to be. But is all of it going to affect me in any way? Will it affect my performance in the cage? No. I know I cannot control the crowd, I know I cannot control the media. Hence all of it doesn’t matter to me. I am ready. I am in the best shape. I am mentally, emotionally, spiritually prepared for my match. This has been one of the most amazing experiences I have had and I want to make it memorable. I will walk out with my hand raised.”
Pearl’s opponent, Calvillo, made her octagon debut at UFC 209 against The Ultimate Fighter 23 finalist Amanda Cooper, winning the fight via submission in the very first round. Calvillo’s performance earned her many fans and surprisingly Pearl was one of them. “Cynthia is amazing,” Pearl stated. “She gave an amazing performance on UFC 209 and managed to get a finish in round 1. She’s very good on ground and is pretty well rounded. In fact I’m a fan. But at the very same time I am prepared for her. I’m ready.”
The platform, matchup and hype has made the fight a special one for Pearl and the stakes will be high when she locks horns against Cynthia. “Cynthia is not the toughest challenge of my MMA career but the platform is very large,” Pearl said. “This makes it a very important fight. So yes, overall this is the biggest and the toughest test of my career.”
Pearl feels she is at 100-percent and is is mentally, physically and emotionally ready for the fight. “I am in the best shape,” she said. “I signed up with the UFC back in December 2016. Since then I have been in the training camp. I have stayed away from my family, husband and friends working hard every day so that I can win. I am ready for her.”
Despite being the comparatively more experienced than Cynthia Calvillo, Gonzalez will enter the fight as an underdog. She in fact is the most experienced fighter Calvillo has faced. But being an underdog isn’t something that bothers her. “I don’t pay attention to any of that,” Pearl stated. “I’ve been an underdog in many fights and yet I have managed to get the win. I guess the reason why people pick her is because they have seen Cynthia compete. They have seen her compete for 3 minutes in which she looked amazing. Whereas they have never heard about me, hence they don’t pick me. People just don’t know me.”
MMA is a dangerous sport. Fighters put a lot on the line when they enter a fight, hence when you hear that a fighter isn’t getting their deserved money it tends to boil your blood. This has resulted in fighters unionizing and forming a body to take care of each other. Gonzalez gave her take on the situation.
“When I enter the cage to face Cynthia on UFC 210, I will be getting the biggest purse of my life and I am blessed to get this stage,” she said. “And as for fighter union, I have no comments on it. I think it’s a great thing for fighters who don’t have a medical insurance, I however have medical insurance.”
Before the end of our conversation Pearl had a message for people who want to take up MMA as a career. “I faced surreal challenges in my path but I fought all of them,” she stated. “Fight for your dreams. Just work hard. Learn how to focus and if you can’t focus, learn how to.” And Pearl had a message for her fans. “Thank you all,” she said. “I have some really amazing fans so when I enter the fight on UFC 210, I will fight for all of them. Thank you for your support.”