Erica Paes is set to take on Holly Holm at LegacyFC October 11 in Allen, Texas. Paes (2-2) was a former BJJ world champion and started fighting MMA in 2001; when the women’s divisions were still in their infancy. A few years later, she would defeat a younger Cris Cyborg by submission.
An injury sidelined her for many years, but she always desired to return to action. That would happen earlier this year, when she won in her comeback match via submission.
We talked to Paes about returning to the sport, and her upcoming fight with the world boxing champion Holm.
Wombat Sports: You took a long time off of MMA. Can you tell us why you left and why you came back?
Erica Paes: I stopped because I broke a ligament in his right knee and had to find another way to earn money and support my son. That was when I started singing in the bars of Rio de Janeiro and routine shows kept me from dealing with injury.
I came back after encouragement from my coach Josuel Distak. I got an operatation on the torn ligament in 2010, did a year of physical therapy, and returned to training at X-GYM in 2011.
W.S.: You got a win in your first fight back. Can you tell us about your experience getting back into the cage?
E.P.: On my return, I got a beautiful finish in first round. Applied with a triangle armbar. I was very happy to be back after 7 years with a great victory.
W.S.: Bethe Corriera took you the distance in your last fight. Did you learn a lot from that fight?
E.P.: In my last fight, against Bethe, I injured my rib 4 days before the fight. Therefore, I had to take strong medication for pain and I took it the day before. I was 6 kg overweight. I suffered a lot in the sauna to reach 61 kg. I struggled. I felt weak and breathed a little heavier. That last fight, I learned that I should never fight with serious injuries.
W.S.: The MMA climate has changed in the past four years with more and more fighters from around the world taking up the sport. What are your thoughts?
E.P.: I am very happy and honored to be part of a small select group of athletes who started the history of women’s MMA. My first fight was in 2001, when you didn’t wear gloves. I struggled. I style my fighting after the “Gracies”. I was wearing a gi when I fought against Carmen Casca Grossa. Seeing the popularity and professionalism of the MMA world gives me the certainty that I have chosen the right profession .
W.S.: You are making your US debut with your upcoming fight. Is this something you were looking for?
E.P.: I fought twice in the U.S. where I became champion Pan American Jiu Jutsu, but ever since I started to dedicate myself 100% to MMA. Undoubtedly, my biggest professional goal is to fight in the U.S.
W.S.: You’re facing a fierce striker in Holly Holm in this fight. What are your thoughts on her?
E.P.: What I know about Holly is that she is a former world boxing champion, and is an expert in her stand-up. A former world champion Boxing versus a world champion of Jiu Jitsu; I’m sure we will make a beautiful fight.
W.S.: What would a win mean to you in this fight?
E.P.: It would be nice to beat her using what I have to offer; Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
W.S.: Anything you’d like to add?
E.P.: I would like to thank the LegacyFC for the opportunity; Carina Damm, who closed the fight and has helped me in training; XGYM; my team; my coaches Josuel Distak, Sylvio Behring, and Rogério Camões; and my sponsors, Y.Yamada, Sexy Machine, Clinica Jackeline Figueiredo, and Xport Carioca.