Backed by ex-UFC flyweight champ Henry Cejudo and fighting for the first time since a win on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, Tracy Cortez is determined to extend her eight-match winning streak as she returns to Las Vegas this weekend.
Jose was diagnosed with stem cell cancer shortly after that formative experience for his sister, and his struggle has inspired Cortez through periods of doubt, as well as the support of Cejudo, who was one of her sibling’s close friends.
Since losing on her debut for Invicta FC in 2017, the Arizona-based flyweight has been on an impressive run. After beating current UFC fighter Erin Blanchfield with Invicta in 2019, she defeated Kazakh star Mariya Agapova to win UFC president Dana White’s Contender Series later that year, earning her a spot with the top promotion.
“Straight hunger, ambition and hustle,” the 27-year-old has said of her ethic, highlighted by her frequent training clips showing her hard at work in the gym for the benefit of her following of more than 285,000 on Instagram.
“No rich parents. No favors. Definitely no excuses. This year everyone will know who [I am].
“A rising star. A champ in the making. I’m f***ing coming for everything I’ve worked so hard for.”
Cortez is hugely excited ahead of her return on the card headlined by Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum on Saturday, and coach Santino Defranco – who she has effusively praised and is a former professional with appearances on Ultimate Fighter – shares that enthusiasm.
“Of all the fights we’ve gone through together, I’ve never seen her work harder than she did during this camp,” he said.
“More focus. More training. More dedication. More self discipline. The whole coaching squad has been working with her and she’s on point and dialed in.”
The pair traveled to the UFC’s makeshift pandemic fight headquarters in the Middle East for Cortez’s win over Stephanie Egger in October.
“I’m happy I did it,” she told MMA Fighting about the experience, adding that she was grateful to the UFC but finds it far more logistically easy to compete at the UFC Apex, where she will be again for her next fight.
“Would I do it again? Probably not. It was long.
“I’m not satisfied. That win for me is just like, ‘yeah, I passed this – on to the next one.’
“Even though I should enjoy the victory and I worked hard on it, I want to move up in the rankings.”
That bid starts against Justine Kish, a boxer and kickboxer born in St. Petersburg as Svetlana Nasibulina.
Kish has a record of three wins and three defeat in the UFC, having won all four of her previous professional MMA bouts.
The former Muay Thai world champion starts as an underdog against Kush and headed to Vegas for the fight on the day she turned 33, sounding as confident as her opponent.
“Feeling prepared as f**k for this fight thanks to my kick ass coaches,” she said.
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This article originally appeared on RT Sport News