“Claudia Gadelha vs Tina Lahdemaki, UFC FIGHT NIGHT: CERRONE vs MILLER, July 16, 2014” will be the answer to the future trivia question “What was the first ever female strawweight fight in the UFC?” but when the two unbeaten fighters in question collide Wednesday night in Atlantic City, the result will be far from trivial.
More than simply making a little bit of history as the first 115lbs female fight in UFC, tomorrow’s UFC FIGHT PASS Prelim bout will begin the process of finding a leading UFC title contender to whoever emerges from the next series of The Ultimate Fighter as the inaugural women’s strawweight champion. Filming is already underway in Las Vegas with 16 of the best female 115lbs fighters in the world competing in an elimination tournament which will, later this year, crown the first ever UFC champion in the new weight class.
The new season of the long-running reality series premieres later in the year, but the debut of the new division comes Wednesday night on the Cerrone vs Miller undercard at Revel in Atlantic City. Two undefeated fighters will collide in a fascinating battle between submission specialists.
“I’m feeling so awesome,” an excited Lahdemaki said. “I can’t wait to fight. I starting training in MMA just for one fight, just to do it once after I boxed for five years as a teenager, and continued with that mindset as I went on in my career. I kept thinking about one fight at a time, and that’s helped me focus 100% on each fight in my career. I enjoy fighting, I enjoy the moment and I don’t think about the next fight, or what happens if after the fight. Even though I am now in the UFC, and this is a huge opportunity, I am still taking it as just one fight, no matter how excited I am right now.”
As a three-time national amateur champion, the 26-year-old from the small Finish town of Hyvinkaa is widely regarded as one of the best female talents in all of Scandinavia. But she will enter the Octagon as the underdog to her more celebrated opponent, Claudia Gadelha .
Rio de Janeiro’s Gadelha has a lot of MMA insiders very, very excited.
The 26-year-old Brazilian is undefeated in her 11-fight career, is the youngest fighter BJJ legend Andre Pederneiras has ever awarded a black belt to and, adding to her pedigree, is a member of the same Nova Uniao team which has produced UFC champions Jose Aldo and Renan Barao.
Some very knowledgeable experts have tipped Gadelha as a future UFC champion – and she is well aware of the hype so expect her to live up to.
“This fight is very important to me,” she said. “I’m very excited and happy to open up this division in the UFC. But I have to win this fight. My opponent is very strong and has a good grappling style, but I’m very confident that I’m the best fighter in the world in my division.”
Gadelha would have perhaps been one of the favorites to win The Ultimate Fighter – and the title – had she entered the tournament. However, because of her frame, her coaching team felt that she wouldn’t have been able to maintain her weight at around 115lbs for the six weeks it takes to film a season of The Ultimate Fighter.
The submission fighter said: “I wanted to be in The Ultimate Fighter, but it would be very difficult on my body to be at fighting weight for so long. My coaches said I can make the weight, no problem, but also said I couldn’t maintain that weight for so long and be 100%. I was sad not to be in the show but the UFC offered me a contract to fight outside of The Ultimate Fighter and, this way, I get to make history in another way.”
She added: “I will be waiting for the winner of the Ultimate Fighter. I am the UFC to be the champ, and nothing and no-one will take that away from me.”