If you’ve ever watched a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fight, you know it takes a special level of toughness, dedication and bravery to step in the octagon. There’s nothing quite like hand-to-hand combat. Blood is spewn, bones are broken and champions are made. Today we’re talking to a woman who, day-in and day-out, confidently takes on the challenge of the octagon in hopes of one day becoming a world champion fighter. She’s undefeated, shows no signs of slowing down and speaks with a level of self-confidence and focused determination that’s heard only in champions. She doesn’t yell or scream, but she’s direct like she knows where she’s been and where she’s going. Meet Cynthia Calvillo.
How did you get started in MMA?
I was always attracted to it. I was a tomboy and my brothers used to beat me up a little bit. We would rough house a lot, but I never really had a chance to really pursue it until I hit a spot in my life where I wasn’t the happiest. At twenty-three I kind of hit rock bottom and I decided to walk in the gym to help myself with my confidence, my insecurities and my shyness. I fell in love with it immediately. It’s something I pursued late, but I’m proof that it’s never too late to start anything.
You may have started late, but you haven’t wasted time making a name for yourself. You did take a break between 2014 and 2016. What happened?
I never wanted to stop. I wanted to make my professional debut in 2014, but I got injured. I broke my forearm in preparation for a fight. I took some time off and then I re-broke it. I ended up breaking my forearm three times in the span of two years. During that time, though, I kept training. I just did would I could and kept my focus. I was on the sidelines but I worked with what I had. I still had my sight lines, my vision; I still wanted to be a world champion, so I stuck around. It was such a hard fought battle to comeback, but I stuck with it and it paid off.
I made the decision that as soon as I was healthy and able to fight, I would go for it. So as soon as I was ready to compete in August 2016, I went for it. And I’ve been going fight for fight ever since. I really believe I was able to accelerate so quickly because in that down time, I was still working.
Um, I can’t even imagine breaking my arm once, let alone three times, and getting back on the saddle. That’s incredible. Your next fight is April 8th. How are you getting ready for that?
I’m basically just trying to stay healthy and in shape. I’ve been competing in fights back-to-back so I just need to maintain my fitness. I’m not going to learn anything new. I still continue to drill and make sure I’m 100% healthy and mentally prepared for this fight. Since I’ve been constantly fighting I start training from the peaking stage so that’s a bit different than training after a period of rest. Hopefully after this fight though I can can slow down.
What are some of your favorite meals to eat when you’re training for a fight?
I actually love to use bacon during my diet. It’s high fat and protein. So I like to chop off some really high quality bacon, throw in some kale, peppers and an egg or two. I tastes soooo good and it’s healthy. You get your protein, you get your greens and you get your fat. I also loooove bulletproof (butter) coffee for the energy in the morning. Those get me through the diet for sure.
That bacon omelet definitely sounds like a diet I can get with! What’s the hardest part about being a woman in MMA?
For sure the hardest thing, because it’s a male-dominated sport, is proving that you’re a legit fighter. It’s a pretty constant thing. You go into a gym, you’re new, the guys don’t know you and then you have to partner up with guys who look at you like you’re a joke. I constantly have to prove myself on the mat. I seriously have to kick butt, beat them up, to get them to respect me. That’s definitely the hardest part.
You train with mostly guys, right?
Correct. 99% of my training partners are men. I train with Team Alpha Male. My teammates know me now but whenever someone new comes in, they initially give me the brush off. It took me a while to go into the gym and be recognizable. It’s one of the biggest and best gyms in the world for MMA so it’s hard for anyone coming in, let alone if you’re a woman. You’re going into the den of lions. It’s hard to stand out and get respect. But I do it.
That sounds intense. What do you hope the girls and women who watch you learn from your journey?
I want them to know that there are no limitations. That’s not saying, go out there and compete with a guy or try to beat up a man. But we can do anything a guy can do. I remember being told, “Oh, girls don’t do that.” I never really understood or subscribed to that. I was always a big tomboy. I would go out and play tackle football. I never let myself be limited to what I can do, especially just because I am a girl. Maybe some things I choose to do are a little more difficult than they are for men but that doesn’t mean I can’t do it.
So that’s what I want them to know. We can do anything. I have a new platform. I haven’t quite made it. I feel like I’m barely scratching the surface, but I just want to prove that anything is possible. It doesn’t matter when you start. You can do anything if you put your heart and mind into it.
You’re pretty clear on how you want to inspire girls and women, who inspires you?
Serena Williams is an inspiration to me in sports. But my biggest inspiration is my mom. She’s been working the same job her entire life. She works at a sheet metal company, outside in the cold; wearing boots, driving big trucks. And she’s never, ever taken a day off for herself. When she takes days off, it’s to take care of us. She’s definitely the most inspirational woman in my life. If I could be half the woman she is, I’d be happy.
Thanks, Cynthia, for spending time with us. We wish you the best of luck this weekend…break a leg, just not your own!
We have no doubt that Cynthia Calvillo is making her mother so very proud or that she will one day claim that world champion title. If you haven’t made plans to watch her April 8th bout against Pearl Gonzalez, get your life together and rectify the situation because you don’t want to miss it. In the meantime, follow Cynthia on Instagram and Twitter. And be sure to follow GladiatHers because we’ll be live tweeting UFC 210!