Ribas, who’s currently ranked in the top 15 of the strawweight division, has competed at 115 pounds for the majority of her career. So when she was offered to face VanZant at 125, Ribas was a little confused but certainly didn’t shy away from the challenge of competing in a weight class above.
Ribas (9-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) will open up the UFC 251 main card when she faces VanZant on July 11 in Abu Dhabi.
“I would have fought Paige VanZant at strawweight, but I’m not sure why the UFC made me an offer at flyweight,” Ribas told MMA Junkie. “I accepted. It’s not my usual weight class, but I’d like to test myself. I’d like to see how I would do by moving up in weight. I don’t enjoy getting too comfortable. I like to challenge myself.
“I think the pressure is more on her to win since it’s her weight class and since it’s supposed to be the last fight on her contract. If I happen to get ranked at flyweight, too, all the better. Who knows if I can follow in the steps of Amanda Nunes, our beloved ‘Lioness,’ and perform at the highest level in two weight classes?”
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Since making her UFC debut last June, Ribas has scored three big wins over Emily Whitmire, Mackenzie Dern and, most recently, Randa Markos in March. Meanwhile, VanZant hasn’t competed since January 2019 due to multiple arm surgeries that have kept her sidelined.
VanZant is an unranked opponent in a different division, but Ribas is not underestimating her and isn’t expecting the layoff to affect her much.
“I think her fame isn’t for no reason,” Ribas said. “She scored a beautiful switch-kick knockout (against Bec Rawlings). She also has wins by submission. Her fights are always very fast paced. I have to be very careful against her. Her last bout was in early 2019, but I don’t think that would be a problem for her.
“For example, I waited for three years for my UFC debut, and I was able to score a win in my debut despite all the pressure. I think I had a great debut. I’m getting ready for the best possible version of Paige. If she happens to be rusty, all the better for me.”