Jennifer Maia almost didn’t get to compete at UFC on ESPN+ 31, but she ended up with an even bigger opportunity.
After Viviane Araujo was forced out after testing positive for COVID-19, Maia (17-6-1 MMA, 2-2 UFC) will now face No. 3-ranked flyweight contender Joanne Calderwood on Saturday.
Though she admits it was an unforeseeable change, Maia is just happy that all her preparation won’t go to waste.
“This virus is truly causing a lot of problems for a lot of fighters,” Maia told MMA Junkie. “I didn’t expect it. I’ll be happy if Viviane recovers well from this. We had a chat about it. Thankfully, I didn’t get dropped out of the card, since I had been getting ready for a while. Regardless of who my opponent will be, I have a great desire to fight. Too bad this happened to her. I hope she’s back soon. Gladly, the UFC found me a new opponent. JoJo Calderwood is on a pretty high level. My team and I expected that I’d get to face her sooner or later. I am happy I have a new opportunity to showcase my work.”
Maia is coming off a unanimous decision loss to Katlyn Chookagian last November at UFC 244. That fight earned Chookagian a title shot and now Maia finds herself in familiar territory when she faces Calderwood (14-4 MMA, 6-4 UFC), who was next in line to face UFC flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko.
Calderwood may possess a different style compared to Araujo, but Maia is confident that she has covered all of her bases during her preparation.
“Regarding strategy, I had already been preparing in all facets of MMA, so I would feel comfortable no matter where the fight went,” Maia said. “The training we designed for Viviane will be just as useful against JoJo. I believe we’re going to put on a beautiful combat. JoJo is an excellent fighter who also enjoys standing up, not to mention her dangerous ground game. The moment has arrived. It’s going to be beautiful.”