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Tracy Cortez wants to surpass Ronda Rousey, talks negativity in Women’s MMA

LockerRoom Team
Calendar Icon10 July 2024

After Ronda Rousey’s groundbreaking debut propelled women's fighting into the UFC spotlight, the octagon has witnessed numerous marquee moments for female fighters. Recently, however, a cloud of negativity has overshadowed the women’s divisions in the UFC, partially due to the inactivity surrounding key titles. The flyweight championship has remained dormant for much of the past year, and the bantamweight title is not expected to see action until the latter part of 2024.

The strawweight division, led by Zhang Weili, has been a constant force. Nonetheless, even her five-round battle with Yan Xiaonan at the historic UFC 300 card was overshadowed by Max Holloway’s victory over Justin Gaethje, which featured one of the all-time great finishes in UFC history.

The sentiment regarding women’s MMA was similar when the main event for UFC Denver was announced as Rose Namajunas vs. Maycee Barber. The mood shifted, however, when Barber was replaced by Tracy Cortez, who comes into the matchup on an 11-fight win streak and remains undefeated in the UFC. Cortez addressed the situation, saying, “I think it’s one of those things where everyone’s waiting for the next Ronda [Rousey], for the next Joanna [Jedrzejczyk], someone incredible like [Zhang] Weili to stay on top and prove themselves. Someone like Rose to ride that the way Ronda did, or even myself now that I’m here.

“But I did see the shift [toward negativity] and I don’t know why. I don’t know why women’s MMA is getting bashed recently the way it is, but hopefully, July 13 we put on a great show, an exciting show, and we give the crowd what they want. Get them excited again for women’s MMA.”

Cortez attributes her appeal to fans to her demeanor and the way she carries herself both inside and outside the cage. Her authenticity resonates with people, possibly contributing to the fanfare she received after securing the main event slot against Namajunas.

“I think the fans feel me, at least me personally as a fighter, as a person. The message I try to [get] across on my social media is there’s purpose behind what I do,” Cortez said. “I’m not just fighting to fight. There’s purpose. There’s meaning.

“I’m very, very intentional with the way my life is. I don’t know. I think it’s one of those things, because it even caught me by surprise.”

Regarding the prospect of becoming the next Rousey, who was once one of the sport’s biggest stars alongside Conor McGregor, Cortez expressed admiration for the former UFC women’s bantamweight champion.

Since leaving the UFC, Rousey has acknowledged a love-hate relationship with MMA, even stating she avoids events to escape potential boos from fans.

Cortez, however, holds Rousey in high regard, despite aspiring to surpass some of the records Rousey set in the UFC.

“I’m very grateful for the way Ronda paved the way for women’s MMA,” Cortez said. “No one has done it like she has.

“But I say this humbly, I hope to surpass that. She set a goal, and I think us as competitors want to keep overstepping these goals and overdoing what our last heroes did. I saw the way she moved, and [I am] finessing and tweaking and making it my own, and hoping to surpass what she has done.”

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While these ambitions are lofty, Cortez, at 30 years old, embraces the challenge much like she embraced stepping into Saturday’s main event on short notice.

“I thrive off of pressure,” Cortez said. “I’ve always been judged and overlooked and I’m just a pretty face. I’m here now. The record speaks for itself. I thrive off of it. I love it. I genuinely love the pressure. I feel like I perform, I embrace it to the fullest.”

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