Georgian flyweight Liana Jojua is out to prove her doubters wrong again when she steps into the octagon against Miranda Maverick at UFC 254 on Saturday.
Jojua will step into the UFC octagon for the third time while her opponent will be making her debut in the competition, having spent the bulk of her MMA career fighting in Invicta.
The 25-year-old Jojua believes she is considered the underdog in their matchup, but is confident in her own abilities and keen to show as much.
“I have a strong opponent, she’s higher than me in the rankings I think,” she said. “I’m a fairly heavy underdog in this fight, but despite that I’m very serious and intend to beat her.
“As for a quick victory, I don’t think about that because when you think about things like that it never goes to plan.
“Every victory is important, it doesn’t matter which fight it is. This fight is also important for me, I’ll do everything I can to win even though I’ve got a really strong opponent.
“I think I’m superior to her in all aspects, even though I’m the underdog. I have better wrestling than her, I’m better on the feet. I’m not inferior to her in any way.
“I know she strongly underestimates me, like everyone in principle, but I think that will be the biggest mistake, not to take me seriously.
“I was the underdog in my last fight, like now… But that motivates me even more, it’s my character, I have to prove everyone wrong.
“If you think it affects my mood that people don’t have faith in me, you’re seriously mistaken.”
‘She Wolf’ is 8-3 in her MMA career and 1-1 since joining the UFC.
Jojua suffered her first knockout defeat on her UFC debut at the hands of Sarah Moras when they met in September last year, appearing outsized in a match-up that took place at bantamweight. She rectified that by dropping to 125lbs, where she earned a first-round submission win over Diana Belbita in July.
That victory was the fifth armbar victory of her career, and it took just two minutes and 43 seconds for her to claim it at UFC Fight Night 172 on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.
Maverick, her opponent on Saturday, has a 7-2 record in MMA and is no stranger to forcing submissions having done so in five of those wins.
The 23-year-old PhD student – who is having to balance homework and teaching classes with her training on Fight Island – is keen to face Jojua but remains wary of her.
“I think the UFC gave her to me to kind of welcome me into the UFC. That’s how I feel about it,” Maverick told Cageside Press. “I wouldn’t say it’s an easy fight, I never underestimate my opponents, I treat it like it’s the hardest fight ever.”
The American – nicknamed ‘The Fear’ – caught the eye when she won the eight-way Invicta FC Phoenix Series 2 flyweight tournament in September last year.
She beat Victoria Leonardo and Shanna Young in single-round bouts to reach the final where she overcame DeAnna Bennett via a third-round neck crank, avenging a defeat to the veteran fighter earlier in the year in the process.
“The tournament was one of those things that got a lot of attention for me, since I fought three times in a night. It kind of gave me that fame that I hadn’t had yet,” Maverick said of the competition that propelled her to the UFC. “People started recognizing my name a little more, within the division especially.”
Both Jojua and Maverick have been soaking up the sun as they prepare for Saturday’s contest – in the Georgian’s case alongside her friend and teammate Diana Avsaragova, who has signed with Bellator but is yet to make her debut for the promotion.
Jojua and ‘Pantera’ have both taken advantage of the idyllic backdrop for photo sessions, including next to the iconic beachfront Fight Island sign.
Gangsters on the spot😎🪓
On Saturday, however, business beckons for Jojua as she hopes to overcome her opponent – and the odds – to pick up a second win on the UFC’s Fight Island paradise.