Even as a dominant titleholder outside of the promotion, it’s rare to see UFC newcomers getting instant title shots. Hell, No. 1 contender fights aren’t common for outsider champions coming in either. Mexico’s Jessica Aguilar has been one of the few to get this kind of opportunity.
Upon her UFC arrival in 2015, a 19-4 Aguilar was argued as the best strawweight in the world fresh off of her reign as World Series of Fighting (WSOF) queenpin. Standing in her way to contest for the next title shot was fellow divisional elite, Claudia Gadelha.
Unfortunately for “JAG”, the fight wouldn’t go her way and things only went downhill from there in what was a highly anticipated UFC run. A plethora of injuries and a record of 1-4 would spell the end for the 115-pound legend. But now, she’s back and ready to right some wrongs.
On October 5, it was revealed that the former American Top Team stalwart had signed with Xtreme Fighting Championships (XFC). Aguilar wanted to make her return to the cage before 2020’s conclusion. And now she gets her wish as the next chapter begins.
“They were really interested in signing me and I really liked what they were offering,” Aguilar told The Scrap. “They were talking about different opportunities after my career, executive positions, stocks within the company, and so many good things, so many cool things. I just really liked it. And they were like, ‘We’re launching on NBC Sports, it’s a good opportunity,’ so I was like hey, why not?
“It’s the best thing that was on the table. And they seemed like a really nice company, good people. So I signed with them and now I’m fighting November 11, Veteran’s Day against Danielle Taylor!”
As Aguilar now calls Houston, Texas her home base, she finds herself training out of Main Street Boxing and Muay Thai with the likes of Derrick Lewis and Lauren Murphy. The latter of which just finished up their fight camp as she picked up a good win at UFC 254 in Abu Dhabi.
Helping out Murphy during her camp, the timing worked out perfectly for Aguilar as she got her fight lined up as Murphy’s concluded. Making for a little pre-preparation type of transition into her own camp. Overall, the 38-year old is just having more fun than ever and feeling physically revitalized at this stage in her career.
On top of it all, her experience in the sport has already lead her to build her resume outside of the cage. And when the XFC came along, they realized that complete skillset that someone like Aguilar can provide.
“That’s kind of what drew me more to signing with the XFC is that they saw not only just me fighting, but after I finish my career,” she began. “They were talking about also having me commentate on NBC Sports when I’m not fighting and just joining them on the executive side after my contract is over. That really appealed to me and they also gave me some stocks and some shares in the company. So now I’m part owner of XFC — win-win. They’ve been really nice to me, they’re really good people, so I’m looking forward to this new chapter.
“It’s nice to know somebody really wants you on board. And they care about what you’re gonna do after your career. That’s a plus, absolutely. They’ve been really, really nice to me, from the producers to Myron [Molotky] the president, and all of the staff. They’ve been really, really cool. So I’m excited to work with them all.”
XFC 43 will be the promotion’s first show live on NBC Sports and it’s always a big deal for the continually growing sport of MMA to be displayed on a major network. When Aguilar makes her XFC debut, it will be in the co-main event slot which is her highest billing on a card since she rematched Megumi Fujii in 2013.
Aguilar’s opponent, Danielle Taylor, is also a former UFC veteran and is making her promotional debut. Going 2-3 in her five UFC fights from 2016 to 2018, Taylor has since competed in Invicta FC where she went 1-1.
Originally, the XFC had a couple of other names in mind for the pioneer in Aguilar. Between veterans and prospects, there were and still are plenty of options floating around for the once worldwide No. 1 strawweight.
In the end, it didn’t matter who was going to be in there with Aguilar. She’s game for anybody and her track record has proven that in spades.
“I’m happy to fight someone like Danielle Taylor who is shorter, I’ve got a longer reach than her,” Aguilar assessed. “I’ve fought bigger and stronger before so I don’t see her bringing anything that I haven’t seen before.
“She is a little tricky only because she jumps around a lot. But I see a lot of openings. I think that my fight with Jodie Esquibel is gonna help me a lot with her. Cause they kind of have the similar body types and they move a little alike, in and out. Danielle Taylor’s a little more explosive, I feel. She just hops around a little more. But we’re gonna have something for that hopping around so you gotta tune in and watch. It’s gonna be fun.
“She says she brings power… we’ll see,” she continued. “I don’t think so, but we’ll see. Like I said, I’ve fought bigger, stronger. I think this chin and this nose has taken a few hits before. All I know is I’m ready for whatever. I’m gonna throw down, we’re gonna be ready for a war. We’re not afraid of bleeding. So it’s gonna be good. And I know that she’s doesn’t like to get hit either. We’ll see what happens!”
While Aguilar is simply just having fun with this last stage of her storied career, there’s still that slight competitive pressure within her to go out and perform as she has at her best.
Admitting to being totally injury-free for the first time in years, her weight is on point and she’s happy to remain at her home of strawweight. Something uncertain during her time as a free agent.
Some opportunities neared toward her regarding a drop to the 105-pound atomweight division, but ultimately the timing in the world prevented anything from really getting close to happening.
Jessica Aguilar has truly been there and done that as an MMA fighter. She reached the tippy top of the mountain as a division’s worldwide best. Now, it’s just time to close the show properly and on her terms.
And if we’re totally honest, that’s the only way anyone that’s achieved the status she has should be expected to want to go out.
“I’ve got unfinished business, man,” Aguilar stated. “It’s more unfinished business for myself. For the fights that I didn’t like. I wasn’t just going to retire that way. That’s not my plan and that’s not gonna be my plan. So when I say unfinished business, it’s unfinished business for me. So you gotta tune in and see me get back in action Wednesday.”