Barbara Nepomuceno will try to reclaim her kickboxing belt in the main event of WGP 51 in Brasilia, Brazil, on Nov. 24, but her goal for 2019 is to finally make her mixed martial arts debut.
The 28-year-old striker, who has a 3-1 professional kickboxing record after going 69-4 as an amateur, looks to avenge her only pro loss (due to knee injury) to Val Stanski on Saturday night, and the chance to recapture the title came when she was focusing on her transition to MMA.
Nepomuceno signed a deal with Korean promotion ROAD Fighting Championship earlier this year and was hoping to make her debut before the end of the year, but the MMA company asked her to push the plans back a little bit. Ready to compete, Nepomuceno reached out to WGP and got a kickboxing match booked instead.
With her knee fully recovered and back to training “in record time,” Nepomuceno now targets an early-2019 date for her MMA debut, and explains why she’s so interested in facing Rizin heavyweight Gabi Garcia.
“There aren’t many promotions opening doors for heavier girls in MMA,” Nepomuceno told MMA Fighting, “And there’s a big weight difference between Gabi and I, but fighters are made for tough challenges, trying new things, and that’s what I want.”
Nepomuceno is 5-foot-8 and weights around 198 pounds, and competes in kickboxing in the super middleweight division (over 155 pounds), while 33-year-old Garcia is a 6-foot-2, 235-pound jiu-jitsu wizard. Even though Nepomuceno thinks she would be able to make 185 or even 170 pounds to fight MMA, she will take openweight bouts “because that’s the division that exists right now.”
Garcia made the transition to MMA in 2015, racking up a 5-0 record under the Rizin and Road FC banners. Nepomuceno compliments her “respectable career in jiu-jitsu,” but questions a few things about Garcia’s journey in mixed martial arts.
“She has faced (my challenge) as something personal,” Nepomuceno said. “I never wanted this fight because I wanted to beat her up or something like that. I want to fight. I wanted to be in a big promotion to show my work, and it was through this challenge that my management team MTK got me a contract with ROAD FC. If this fight happens, it would be really cool.
“I can’t understand why she doesn’t want this fight,” she continued. “She has the physical advantage for being heavier and stronger. I don’t see any reason why she wouldn’t take this fight unless she doesn’t want to face me. I don’t know if it’s fear or if she prefers easier fights. Everyone manages their own career the way they want. I, for one, don’t see any merit or fun in fighting an out-of-shape 50-year-old lady who is 90 pounds lighter than me. Oh, okay, ‘the promotion asked for it,’ but we have to stand for things we believe. I wouldn’t like to fight people like that, and that’s why I challenge Gabi.”
The Brazilian striker has been working on her wrestling and ground game for quite some time to be able to survive if a MMA fight goes to the ground and try to keep it on the feet to use her striking skills, and would be confident in her arsenal if booked against the Garcia in her debut.
“I see myself beating her with punches and kicks, where I’m good at,” Nepomuceno said. “Since she started to get involved with MMA she has been evolving, that’s clear. I can’t come here and say she wouldn’t be able to fight me (standing), but her specialty is on the ground and mine is on the feet. I believe in my strategy, the way I fight. It’s a fight, if one hand with a four-ounce glove connects… I believe in what I do and I see myself defeating her with strikes.”