SAO PAULO, Brazil — Mayra Bueno Silva made it to the UFC after winning four fights on the Brazilian regional circuit plus a 62-second finish on Contender Series Brazil, but it took a while for her mother to really understand what was going on.
Silva was signed to be part of the UFC’s first season of Contender Series Brazil in August. There she made quick work of Mayana Kellen in Las Vegas, and her experience leaving the country of Brazil for the first time was different than anything she had ever imagined.
After receiving the biggest paycheck of her life — and already spending all of it — “Sheetara” returns less than two months later to face Gillian Robertson at the UFC Sao Paulo event Saturday night in Brazil.
Her focus is to get paid good money and become a UFC champion one day, but capturing the belt and calling herself champion isn’t the No. 1 goal.
“It’s not my focus to be famous,” Silva told MMA Fighting. “My focus is to become the UFC champion so I can go back to my hometown and start a social project and help kids train. That’s my biggest dream.”
Silva’s goal in the interim, though, is to buy a house for her mom, Marry Luz.
Luz currently lives surrounded by other family members in Uberlandia, Minas Gerais, and Silva wants a place for her to call home.
”Sheetara” will probably achieve that through fighting, and that’s a bit ironic considering that Luz wanted her daughter to stay away from the sport since the beginning. In fact, Luz even asked Silva to quit MMA right after Silva came back from Las Vegas with a 62-second victory and a signed UFC contract in hand.
“My mom doesn’t understand much about sports, she has no idea what the UFC means,” Silva said. “When the Contender fight was over, she said, ‘OK, you won. Cool. Now go find a job’ [laughs].
“When she finally understood that the UFC is a big company, that MMA is a real sport, she started to support me. Now she understands that her daughter is an athlete.”
Born in Uberlandia, Silva has lived and trained in gyms in Campinas and Sao Paulo since January 2015, a couple months before she made her professional debut.
Living away from family and friends wasn’t easy, but succeeding in MMA has proven to Silva that she made the right call.
“It was hard because I need my family around me. I like being with my mom, my sister and my nieces,” Silva said. “It was very hard at first. I thought I wouldn’t be able to leave home and become the person I am now.”
Silva ultimately only needed five fights in three-and-a-half years to get to the UFC.
Now she is hoping for another quick submission at UFC Sao Paulo — “I will definitely win another bonus if I win like that,” she said — as the Chute Boxe prospect was one of the athletes called on by the promotion to help save the card after several injury dropouts.
The 27-year-old talent competed as a bantamweight on Contender Series, but decided to cut down to flyweight for her UFC run, so she wasn’t really an option to replace Ketlen Vieira against Tonya Evinger. Luckily, Chute Boxe leader Diego Lima reached out to the UFC anyway saying that Silva was available to fighting anyone at 125 pounds in case they needed an extra matchup for the card.
“I was on vacation, traveling with my family, when he called telling me to abort everything and come back to training, so I did that,” Silva said, laughing.
“I have no problem cutting weight, but I have problem gaining weight. My opponents usually weighed around 155 when we fought, but I never fight weighing more than 140, so I thought it would be better to move down to flyweight.”
Silva’s opponent at UFC Sao Paulo, Robertson, is 5-2 in MMA with UFC wins over Emily Whitmire and Molly McCann, both via submission.
Still, “Sheetara” sees nothing she can’t overcome.
“They offered her and we didn’t even study, we simply took it. We’re ready for anything,” Silva said. “She’s more of a grappler, but we have good jiu-jitsu as well. Her jiu-jitsu is good, but nothing better than what I’m used to facing in the gym, nothing I can’t overcome.
“I’m ready for a three-round war. On the feet, on the ground, wherever the fight goes — I believe I can finish the fight at any moment.”