Talita Bernardo received a call from her manager on Aug. 25, 2017, and wasted no time to respond.
Bernardo was offered a UFC fight with Marion Reneau in Rotterdam, replacing the injured Germaine de Randamie. There was only one issue: The fight would be in eight days, and Bernardo was 24 pounds over the bantamweight limit.
The Brazilian talent, who at the time had a 5-1 record in MMA, started her weight cut before she even climbed aboard the plane to travel to the Netherlands. She thought she wouldn’t be able to make weight, but seven days later she was in Rotterdam and hit the mark at 135 pounds.
Bernardo had a good first round the following night — and that was pretty much it.
Her gas tank was empty after five minutes, and she tried to survive the ensuing two rounds. Reneau captured the finish with six seconds left in the third, and Bernardo came back home with the sour taste of defeat.
”That was crystal clear in the fight,” Bernardo told MMA Fighting of the effects of the short notice in her performance. “I had no time to work on my cardio and conditioning, and had a brutal weight cut on short notice, and that affected my cardio. I had no strategy, I just believed in what I could do and went in there.”
Four months later, Bernardo now enters the Octagon to battle Irene Aldana at UFC St. Louis. She had proper time to train for the match, and expects to perform a lot better.
”Now that I had a appropriate time to do my camp, a better diet and time to set up a strategy, I’m ready to do what I want in the fight,” Bernardo said. “I had time to study my opponent and work this time.
”I knew I would gas in the first fight, so I gave everything I had in the first round. For this fight, I have three rounds to win. I don’t need to be in a hurry because I have a better cardio now. I will capitalize on whatever the fight gives me.”
Still, Bernardo actually cut 33 pounds from the moment she received a call to fight in St. Louis, and the process didn’t go as smooth compared to her debut. Fighting at featherweight is not an option, she says, and beating Aldana to guarantee a long future in the UFC is all she cares about right now.
Aldana (7-4) has beaten the likes of Jessamyn Duke and Faith Van Duin under the Invicta FC banner before joining the UFC in 2016, but went 0-2 so far in the Octagon with decision defeats to Leslie Smith and Katlyn Chookagian.
Despite being a lot shorter than her opponent, Bernardo sees her own height disadvantage as a surprising advantage.
”She’s very tall, but she doesn’t have a long reach. The taller you are, the easier is the fall,” Bernardo said. “I’ve prepared to do what I do best, take the fight to the ground, and will use my height and speed as an advantage to shoot for a takedown.”
Aldana has never been submitted in 11 professional fights, but Bernardo says that’s because no one really tried yet.
”There are holes in her game, no one is perfect,” said the Brazilian, who finished four of her six pre-UFC opponents. “I think the better way to win would be via submission because I think she’s a bit superior in the striking. She’s a good boxer, her striking is at a higher level, but she wasn’t submitted before because no one really tried it. We’ll see, maybe I’m gonna be the first.”