Having previously last competed in MMA in 2013, atomweight prospect Tessa Simpson returned to the cage in 2016 and continued right where she left off, picking up two wins in both her fights.
First against Satomi Tanako in March of last year, then against Simona Soukupova in July, Simpson was able to shake off any ring rust she had and pick up solid wins against more experienced opposition.
“Last year it was good to be active again after a layoff of a couple of years,” Simpson told MMAWeekly.com. “The first one (against Tanako) was in March in Guam. I got to fight literally in the village I grew up in, in front of all my family, so it was a big win for sure. It was a good test for me and a good way to get back into it.
“For my Invicta debut, Simona was very tough. It wasn’t an easy fight. I was happy I was given a nice challenge. Of course it could have gone better for me – it wasn’t completely dominant – but it was a great win and I learned a lot.”
Simpson feels her biggest obstacle to overcome after such a layoff was more about settling into her comfort zone than any physical issues.
“Being out of the cage sometimes can be more mentally difficult,” said Simpson. “After the first fight – where I was a little rusty being under those lights – in the second fight I felt better in that situation.
“Having those back-to-back fights last year, this upcoming fight will be a lot easier for me in that regards. I don’t feel like I have anything to expect in terms of nervousness. I’m a lot more comfortable in the cage when I was in the cage those two fights last year.”
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Simpson (5-1) returns to Invicta on May 20 in Kansas City, Mo., to take on former champion Herica Tiburcio (9-4) in a main card 105-pound bout.
“Her camp knows that I’m good on the ground, and that my striking is good too, so I think that I’m a hard opponent for her to beat,” Simpson said of Tiburcio. “She has to get past me to get to a title shot, but my plans are to make a run for the title, so it’s a great fight for both of us, but I definitely plan to come out with a dominant win.
“A win’s a win, but we like to dominate a fight, and would like to finish Herica. But I’ll just go in there, follow the game plan and do the best I can.”
As Simpson noted, her goal is to fight for the Invicta atomweight title. With a win over a former champion like Tiburcio, Simpson might get her opportunity to challenge for the belt sooner than later.
“I think it’s probably going to be up to Invicta, the matchmakers and the timing,” said Simpson. “I’m hoping that with this win that it will put me right up there for a title shot next. They need someone to step up and fight Ayaka (Hamasaki), so I’m ready for that next challenge after that fight.”
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