“My regular training schedule was interrupted briefly after I broke a bone and had it pinned for faster and stronger healing – but now I am right back at full speed, 100% healthy, working like an animal, loving every minute and can feel that my training performance has clearly reached a new career high for me – I am really pumped and ready to go!!” -Jessica Aguilar, on training PicProps: Tom Hill
When you look into Jessica Aguilar’s training regimen, you know that you’re dealing with a dedicated athlete. Her typical schedule is brutal. Her gym, American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida, is home to elite fighters. Her “personal time” — a couple of hours carved out of the afternoon — are usually spent working, to supplement a fighting income that doesn’t always square with having the best equipment, or a registered dietitian on call, or a hyperbaric chamber in your back yard.
Not that you’ll hear her complain. Aguilar gets by the with help of her sponsors, and she’s quick to point it out. But unlike the usual ham-handed attempts by fighters to plug companies that send them checks, Aguilar comes across as genuinely appreciative of the people and companies who have supported her through lean times. Talk to her for five minutes, and you realize that the positivity and tenacity aren’t marketing points, they’re deeply ingrained character traits. That attitude, the relentless optimism, the rugged determination, have served Aguilar well in her six year career.
Jessica Aguilar never meant to start a career in MMA. A life-long athlete, a twenty-three year old Aguilar had just moved from Texas to Florida. The story goes that she started training BJJ on a whim after showing up late for her aerobics class one day, and it clicked from day one.
She was a quick study, and her instructors threw her into a NAGA grappling tournament two months after she started rolling. Not long after that, she was approached by a promoter at an amateur competition, asking if she’d take a pro fight. Aguilar, completely ignorant of what she was getting herself into (and expecting to lay down an entrance fee), agreed to take the fight by asking, “Sure, I’ll compete, how much do I pay?”
Aguilar got paid for that first fight she took with almost no training and less experience, and she caught a loss to Lisa Ward. Ward was then, and still is, a top five fighter in the women’s 115 pound division.
Aguilar went on to assemble an 8-3 record before being invited to take part in Bellator’s inaugural women’s tournament. She scored a business-like arm triangle choke on Lynn Alvarez in the first round, moving her ahead in the tournament to fight Zoila Frausto. Frausto won the decision, but this is what the competitors looked like afterwards. Jessica Aguilar, unscratched, smiled and applauded graciously when the decision was announced.
Jag returned quickly to the cage, picking up a submission win over Elsie Henri less than two months after her screw job loss, then a decision win over powerful wrestler Carla Esparza.
A Frausto rematch was planned, then scrapped, when Jag’s recovery from surgery wasn’t proceeding properly. Another opportunity presented itself in the form of another old loss: Lisa Ward. She’s Lisa Ward-Ellis now, but she’s still the same fighter: a top-ranked contender in the weight class with a win over Aguilar back in February 2006. Jag wants to erase that loss, but what she really wants is a shot at the best female fighter in her weight class. Thing is, the current Bellator women’s champ isn’t who she’s talking about: Jag has her sights set on Megumi Fujii.