UFC Kansas City’s Bruna Brasil wanted to be the next Marta in soccer, but ‘made peace with myself’ in MMA


UFC Kansas City newcomer Bruna Brasil wanted to be a sports star, but her dream only really paid off with her third attempt. On Saturday night, the Contender Series signee makes her official octagon debut in a strawweight bout against Denise Gomes in Missouri.

Born in Paranavai, a small town located 300 miles away from Curitiba, Brasil dreamed of being a professional soccer player and following the footsteps of the legendary Brazilian athlete Marta. As a teenager, she found success and inked a deal with Foz Cataratas, a soccer club that has won major titles in Brazil throughout the past decade.

But then all fell apart — and Brasil had to find another way.

“Soccer was a huge frustration for me,” she said on MMA Fighting’s Trocação Franca. “I tried starting a career when I was 17, but when I was released [from my contract,] I was very, very upset. I had some offers, but I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills.”

“[My salary] was ridiculous, and [$400] was just pathetic for the girls who also played for the [Brazilian] national team,” she continued. “That was very frustrating. To get to Marta’s level was hard on its own, and on top of that you have cliques, you need to be great and have charisma. Everything has to work perfectly, and things didn’t go the way I wanted.”

Brasil ultimately gave up soccer and decided to go to college. She graduated in accounting in order to “be good at something,” she said, but Brasil still needed competition in her life, even just as a way to stay in shape. That’s why she joined a kickboxing class.

“I felt free when I was fighting,” Brasil said. “It was good because I didn’t depend on others to pass me a ball, it was all on me. It was easier because I had the control of the whole situation.

“Sometimes I wonder if I quit too easily [from soccer], if I was too hard on myself. I was frustrated with the way everything happened and the way I accepted it, but when martial arts came, [it was] a way for me to make peace with myself — that young girl that had a dream, to pay her back for somehow failing.”

Brasil soon realized that kickboxing barely paid good money too, but watching Anderson Silva and Ronda Rousey shine in the UFC introduced her to a whole new world: MMA.

She wasn’t ready, though.

“My first MMA fight, I pretty much didn’t understand much about MMA and professional records,” Bruna said. “I did it for the thrill to fight MMA. I only began to understand about MMA after that, training jiu-jitsu and changing my mindset and people around me. Winning or losing in kickboxing, or having a positive or negative record in [kickboxing], didn’t have the same importance that it does in MMA.”

Brasil lost to future UFC fighter Ariane Carnelossi via first-round TKO in her November 2014 professional debut. She didn’t return to action until fighting to a draw in early 2017. Brasil then clinched her first MMA win two months later with a decision, but lost to future Invicta FC champion Jessica Delboni by stoppage later that year, injuring her knee in the process.

“I felt blessed with how things happened after that fight,” Brasil said. “I was able to have surgery and physical therapy and all the support I needed. I spent a whole year [recovering] and thinking, ‘Damn, God really wants me to come back, he wants something out of me. I never imagined having that support and so many people coming together for me.”

Brasil moved to Rio de Janeiro in 2019 to finally dive head-first in MMA as her career.

“That’s when it all started,” Brasil said. “It was all or nothing. I sold everything I had, left my job and went to Rio de Janeiro. There was no way back, it had to happen.”

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