The upcoming contest between Amanda Ribas and Angela Hill at the UFC Vegas 26 is one of the most awaited strawweight fights of UFC. Brazillian MMA Ribas comes off a defeat in this contest after losing out to fellow top prospect Marina Rodriguez after the latter delivered a blistering series of strikes to earn a TKO finish. Angela Hill on the other hand has momentum on her side as she beat Ashley Yoder in an important rematch earlier this year.
With opposing styles it will be intriguing to see if Ribas’ takedown accuracy and ground efficacy translates well against Hill or the American mixed martial artist with her polished standup can prevent Ribas from taking the fight to the mat. Ahead of the clash, we caught up with the 36-year-old Angela Hill.
Here is the excerpt:
How is your condition?
I’m good. I actually had some time this time to have a fight camp. I had five weeks, which is longer than I usually have. The only difference is I get to push a little harder in training because I know that the date is coming up. I’m always training, but it was great to get the call up with a little bit of notice and I feel in shape.
You seem to be a student of the sport. You have a lot of creativity and you’re constantly reinventing yourself. Can you talk a little bit about the process of your training and how you approach fights?
I have been focusing a lot on becoming a better fighter, and less on the person that I’m fighting’s weaknesses, which works for me because I do get a lot of short notice fights. So it would be almost impossible to keep improving if I’m trying to think about who I’m going to fight next. Looking at my last fights, my most recent fights, and seeing the areas that I can improve on always gives me a good idea of what to start working on. For instance, after my fight with Michelle Waterson, I started working a lot on my grappling so I wouldn’t freeze up on the bottom as much and got more comfortable in those positions. Comfortable with my back on the mats and being less cautious about moving once that happens. Obviously, working on my takedown defense and working on throwing more volume so I don’t have to leave it in the hands of the judges. So that’s an example of the way that I approach getting better for the next fight. I never want to show up as the same fighter. I always want to show up as an improved version of myself.
What are your opinions on this opponent now, Amanda Ribas? She’s somebody who is a different tangent than some of your recent opponents.
Well, it’s nice fighting someone who just got knocked out because it gives me the idea that this is possible for me to do as well and it hasn’t been that long since she got TKOed. I always feel like your brain needs a good amount of time to heal before you get back in there. I definitely have confidence in that, knowing that I’m a strong striker and knowing that I can hit her, and move, and maybe make her scared of standing with me. But also I’ve been working a lot on my judo and avoiding the hip throw, and recognizing it before it happens, learning how to throw it. I feel like that gives me a better perspective than if I had fought Ribas a year ago and all that stuff was still kind of foreign to me. After a fight camp against Michelle and a fight camp against Ashley Yoder, I feel like I’ve really been focusing on people who are good at that – hip throw, head and arm throw, harai goshi. I’ve really been able to recognize what I’m doing wrong when I do get thrown by those. I feel like I’ve worked on a really good defense for that. I know that’s her “bread and butter”, she’s really good at those takedowns. She’s also good at other takedowns, but I feel like she’s going to have to get creative when it comes to taking me down.
You’re coming off a win and two very close split decisions. Strawweight is a very exciting division right now. What do you think is your route to the title?
I think a couple of big wins is a good route to take. It would have been great if I had gotten a finish against Yoder. I’m still beating myself up over that because that was super close. I could see that she was close to quitting. She was just too tough, and I made some big mistakes when I got close to finishing her so. So I think with a few big wins, I’ll be able to be looked at in the title contention. You know, it’s a really short road to the top. I always say Zhang Weili was able to get a title shot off of beating Tecia Torres, who was on a losing streak. It’s the same with a lot of girls. They could have lost a fight maybe two fights ago, but because they had a couple big wins against big opponents, then people say, “Oh, let’s have them fight for the title next.” So I just have to make it convincing. I just have to prove myself in this fight and in the next. Then: “Hey, I can beat the champ, I should be one of the people that you’re looking at to fight for the title soon.” A knockout or finish of any sort is always a good way to convince people.
Talk about some other fights in the division. One that just happened, what are your opinions on Loma Lookboonmee, the first UFC fighter born and bred in Thailand, versus Sam Hughes?
I think Loma looked really awesome. I think Sam Hughes is surprisingly tough. She gave Tecia a lot of trouble in the clinch as well, so I wasn’t surprised when Loma got stuck up against the fence. But she did a good job of still scoring and turning. I always give Loma credit, from watching her fight back in Invicta, I say, “Hey I need to get back to my Muay Thai sweeps!” I used to do it all the time, then I got scared to do it because every now and then I’d mess it up and get taken down. So when I watched her fight – I think it was maybe her first or second fight in Invicta, I thought, “That girl is so good!” It enticed me to get back to it. So I was happy to see her win and I think she looks really strong. If they were to make a 105-pound division, she’d be really competitive in it, for sure.
What are your opinions on the big one, Rose Namajunas versus Zhang Weili?
That fight was… it wasn’t even a fight! It was over so quick. I think a lot of people wanted to see it play out, but I think Rose is just so tricky. She’s really good at hiding her strikes. It was awesome to see her be able to do that, be able to sneak that kick up there. I watched it a few times. She snuck her foot right past Weili’s elbow and straight to her chin. That’s precision. Some people – some haters – want to say that she got lucky, but that’s precision, that’s someone practicing over and over again: what is the easiest way to get that leg up there so they don’t see it coming, and they don’t block it, and there are no limbs in the way. I think that was really cool and I’ve been practicing that same kick since I saw it. It was definitely an inspiring performance.
The next one coming up – aside from yours – is Yan Xiaonan versus Carla Esparza.
Yan Xiaonan, I don’t really like her style… but I lost her! So that’s just me being a hater! But on top of that, I feel like she does a lot of yelling, as a way to score. I remember watching her fight Claudia Gadelha. When she was up against the fence, she wasn’t really scoring, but every time she punched Claudia in the head and the side of the head, she went, “Yah!” I feel like Carla does have a good chance of beating her, but I think Yan Xiaonan is riding good momentum. She’s won so many in a row, I think she’ll find a way to win, for sure. And if she beats Carla, she’s definitely going to be the person I expect to fight for the title next.
Looking back at your career – it’s funny to say your career, because we’ve watched you fight so much in less than two years – during this time, you have a lot to reflect on, but what would you say has been your favorite, most fun fight so far?
Most fun? I think, before the decision was called, probably the Claudia Gadelha fight. It was just a great fight to prove to me how good I was. I was balling into that fight thinking, “You know, it’s going to be tough, and I know she’s really highly ranked for good reason. And, I’m nervous.” I’m nervous about performing. I’m nervous about winning, nervous if I’m going to be able to get up if she takes me down. I was able to prove a lot to myself, I proved that, “Yeah, you can hang with her, you can get back up, you can spin her when she tries to press you against the cage.” I felt like I could have taken her down, too. So that was a really cool fight because it proved a lot to myself, and it proved that I do deserve to be up there in the top five and, and that I do have a chance of becoming a champion before it’s too late! I’m creeping up there in age, but I still feel young, and I still feel like I have a lot to give to these other girls in the division. So I think that was my best, my most fun fight. And it was fun watching her spin around when I hit her in the second round! Yeah definitely, if I had that moment to do over, I would have gone full-on after that.