You would think that a fighter who has been around for 10 years with a record of 21-2, going undefeated for five and a half years, facing some of the best in the world, could be recognized as one of the best fighters in the world. Who is the fighter you might be asking?
The fighter is former Bodog world champion Tara Larosa. She returns to the cage this Saturday for Invicta Fighting Championships, as Larosa squares off against MMA veteran Vanessa Porto.
Larosa has been around the block in the last 10 years in various promotions and has seen the MMA landscape changed drastically for the better.
"My very first fight took place as an amateur," Larosa told Bleacher Report. "The fight was only one round, but lasted 10 minutes. The weight classes were all over the place back then. It wasn't uncommon for people to fight each other from different weight classes. Now we have specific weight classes, medical testing, rules and regulations and fighting in a cage.
"Back then, fighting in a cage was a novelty. The UFC had a cage. Here and there were a couple more promotions that started having cages, but most fights were in a ring. There are so many fighters, especially on the male side. The amount of talent that's come out in recent years is unbelievable. For the women, we have seen a lot more emerge and have crossed over from other sports like judo with Ronda Rousey, wrestling with Sara McMahon, kickboxing and some from boxing. It's insane."
The hardship though in Women's MMA is finding fights. Fights don't happen due to fighters missing weight, not showing, finding out that their opponent is better than them. The list goes on and on. Larosa has had that problem, having gone as long as 14 months without fighting and recently went without fighting from March 11, 2011 until March 30 of this year.
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"I had a lot of fights fall through between these two dates (March 2011-March 2012)," Larosa stated. "I had between six-eight fights fall through. Your in the gym training, trying to stay motivated and a promotion tells you, 'I'm going to create a title for you and I'll get you on the next show.'"
"Then the show falls through for some reason. You get really fed up with it. You get really unmotivated. It's just one promotion after another making promises and getting lip service. Then it's opponents getting injured, pulling out, declining fights or some other reasons."
Larosa sometimes finds it hard to get that motivation, but has learned to channel the struggle and use her teammates at Salaverry MMA in Seattle.
"I used to do a lot of grappling tournaments, and that really kept me going in between fights," Larosa stated. "I haven't really done any of those in recent years. It's tough to stay in the gym and stay motivated. You really try to get into your teammates, help them train for their fights and try to get excited for that."
Invicta Fighting Championships made their debut in April and had their second show take place in July. Larosa has been campaigning to fight for Invicta since they came out, and now she gets her chance versus Porto on Saturday night. Larosa is glad she's with Invicta, thinks she will get a lot of fights and feels this is the stage she needs to be talked about among the best fighters of today and all-time.
"They (Invicta) seem to be able to offer something more steady and able to bring in opponents from all over the world," Larosa stated. "Whereas with the smaller shows I've been contracted with, they have a limited budget and can't bring someone in from Japan, Europe or Brazil. Invicta is dedicated to bringing in women from all over the world. I need somebody to bring in high-level opponents. I saw Invicta opening up and seen what they have done, the people they are working with, I was like, '"oh my god I have to be there.'"
"This is the place for women. They came around at the perfect time. Before there had been a lot of women's shows here in the United States, they never did real well because they didn't come around at the right time or didn't have the right people running them. With Invicta, they are coming around at just the right time when Women's MMA is starting to get a lot of exposure.
There's a buzz going on about Women's MMA with Gina (Carano), Cris Cyborg and Ronda Rousey. Women's MMA is getting a lot of attention. With Shannon Knapp (President of Invicta) at the helm, who knows what she's doing. She's been around the sport forever, as she's worked with the UFC, the IFL and Strikeforce.
"She really knows the ins and outs of the sport. She knows how to make it work. I'm really optimistic that this is a steady place to find fights and they're going to be able to bring in the best women in the world to fight me."
You can follow me on Twitter @fightclubchi.