When you think of hotspots currently gracing the world of mixed martial arts, some of the big places are the Russian Caucasus, Poland, Ireland and Mexico. MMA is exploding there, leading to an increase in interest and prospects for the sport.
A place that has really jumped on the radar in recent times is Hawaii, a land full of scrappers and fighters that has provided some great talent to the sport. One of those talents is a female by the name of Raquel Pa'aluhi, a current Invicta roster member in the bantamweight division.
Pa'aluhi, a young fighter, has fought eight times in her pro career thus far in a career that has been spent mostly in Hawaii, but has seen her compete twice in Invicta as well.
So what does Pa'aluhi contribute with her overall toughness and Hawaiian success in this sport?
"Hawaiians are just tough," Pa'aluhi said in an interview with Bleacher Report. "Everyone is very scrappy, that’s our culture. People don’t understand, here you’re either on the football field or the boxing gym. We’re fighters, we’re warriors. It’s in our bloodline."
She is at just .500 in her career, but that can be attributed to a tough strength of schedule. Not only that, but she has improved drastically since she has upped her training in Las Vegas with guys like Robert Drysdale and his team.
In fact, she had to take a step away from in-cage competition for a year, as she knew she needed to improve. After three consecutive submission losses to now-UFC fighters Sara McMann, Amanda Nunes and Raquel Pennington, Pa'aluhi spent a year in the gym, training hard on her submission grappling and jiu-jitsu.
"I’m always training. I’m always in shape. I’m in the gym six days a week. I am always ready for a fight, whether it's short notice or on a full training camp. I stay ready."
This was especially the case for her most recent bout. Raquel was without a fight, after an opponent a few months previously to her Invicta 10 bout with Kaitlin Young pulled out of the fight. This made Pa'aluhi available when the phone rang for a late-notice bout.
In that fight, Pa'aluhi engaged in an all-out war with Young, who is known to brawl and scrap. After a rough first round, in which Young easily won, Pa'aluhi finally got comfortable and took over the scrap. That performance, a three-round classic, saw Pa'aluhi pull away with rounds two and three, scoring a unanimous-decision victory.
"Kaitlin was tough, but I knew it was my time. I expected her to kick more and move forward more. I have trouble finding my distance and had a longer feeling out process than I’d like."
That fight was tough for Pa'aluhi, who wore that fight on her face at the press conference in the immediate aftermath. However, that meant nothing to the Hawaiian, tho was back in the gym the following week continuing to improve herself.
She has been in the gym since, as her hope was to get on the Invicta card in February. She had to settle for a consolation prize, as she will now fight April 24 on Invicta 12 against Ediane Gomes.
"Ediane is tough," Pa'aluhi pointed out. "The thing about me is I don’t like to obsess about an opponent like I used to. I watch a little bit of their fights and let my coaches handle the rest. I know she’s tough though, she’s 10-3 for a reason, but I think I match up well with her. I have improved leaps and bounds since you last saw me."
Obviously, her end goal is to make the UFC as soon as possible, but Pa'aluhi is more than happy to be fighting for the Invicta organization. Finding opponents on the Hawaiian regional scene was tough for her, as she would love to have four to five fights a year, and that simply was not happening.
"Right now, I am just worried about this fight and eventually getting that Invicta Bantamweight Championship belt. I hope to fight at least three more times this year. I want to be the best fighter in the world, but I need the right fights to prove that. As long as I’m injury free, I’ll fight as often as I can."
For now, it's one step at a time for this Hawaiian scrapper. She is going to take things fight by fight, continue to improve under her great coaching staff and hope one day to hoist a UFC belt above her head.
*Raquel would like to thank Robert Drysdale and everyone at Drysdale Jiu-Jitsu, her home school. She'd like to thank her striking coach Dewey Cooper and her strength and conditioning coach Ian Omalza at Omalza Fitness. Lastly, she'd like to thank her sponsors Armed and Dangerous, Amaguin Law and Nueve Salon. Follow her on Twitter @RaquelPaaluhi.