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Under massive spotlight of a Conor McGregor card, bubbly Amanda Ribas set to shine

Kevin Iole
·Combat columnist
·5 min read
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Amanda Ribas comes on the phone and immediately says, “Hellooooooooo. How are youuuuuuuuu?” She holds onto the last syllable of her words like she’d clutch her purse to her chest walking down a dark street filled with shady characters.

There is a joy in her voice that is evident that leads UFC president Dana White to call her “awesome.”

Ribas breaks into a laugh and you get that this interview is going to be different.

She’ll open the main card of UFC 257 on Saturday at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi when she faces Marina Rodriguez in an important strawweight bout. She repeats what she sees as her good fortune to be fighting on a card headlined by Conor McGregor several times.

“It’s crazzzzzzyyyyy,” she says of her sudden rise in popularity. “I didn’t know how to sell a fight so I just started to talk and people liked it. I guess I’ve proved you don’t have to be the bad girl to sell the fight. You can be positive and have a smile on your face and people will still be interested.”

She laughs — again — and picks up her thought.

“You know, after my last fight, it was crazy, so many people were talking about me and everything, and even Dana did,” she said. “I was a little embarrassed to even talk to him. I’m just a girl, a nobody on this card, and I didn’t really think he would be paying attention to me.

“And then I saw some of his interviews and he was saying these nice things about me. It’s good I guess when the boss is saying all of these nice things about you.”

Again, there is laughter.

She’s self-effacing and humble and overlooks the fact that she’s shown star potential in her four UFC fights. She is 4-0 in the UFC with submissions over Emily Whitmire and Paige VanZant and 10-1 overall, with only a KO loss to Polyana Viana in 2015 in Jungle Fights marring her record.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JULY 12: In this handout image provided by UFC, Amanda Ribas of Brazil celebrates after her victory over Paige VanZant in their flyweight fight during the UFC 251 event at Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 12, 2020 on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Amanda Ribas celebrates her win over Paige VanZant (not pictured) at UFC 251 on July 12, 2020 in Abu Dhabi. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

The start of her UFC career was delayed because of a positive drug test. She tested positive for the banned substance Ostarine on June 7, 2017, and was given a two-year sanction by the United States Anti-Doping Agency.

The problem was, she hadn’t taken Ostarine.

“In the beginning, it was so crazy because in my mind, I was just wondering over and over, ‘How did this thing get into my body?’ ” she said. “I didn’t drink nothing [that is banned]. I was wondering if maybe someone put something in my water, or if I ate some fish that had it.”

Eventually, it was determined that the Ostarine came from contaminated supplements and she was cleared and allowed to resume fighting with no marks against her.

True to form, she isn’t bitter about the experience even though she lost two years for no wrongdoing. Even more remarkably, she used her time on suspension in a positive way, to study the UFC and learn how to best use it to her advantage.

“I know the UFC is a huge company with many [employees] and they do all of these different things,” she said. “It can be overwhelming. So I took the time to understand it. I learned more about who was who and what they did and what they needed and what the expected and I think that really helped me when I was ready to fight.”

Her most high-profile win came in July when she submitted VanZant in the first round. That win got White raving about her as a future star. Now, she and VanZant are teammates at American Top Team and have helped each other.

VanZant fights in the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championships on Feb. 5, so she and Ribas have worked together to prepare for their bouts.

“The first time I saw her in the gym, I didn’t know if she’d throw water in my face or what,” Ribas said, giggling (of course). “But she’s a really nice girl. I like her a lot. We have talked a lot about our fights and about what we want to do. We both have our dreams.”

Her dream for now is to defeat Rodriguez impressively since she knows a big audience will be watching since it’s a McGregor show.

But she said fight week has been simple for her, as always.

“Fight week is good for my brain because I’m just talking a lot,” she said. “After all of the work I put in, the fight is the reward. It’s what I look forward to. Leading up to the fight, I’m just Amanda, talking and having fun. That’s what I do. I’m happy that people seem to like it. I don’t know why, but they do, so it’s good.”

She paused, and she laughed uproariously, as if she’d heard the best joke ever.

“You know, I would never think that anybody would want to be talking to me and hear what I have to say, right?” she said. “I’m not Conor; I’m Amanda, but it’s fun. Lots of fun, so I like to do it.”

And we like to watch. And listen, of course.

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