Tracy Cortez called the last year of her life a “whirlwind,” but during a stint training in Brazil a few months ago, she felt a shift in her mentality. Her coaches had noticed her improvements, and, after dealing with injuries, Cortez finally felt strong herself. She grabbed her phone and sent her team back in Arizona a clear mission in mind: a run at a UFC title.
“I do think there comes a point where you realize, ‘OK, we're here. Now what?’” Cortez told UFC.com. “That's what I hear now. I don't want to just take fights to take them. I want to make a statement.”
Cortez admits she understandably spent the first few years of her UFC career just grateful to fight in the promotion after securing her contract on Dana White’s Contender Series in July 2019. Through the first four fights of her UFC career, she fought to a perfect 4-0 that extended her professional win streak to 10 fights.
However, those four fights came over the span of two-and-a-half-years, and due to injuries, Cortez hasn’t fought since her decision victory over Melissa Gatto in May 2022. Now with a clean bill of health, Cortez is fully motivated and rejuvenated to chase after some lofty goals with her team at Fight Ready MMA in Scottsdale, Arizona.
“This year really fueled me and gave me that spark in my heart again,” she said. “I've seen the growth not just outside the cage, but in the cage. My coaches have seen the growth, and I'm really confident in my team. I don’t believe I would be the athlete I am without them.
“I do believe I have what it takes. Once they ingrained that in my brain, and I start seeing it, and I feel great, that's what happened. After having my injuries and being laid off for so long and having that itch to come back, it was like, ‘OK, I'm gonna come back, and what? Just accept a fight? No, I’m going to come back, and I’m going to make a statement.’”
Making good on that declaration is easier sand than done. Cortez’s return to competition comes against Jasmine Jasudavicius, who is 3-1 since joining the roster in early 2022. The Canadian is coming off back-to-back wins in 2023, most recently a decision win over Miranda Maverick at UFC 289 in Vancouver.
Stylistically, it’s an intriguing fight for Cortez. They both average about two-and-a-half takedowns per 15 minutes, according to FightMetric, and they defend takedowns at a similar clip, as well.
“I think is going to be a good fight,” Cortez said. “I know it's going to be a high-paced fight. She's someone that keeps coming forward and keeps the pressure like I do. We're both not afraid to take it to the ground, and we're very active when we're in there, so it's going to be a high-paced fight.”
While Cortez hopes to spark a run up the flyweight rankings on the night the belt is on the line in the main event, she also hopes to show all the improvements she has made during her time away. When asked what exactly she hopes to put on display, she looks over to Fight Ready MMA coach Eddie Cha and smiles when she says she hopes to show off the improvements to her striking.
Cha, for his part, nods enthusiastically off to the side as Cortez expresses her desire to finish the fight on the feet this go-round.
In general, Cortez is beaming all through her fight week media obligations, something she says she actually enjoys “every time.” The fact that her return bout comes at Noche UFC, a card constructed to celebrate Mexican Independence Day, makes it all the sweeter for Cortez. She is excited to honor her Mexican roots with her performance on September 16, and she hopes that performance also jump starts a real chase toward her ultimate goals.
“I don't like being emotional when I go in there, but I definitely am going to take it in when I walk out,” Cortez said. “I'm going to take it in. I'm going to take in all the energy, all the vibes. I'm going to feel the crowd’s energy, because Mexicans, they go hard for their fans. I know it's going to be loud in there, and I'm just looking forward to hearing my walk out song. I have my team behind me, and I'm visualizing everything.
“I'm really excited that this is the start to the title run.”
UFC Fight Night: Grasso vs Shevchenko 2 took place live from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on September 16, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!