Angela Magana has faced a plethora of top opposition in her mixed martial arts career. Before getting the invite into Bellator's flyweight tournament, she squared off with fellow tournament participants Lynn Alvarez, Jessica Pene and Jessica Aguilar (3 times!) Despite such tough opposition, she holds an 8-4 professional MMA record. She was in the midst of a coaching session during our interview, but she still set aside enough time to really open up about a difficult past and the current state of women's MMA. Angela will square off against the consensus #1 ranked flyweight Megumi Fujii on August 12th in the first round of Bellator's tournament.
Brian Hemminger: You've overcome quite a lot to get to where you are today, do you mind sharing with our readers a little about your past?
Angela Magana: Yeah, I was born in Los Angeles, addicted to heroin, at least that's what I've been told. I was with my mom and dad for 6-7 years while they abused drugs. I was on the streets of LA as a child, eating out of trash cans and stuff, and I didn't know any better. How could I know? My mom nodding off occasionally, she actually died of a heroin overdose about 10 years ago. My grandparents gained custody of me and I moved to New Mexico, and they were very supportive. My dad eventually moved out here too. I started wrestling with the boys, and my grandpa didn't want me to. One day in the kitchen he was trying to stop me from doing something and I got away from him and showed my strength. He was impressed and after that I was allowed to compete. I made varsity at 119 lbs which is crazy because I fight at lower than that now. I graduated high school at 16, got pregnent at 18, and my daughter has been the light of my life. I always wanted to be a fighter growing up, it just seemed like the natural progression.
I'm still having to overcome things even today, 1 1/2 months ago, my boyfriend passed away the day after he asked me to marry him. Fighting keeps me sane though, it keeps me anchored. I'd probably be off partying somewhere trying to forget it all if I didn't have the training and MMA in my life. I started a non-profit organization to get kids off the street and harness their energy in a good direction. It takes about 8 months to get it all set up so it's not official yet, it's gonna be called Salvaging Sisterhood. I do motivational talks with the local youth, I try to be a roll model for them.
BH: How important has your trainer Floyd Sword been in your life?
AM: He's everything to me, I owe everything to him. I met him when I was about 13, he would compete in those barroom brawl Tufman contests, and I was doing some amateur boxing at the time. I started training with him when I was 15, and my boxing coach kicked me out for doing it. He's my hero, he's everything. If I ever need advice, I go to him. He's like my dad, more like my uncle actually, he was at my graduation.
BH: You had over 40 fights in amateur boxing, yet most of your MMA victories are submissions. Do you have a soft spot for Brazilian jiu jitsu?
AM: Yeah, you know, I'm just really good on the ground, I guess I'm a natural. I hope to show my standup more in this Bellator tournament, though. I haven't fought in nearly a year so these fighters don't know me as well as they think they do.
BH: Bellator's flyweight tournament is one of the best collections of women fighters in history, how much of an impact do you think it will have on women's MMA?
AM: I think it'll be a milestone. It's gonna be one of the best tournaments ever in the sport. I'm so happy because it's in the lower weight class, all the higher weight classes get the exposure. It's gonna be monumental, there's gonna be a lot of surprises. I'm very anxious.
BH: What is it like balancing being a professional MMA fighter with being a single mom?
AM: It's very fulfilling. Sometimes I feel bad that my daughter has to be here at the gym so much, but I make it work. She's doing homework with the guys while I'm teaching a class, and I'm putting her to bed at 8pm while I work. I'm pretty strict. There's always cute stories though, for Christmas, each kid wrote a compliment about their fellow students and someone told her that "I like you because your mom's a cage fighter". She actually trained a little jiu-jitsu a little bit while I was hurt with my back injury a couple years ago, she's pretty tough.
BH: You've got more experience against the rest of this tournament field than anyone else, do you feel that will give you an advantage?
AM: I hadn't actually thought about it like that, I suppose it would help if anyone makes it to the finals that I've faced. I'm more concerned about facing Megumi though.
BH: What were your thoughts when you found out you were facing consensus #1 fighter Megumi Fujii?
AM: I've been training my whole life to fight Megumi. She's one of my favorite female fighters, her, Rosie Sexton and Lisa Ward I've been a fan of since I started fighting. I'm very honored, she's number one. The only way to be number one is to beat number one. I've always wanted to fight her. It's the perfect time in my career to do this.
BH: Have you been doing anything specifically in training to prepare for Megumi?
AM: Just, checking my hips. Not letting my opponent get their hips in. I've been sparring some southpaws too since she's left handed. I've also been working on not throwing kicks since I don't want to get taken down. Pretty much just the judo stuff.
BH: Would it be asking too much to get a fight prediction out of you? You've said in the past that they're not your thing.
AM: I don't really like to do that. I lost my clairvoyent abilities a while ago haha, I think I'll be the winner. It's gonna a great fight, even when I've lost it's been a great fight. My only prediction is that it's gonna be fight of the night.
BH: You've had quite a history with fellow tournament participant Jessica Aguilar. How did it feel to get that win in your third fight with her, and do you mind explaining some of the controversy of the first two fights?
AM: Well the first fight she tried to go for the takedown I got the mount and we're in the ropes. They reset us in the middle and the ref asked if I was ready and I shook my head no during the reset and he started it anyways and she put me in an armbar right away. The second fight she put me in an armbar and the ref stopped the fight, even though I was beating on her and she was bleeding on me. She got booed by her home crowd, it was such a bad decision by the ref. Oh and it was so great to get that win in the third fight. I actually had this documentary crew following me around for that one and I said I didn't care about anything else in that tournament, I just wanted to face her and get that win.
BH: You've said that the Jean-Claude Van Damme film Bloodsport inspired you to get into MMA. How many times do you think you've watched it total?
AM: Oh when I was a kid I'd watch it 3 times a day. I watched it last week and I fell asleep to it the week before last. That's pretty sad isn't it? It brings those memories of of being a kid and dreaming of getting in the big show. I bet I've watched it 700-800, maybe 1000 times. I would practice moves on my friends and my sister and they would get sooo pissed at me.
BH: Thank you very much for the interview, do you have any shoutouts or anyone you'd like to thank?
AM: I'd like to thank my coach, my family my friends, everyone that supports me. Wanderlei's fight team. Four Corner's Orthodontics, my gym Team Four Corners, and in loving memory of my boyfriend Seth Englehart.