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Invicta FC 29’s Helen Peralta explains how seeing Ronda Rousey get KO’d kicked off her MMA journey

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Invicta strawweight Helen Peralta set up her fight with Cheyenne Vlismas and talked about how she picked up MMA after seeing Holly Holm KO Ronda Rousey.

Dave Mandel / Invicta FC

Helen Peralta (1-0) made Invicta fans stop and take notice of her in January at Invicta FC 27 after she blasted Jade Ripley to earn her first professional victory. The TKO, that came less than three minutes into the first round, opened the show that night. This Friday Peralta will feature in the opening act once again; this time opposite Cheyanne Vlismas (1-0).

Despite getting a quick stoppage Peralta, who has an amateur record of 8-1, just can’t bring herself to compliment the performance. “It could have been better,” she said to Bloody Elbow. “My coach forced me to watch that fight last night and it’s excruciating for me. All I see are the mistakes. I know I won the fight, and I’m glad I did, but I was too emotional.”

“I didn’t get to see my family,” continued Peralta. “And I have a puppy that I really love, and I didn’t get to pet my puppy for over a month, so I was just angry. So I just kind of went haywire in there. I was like, f**k this b**ch, it’s her fault.”

Peralta said, since she thought BJJ was Ripley’s strength, she believed that her opponent would try and take her down. When that didn’t happen early on, Perlata said she felt disrespected.

“I felt that she did not respect my power, so I said, ‘Well f**k you then,’ and I started winging punches just as hard as I could. And I said, ‘You know what, this is going to be your last fight.’ I don’t know why, but I was in a bad mood that day.”

Peralta’s ‘bad mood’ soon dissipated once her hand was raised. She admitted that she was stressed heading into her pro debut, because she didn’t want to let down her coaches. She was emphatic in claiming that her stress had nothing to do with fear.

“I’m not scared to lose,” enforced Peralta. “The worst that can happen is that I get my ass whooped. I get my ass whooped by life every single day, so that wouldn’t be any different for me.”

As a victor in January, Peralta was eager for her spoils. This time around that came in the form of cake. “I told all my friends to bring me a piece of cake. So then at the end I had so many cakes I had to eat.”

And food isn’t just a post-fight treat for Peralta. Until recently it was her career. She spent almost 10 years as a pastry chef before deciding to teach culinary arts for six years. However, she had to stop teaching when she turned pro.

“When I was teaching, if we were doing sandwiches, I would have 10 or 15 students making 10 sandwiches in a week and I had to taste all this food. So I was fighting at a bigger weight class just because I could not cut weight. I was fighting at whatever my weight I was walking around at. But you can’t do that as a professional.”

Peralta’s switch from cooking to fighting happened abruptly in 2015. The then-27-year-old had never trained in combat sports or martial arts (other than capoeira). Her inspiration to start MMA came during a boozy night at a bar on the heels of the most dramatic incident in women’s MMA history.

“I was drinking with my friend. They were just making small talk and were like, ‘Hey did you see the knockout?’” recalled Peralta. “And I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ And they said, ‘Ronda Rousey’. And I was like, ‘I don’t know who that is.’”

Shocked, Peralta’s friend pulled out their phone and showed her video of Rousey being knocked out by Holly Holm at UFC 193.

“I started having opinions about it,” remembered Peralta. “I was already drunk and I was just jawing my opinion at the phone and he was like, ‘That’s easy to say that when you’re not in it.’ And I said, ‘Well I can do that. I can beat both of them. If I went to the gym tomorrow and started training, I could be a champion.’”

Peralta said her friend laughed off her claim and they carried on drinking. The next morning, though she couldn’t remember much else, Peralta remembered the Holm KO and the conversation around it. “I could remember saying that I could be world champion and so I started training. I just wanted to back it up.”

The fledgling fighter, who lived in Iowa and is from the Dominican Republic, eventually found a home at Orlando Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Florida. But even though she was brand new to MMA, she did come into the sport with something some UFC fighters never acquire: a nickname.

Perlata goes by Iansã which refers to a goddess/spirit of storms, death, and rebirth. Also known as Oya, she has her roots with the Yoruba people of West Africa. Worship of this deity came to South America via the slave trade, where it became especially popular in Brazil.

It was a Brazilian capoeira master who bestowed the name on Peralta. The fighter said she was drawn to the Brazilian dance-martial-arts hybrid when in Iowa. “As soon as I heard the music, I was like, ‘What the hell is that? They look like their dancing, but they’re throwing kicks. I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m going over there.’”

For around three years Peralta practiced capoeira. During that time she was able to blag her way into a session being held by a master that supposed to be just for instructors. There she played a few rounds, despite being pretty raw to the discipline.

“I didn’t know what I was doing, but you bet I was going to win! I’m obsessed with winning,” said Peralta. “So in the middle of the game, I was probably being disrespectful to all the rituals, but I was just trying to win and right in the middle the master stopped the game and said; ‘I have a name for you. Your name is going to be Iansã.’ I didn’t know what it was. He explained it me. I looked it up and it kind of fits. She’s just kind of chaotic. She brings the chaos, but it’s kind of controlled chaos.”

Controlled chaos is what Peralta is hoping to bring to her second pro fight this Friday. Against Vlismas, Peralta said she wants to show off more than brawling. She also said that it would probably be a good idea for her opponent to go to the ground.

“I think her strategy should be to take me down, but she also has good striking so I can see how she might want to stand and bang. Now the problem is, I’ve seen some of her fights. I’ve seen her land like 50 punches on a girl’s face. One after another, beautiful technique, flawless. But at the end, nobody’s bleeding. She’s obviously pillow-fisting there. If I land three punches, everybody will know. For weeks, everybody will know.”

Vlimas, who trains at Xtreme Couture and is managed by former UFC champion Miesha Tate, won her pro debut in March. She beat Karla Hernandez by TKO in the third round at LFA 35: Newell vs. Luque. The 22-year-old’s amateur record, which stretches back to 2013, is 7-4.

Peralta acknowledged that Vlimas has more experience and better known coaches and training partners, but she said this won’t amount to much come Friday night. “She has all the reasons in the world to feel confident. But in the end, she’s going to be in there with me. And I feel sorry for her about that. It’s not personal, but I need to make an example out of her.”

You can see if Iansã can handle her opponent as well as she thinks she can by tuning in to Invicta FC 29: Kaufman vs. Lehner this Friday night on UFC Fight Pass. The action, which kicks off with Helen Peralta vs. Cheyanne Vlismas, starts at 8PM ET.