Melissa Cervantes has been walking to the beat of her own drum all her life and you can bet she will do the same in her Combate Americas debut.
Cervantes will make her professional MMA debut at Combate 49: San Antonio on Nov. 8. She opened up about her long journey to this stage in an exclusive interview with Bloody Elbow.
“I come from nothing and we were able to build stuff for myself and my family our own way without sacrificing our beliefs,” the woman known as “Thunder Rosa” said. “I grew up in Mexico in Tijuana in a two-bedroom house with three of my siblings.”
Cervante’s parents were never keen on their four daughters competing in sports. Once the family immigrated from Mexico to the United States, however, Cervantes began exploring her independence. It was in college that Cervantes discovered financial aids and opportunities that helped her graduate.
“I had a chance to actually to get out of poverty. To get out of living in a one-bedroom apartment with six to eight people. To be completely independent from my parents. That’s when my eyes were opened. I was 17, I was pretty much broke. I was having to help my parents pay rent and make ends meet. They relied on me a lot,” Cervantes shared. “When I got my degree from UC Berkley, that day I remember walking on the stage and looking back on my life. I had absolutely no education. I dreamed of being the first person from my family to graduate college. I achieved it. What’s next? That’s when pro-wrestling came into my life.”
The move to mixed martial arts seemingly came out of nowhere. Cervantes has competed for notable professional wrestling organizations LUCHA Underground, Ring of Honor and the National Wrestling Alliance. Her impressive performances led to a life-changing job offer — one she turned down in favour of carving out her own path.
“I was at a crossroads in my career. I’ve been wrestling for about six years. The opportunity came to me and it sparked my interest. Everything just happened at the same time. Combate offered me a contract, WWE contacted me, National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) contacted me at the same time. I had to make really big decisions. The WWE offer wasn’t something that I was interested in. It definitely offered stability for my family and I, but that’s not what I want. My goal in life is bigger than that. Being a fighter and continuing to wrestle at the same time is the platform I need,” she shared. “I am fighting not only for me and my family, but for those I inspire along the way to believe in themselves.”
Cervantes is an unproven commodity in combat sports. She has been training jiu-jitsu for less than three years and only recently began training striking. “Thunder Rosa” is well aware of the challenges ahead of her.
“For every fighter stepping into the ring for the first or second bout, that’s the most difficult part,” she explained. “It’s one thing when you study and its a different thing when you get in there. I have to stick to my game plan and be mentally prepared. You have to be mentally, physically and spiritually there. I’m very excited. I can tell you I’m visualizing everything.”
Cervantes (0-0) fights Nadine Mandiau at Combate 49: San Antonio on Friday, Nov. 8.