UFC Sao Paulo: Tracy Cortez Is Ready For Her Breakout Moment

By Raphael Garcia

Every UFC card features established veterans and newcomers looking to carve out a place on the roster. Heading into UFC Sao Paulo, there are several fighters worth keeping a close eye on, but out of all the prospects scheduled to fight, Tracy Cortez stands out. She makes her official Octagon debut this weekend, and a breakthrough moment from her would push her to bigger and bigger opportunities in the near future.

The 25-year-old Cortez is stepping into a UFC flyweight division that isn’t as stacked with stars as the other weight classes. Of course there’s Valentina Shevchenko sitting at the top of the heap and Katlyn Chookagian nipping at her heels, but beyond that, there aren’t any other big names that leap off the page. In Cortez the UFC has a fighter with an interesting personal story and a strong social media following, which are qualities the UFC values when looking for fighters to promote more aggressively to the paying public.

Cortez earned her UFC contract in July with a tough, three-round battle against Mariya Agapova on Episode 6 of this season’s Dana White’s Contender Series, which she took by unanimous decision. She dedicated the victory to her late brother Jose who passed away due to cancer in 2011. In the ESPN profile by Marc Raimondi leading up to that fight, she was very open about the role that the memory of her brother plays in motivating her:

“Every time I feel tired or I feel fatigued or I question anything, I think like, damn, my brother fought with cancer in his heart and he didn’t give up. He fought through it. I’m perfectly healthy. I’m more than capable to do what I’m doing. This is easy work. That’s a huge motivator for me.”

An aspiring UFC fighter himself, Jose Cortez was a high school wrestling teammate of UFC double champion Henry Cejudo, and it was by way of that sibling connection that Tracy Cortez began training with the Olympic gold medalist. Although they are not her full-time camp, Cejudo and his team are very supportive of Tracy’s pursuit of her and her brother’s shared dream. In the words of Eric Albarracin, Cejudo’s wrestling coach, in that same Raimondi piece:

“It’s that tragic adversity that has propelled Tracy into becoming a dedicated MMA athlete. I think it’s that family bond that motivates her to train like a champion.”

These types of narratives play a big part in helping fighters stand out from the crowd and potentially break through in their respective careers. Cortez has already competed for other “major” promotions, such as Combate Americas and Invicta FC, and has experienced success. If these organizations were ready to invest in her, then the UFC is likely poised to do the same.

The promotion continues to look for Latinx stars that can be draws in that demographic, and Cortez fits the mold. Cortez also has nearly 100,0000 Instagram followers, and a penchant for posting enticing content, so she could be a draw to the thirsty demographic as well. Bigger opportunities and paydays are available to Cortez; she just has to hold up her end of the bargain with the in-cage performances and wins to justify them. She’s more than capable of doing that.

This Saturday’s at UFC Sao Paulo, Tracy Cortez is scheduled to face Vanessa Melo. This is an important opportunity for the young competitor as she chases a dream that she and her brother once shared. She can make a major leap in the UFC flyweight division with a win. The UFC is looking for fighters with star potential, and she possesses both the in-cage acumen and out-of-cage intangibles to fit the bill. Let’s see how far she can go.

UFC on ESPN+ 22

Tracy Cortez vs. Vanessa Melo

UFC on ESPN+ 22: Błachowicz vs. Jacaré takes place November 16, 2019 at Ibirapuera Gymnasium in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Click HERE for more UFC on ESPN+ 22 Pre-Fight Analysis

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