When Jessica Aguilar signed with the UFC earlier this year, she was touted as one of the top strawweight women’s fighters in the world and immediately thrust into a No. 1 contender’s match for her debut bout against Claudia Gadelha.
Outside the UFC, Aguilar had racked up an ultra-impressive record with wins over several top competitors, including former champion Carla Esparza, and she was excited to finally step inside the Octagon during the prime of her career.
It was an exciting time for Aguilar until about a month out from her scheduled fight, the veteran from American Top Team claims she suffered an injury in training that had her fearing the worst.
"Now that it’s all said and done, I had an injury that I didn’t speak about before my fight. I’m not making excuses, this is just to put it out there, but I think I learned from my decision and I won’t be doing that again," Aguilar told FOX Sports.
"I had a broken toe and my foot was fractured, my right foot. It was a month before the fight when it happened. It happened during sparring of my fight camp and from then I only had three sparring sessions and drilled and trained as best as I could the last month of camp. Again, I don’t like to give excuses but that’s what really happened."
Gadelha pulled away in a lopsided decision to beat Aguilar and end her 10-fight win streak.
Aguilar isn’t taking anything away from Gadelha’s victory, and if anything, she’s admonishing her own choice to stay in the fight knowing that she wasn’t at full health.
It was a lose-lose and I didn’t want to let anyone down and in the end I let everyone down.
— Jessica Aguilar
Because it was her UFC debut and a title shot was on the line, Aguilar felt like she needed to stay committed to the fight rather than make that fateful call to the matchmakers to say she was injured and no longer able to compete.
"It was a difficult situation for me. I didn’t want to let anyone down. I didn’t want to let myself down and I didn’t know what I should do," Aguilar confessed. "I’m learning from it because I should have been more communicative with the UFC and my team but it was a tough situation for me. It was a lose-lose and I didn’t want to let anyone down and in the end I let everyone down.
"It was a decision that I chose to make, and it wasn’t the right decision. I won’t make that decision ever again."
Following the loss in her debut to Gadelha in Brazil, Aguilar returned home to Florida where she had her foot placed in a cast and that’s where it remained until just a few days ago. Aguilar is finally able to move her foot again for the first time in well over a month, but she’s still being cautious with training until everything is healed up at 100 percent again.
"It’s actually getting better. I took the cast off on Friday and today was my first day back on the mats just drilling," Aguilar said. "I’m getting better and that’s what I want. I want to continue healing and get back 100 percent."
As much as Aguilar was hoping to be back to full health in time to book a fight for the upcoming UFC Fight Night card in Monterrey, Mexico, she refuses to make the same mistake twice. Just because her foot is out of the cast doesn’t mean Aguilar is ready to go through the rigors of a six- or eight-week camp to get ready for a fight. So until she’s completely positive that she can compete at the highest level, she’s not calling for a return date.
Instead, Aguilar wants to get as close to 100 percent as possible so when she returns to action, she can show fans what they originally expected to see at UFC 190 during her debut.
"I really want to be 100 percent in my next fight so I’m not going to rush anything, and I’m not going to make any decisions right now," Aguilar said. "Obviously, I wanted to fight on the Mexico card in November, but I’m not sure how that’s going to look. I’m not sure if that’s the right decision. We’ll see what opportunities come up and there’s a lot of strawweight fights happening so we’ll just see how this division unfolds."
The one thing Aguilar knows for certain is she doesn’t want anything less than a top-five opponent when she returns to action.
Aguilar knows deep down that she’s ready to face and defeat the best fighters in her division and she’s just asking for a chance to prove it.
"I want another top opponent," Aguilar said. "I still want that opportunity to get back in rankings and get closer to fighting for the belt. I’m still after that belt."