Local female MMA fighter Mata'afa takes Silver in FILA North Am Invitational
American Samoa’s female Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter Lia Mata’afa competed last month in the FILA North American Invitational for Amateur’s MMA Tournament held in New York.
“Since there was only one women’s weight class which was 62.1kgs/135lbs, I had to diet and cut a lot of weight. I normally walk around at about 150-155lbs, so I had to cut about 20lbs in six weeks,” said Mata’afa via email to Samoa News. “I wasn't sure if I could make the 135lbs. It was my high school wrestling class. Fortunately I was able to cut the weight through hard training, strict diet and extra cardio,” she explained.
She said this tournament made history because it was the first time an Amateur MMA event was ever held in New York and that legislators have been working to pass a bill to allow MMA fights to be held there. The tournament was held in conjunction with the 4th Annual World MMA Expo at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City this past February 16 and 17.
“I ended up bringing home the Silver medal for Team American Samoa, losing a close match by only 1 point to a girl from Kazakhstan who was also a World Champion in Pankration”.
(Pankration was a martial art introduced into the Greek Olympics in 648 BC and founded as a blend of boxing and wrestling, but with scarcely any rules).
“We received Fight of the Night Honors. I am disappointed by not taking a gold, but it makes me more determined to train harder for the next competition,” she said.
Last year the 5’8 32 year old Mata’afa earned the #2 ranking in the world in Women’s Amateur MMA standings. She comes from the Mata’afa family on her father’s side (Uluao Saumalu ‘Sama’ Mata’afa) from the villages of Nu’uuli and Olosega in Sili.
She started training in MMA about two years ago with Ultimate Fighting Challenge (UFC) fighter Chris Leben and she is currently training at UFC fighter BJ Penn’s gym in Hawaii, where she also trains with her brother in-law, UFC veteran, Kendall ‘Da Spyder’ Grove.
American Samoa’s other MMA fighter CJ Floor, made his MMA debut last month when he won a three round unanimous win in Hawaii on the island of Kauai. The most recognized MMA fighter to represent American Samoa in the cage was Deutsch Pu’u who captured many titles while competing on the world stage in the steel cage. Pu’u recently retired from the MMA arena and is currently training up and coming MMA fighters such as Floor and other young fighters.