Anne Ribeiro has martial arts running through her veins.
Born in 1999, the first daughter of former UFC heavyweight title challenger Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva has been breathing combat sports since she first learned how to walk. At age six, Ribeiro flew with her parents to England to watch “Bigfoot” win his MMA debut in just 74 seconds. She didn’t really understand what was going on back then, but being around him for so long planted a seed in her heart.
Ribeiro has competed in many sports throughout her life, from swimming to gymnastics to volleyball, but eventually returned back to the gym to train jiu-jitsu. When she turned 17, Ribeiro decided it was time to take another step forward.
”I’ve always had MMA in my life,” Ribeiro told MMA Fighting. “I’ve always followed my dad’s career, the daily routine of an athlete. I was always inside a gym, watching training sessions, so I was always interested in the sport. It was kind of natural for me, no one forced me into doing MMA. I tried other sports, but nothing compared to martial arts. I reconnected to jiu-jitsu and then started training other arts, and I said to my dad I wanted to do this.”
Ribeiro’s amateur MMA debut is set for March 16, when she meets Hannah Jackson (1-2 as an amateur) in a 130-pound catchweight bout at XFN in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Jackson wasn’t Ribeiro’s original opponent, though. Before getting this matchup done, the promotion reached out to Gesias Cavalcante to sign one of his new talents, a prospect who was also preparing to make her amateur MMA debut after winning her kickboxing debut.
However, Cavalcante didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of training someone to fight a longtime friend.
“I know Anne since she was a young kid,” Cavalcante said. “I love that family and it would be hard for me, emotionally speaking, to train someone, my student, to fight her. I know that MMA and my team, JZ MMA, is a business, but it’s a business that involves people. I value friendship and respect. I love Anne, we’ve played many times when she was a kid, and it would be very difficult for me.
“Anne is very talented,” he added. “I love that girl and I know she’s skillful. She’s trained for years and I remember she was very skillful since her first training sessions. She will definitely be successful in her career.”
Ribeiro so far doesn’t have a nickname — “people try to call me ‘Pezinho,’ a.k.a. ‘Little Foot,’ but it hasn’t caught on yet, thankfully,” she said, laughing — but she has competed in many jiu-jitsu and submission tournaments since returning to the mats a few years ago, and joined boxing and Muay Thai classes when she decided to fight MMA.
”It looked like she had done it before,” Silva said. “The kicks, the jabs, the uppercuts. Impressive. I think it really is in her blood. She’s watched it so many times that she already knew what to do. The coach said she was aggressive, she reminded him of me. I often say she’s me in a skirt… but a better version, a way better version [laughs].
”The coach asked to bring her in to help this girl who was training for her third fight, and he said Anne ran through the girl. Took her down, had great jiu-jitsu. It’s in her blood.”
Ribeiro admits that grappling is her background and her “strongest point” today, but that doesn’t mean she will shy away from a war when the bell rings.
”I’ve done jiu-jitsu since I was seven and I’m a blue belt now. I feel comfortable on the ground, but I’m here to fight,” Ribeiro said. “This is not jiu-jitsu, it’s MMA. I love beating people up, man. That’s the truth. My jiu-jitsu will always be there, of course, but I’m not going in this to only use my jiu-jitsu. I’m going there to beat anyone up. I’m going there for the kill.”
As the 19-year-old newcomer prepares to kick off her career, she aims to make history and is inspired by the career of her father, who competed for a UFC title once and has beaten the likes of Fedor Emelianenko, Alistair Overeem, Travis Browne, Andrei Arlovski, and Ricco Rodriguez over the course of his 32-fight career.
”My biggest dream in MMA is to be recognized as one of the best,” Ribeiro said. “I want to reach the top, I want to win titles, and I will achieve it. No doubt about it. I want to leave a legacy in the sport, you know? That’s my biggest goal and I will get there, for sure.”