FORTALEZA, Brazil — Sarah Frota will enter the biggest stage of her life on Saturday, meeting former Invicta FC strawweight queen Livinha Souza at UFC Fortaleza, but it’s not like she’s unfamiliar with being under bright lights.
Frota signed with the UFC after knocking out Maiara Amanajas in the opening round at Dana White’s Contender Series last August. With less than three years as a professional MMA fighter, enough time to build a 9-0 record, the Brazilian had to make a decision before she turned her focus to martial arts.
Frota fell in love with music and rock and roll when she was 15. Born in Goiania, she was the lead vocalist of a heavy metal band, playing in the “underground circuit” of her hometown, and dreamed with following a career in the business. Six years later, though, “A Treta” attended a jiu-jitsu class that forever changed her life. Frota, 21 at the time, realized it wouldn’t be able to become a jiu-jitsu competitor if she continued playing in a band.
”Two and a half years ago I was still teaching jiu-jitsu all day every day, leaving the gym at 10 p.m., going to a burger shop to play until three in the morning and going back home to sleep and wake up early to open the gym again,” Frota told MMA Fighting. “I tried to do both, but I eventually had to make a decision. I had to leave that life to focus and dedicate to jiu-jitsu.”
Inspired by Dead Fish and Brazilian heavy metal bands like Inocentes, Garotos Podres, A Última Theoria, Carne Doce and Aurora Rules as a musician, Frota credits Jean-Claude Van Damme’s work in Bloodsport as what made her see martial arts with different eyes. However, Arnold Schwarzenegger is the one in Hollywood that she looks up the most.
”I’m a huge fan of him, man, as an actor and as a person,” said Frota, who has a picture of Schwarzenegger hanging on her wall among movies and music posters. “I’ve followed his work since his days as Mr. Olympia, his life and his work. He’s an example of perseverance. He had to battle many adversities in life, so I’m a big fan.”
Schwarzenegger is no stranger to the mixed martial arts world, and Frota hopes that the Hollywood star would one day attend to one of her UFC fights.
”Are you crazy? Imagine being watched by the Terminator himself,” Frota said with a laugh. “Who wouldn’t want that? It would be an honor for me, a dream come true.”
For her debut in Fortaleza, Frota has an experienced Souza as the opponent. The UFC newcomer admits she didn’t expect to be matched up against a fellow Brazilian in her first appearance under the promotion’s banner, but welcomes the challenge that Souza brings to the table.
”Livinha is a high-level athlete and I like to fight the best,” Frota said. “I’m always moving up, not down.”
Souza, who improved to 12-1 as a professional fighter with a quick first-round submission win over Alex Chambers in her debut last September, became the Invicta FC champion before Frota even made her MMA debut in 2016.
Close to turning 32, Frota admits that her road from MMA newcomer to UFC athlete was shorter than expected, but guarantees that her experience in pure jiu-jitsu will help get things done when the cage closes on Saturday night.
”I’ve watched MMA since I was a blue belt, before women began fighting in the UFC,” Frota said. “I used to follow athletes like Michelle Tavares and Claudinha Gadelha in Brazil. Not that I didn’t expect to get to this level, but I was surprised that I got here this fast. But that’s good because I’m on a roll and I’m earning my space.
”Of all of the opponents I’ve faced my entire career, I think Livinha is the one that has a fighting style similar to mine. She’s a black belt in jiu-jitsu as well, also has a dangerous striking and is very aggressive, doesn’t wast any time, so I expect this to be a show for the fans because we’re both aggressive fighters that go for it.
“(Souza) is very efficient on the ground, but so am I, and I believe in my jiu-jitsu. I had a great training camp at Astra Fight to get here as complete as I can. It won’t be easy, it’s gonna be a war, but if she makes a mistake she’s going down.”