Jessica Aguilar is a Mexican-American female mixed martial artist. She and her family have had some difficult times in the past. Her father was the victim of an unsolved murder when Jessica was just 6 years old. Her mother had to take care of Jessica and her two brothers by herself. Ten years after their father’s death, the family had to go through another tragedy: one of Jessica’s brothers died in a car crash. But for Jessica, nothing is enough to make her give up.
The queen of the cage is now number one in the world at 115 pounds, according to the Unified Women’s MMA Rankings—and she is 110% committed to keeping her title until the day she retires. As a lesbian MMA fighter, Jessica’s career inspires many people. Despite the losses she’s had to deal with, Jessica always stays positive. “Smile & Believe,” she says, that’s her motto. ‘Jag’ spoke to Sensa Nostra about her life and her fighting career.
I grew up in Houston, Texas. It was a very normal, middle-class neighborhood. My mother was overprotective of me as I was the only girl and the youngest. I had a pretty normal childhood, went to a Catholic private school until sixth grade. I was always the one joking and playing around, but I was also very competitive. I wasn’t a fighter though—only with my brothers.
In December of 2005, I signed up a local gym called Punch Fitness that happened to also offer BJJ (Boxing and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) classes. This was a new challenge, one that gave me a special rush. Just one month into my new BJJ training, the class instructor convinced me to compete in a regional NAGA (North American Grappling Association) tournament. I went on to win first place in my division. I was pumped, and could not wait for the next tournament.
I was disappointed to learn that the women’s division was not included. As luck would have it, a local MMA professional fight promotion just lost one of their female fighters and needed a quick replacement to fight against Lisa Ward, who was then one of the Top 10-ranked female professional fighters in the world. I immediately sought out the opportunity, even though only two months of total BJJ experience was nothing compared to Lisa Ward’s many years of professional fighting and her two-time FILA World Grappling Championships.
And conventional wisdom was right, I lost my first MMA fight, which I had a week to prepare for. But more importantly, I proved to the world that I was the real deal, that with just a few months of BJJ and a week of MMA experience I could very effectively compete at a world elite level. During the rounds of battle, my heart and determination won me countless fans. I refused to tap out, even when my arm was nearly broken.
My new challenge then, was: how to become a world MMA Champion? I was now 110% committed to becoming the best.
Fight promoters were seeking me out… and then some very good fortune came my way. Jen Boronico, a dear girlfriend from one of the gyms I trained at, also happened to train BJJ. Jen gave me a simple message: “If you want to be the best, you need to train with the best.” She introduced me to ATT (American Top Team), the single largest and best-known professional MMA fighter gym on the planet. I was apprehensively welcomed, as becoming a true professional MMA fighter takes years of training, starting often at very early childhood ages. So the likelihood of me becoming a true highly skilled MMA fighter would be a huge long shot. This was especially considering that the first (and perpetual) impression that everyone in life gets from me is that I am the ultimate girl next door, just too nice to be a ‘Fighter’. Still, based upon my recommendations and sincerity, I was given the chance to prove that I was capable of training at ATT as a professional fighter.
When I am in the ring, I see myself in my element. I am calm and comfortable. It’s where I belong. I love what I do, and when I’m in the cage is when it’s the most fun, because I get to showcase all my skills.
In May of 2012, I acquired the Number One ranking in the fifth year of my career. I had given myself five years to become the best in my weight class, and that’s exactly what I did. Then in January of 2014, I received my world title. I feel blessed. I am extremely grateful to have come this far and to have had the opportunity to live out my dreams.
Most people thought I was crazy when I told them I wanted to pursue a career in professional MMA. They tried to change my mind and discourage me from doing it. But that obviously didn’t stop me! My girlfriend is my number one fan. I love her and she supports me 110%. She’s my best friend. I am the luckiest girl ever to have my Elena as my partner.
My mother is the same: she does support my career and she sees that I am happy fulfilling my dreams, so that makes her happy. One day when I was a teenager, I came out to my mom, and she didn’t take it too well at first that I am a lesbian. My mom is very ‘old-school’, and has very traditional Mexican views, so she didn’t really understand. She has since come around to it though, and accepts this part of my life as well.
In regards to the MMA world, I have never experienced any negative feedback. In fact, I see myself as a spokesperson for the LGBT community. I work very closely with GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) and the LGBT community in Florida where I now live.
Smile & Believe is my motto in life—I’ve been through a lot, and that’s exactly where it comes from. Just because you have experienced tragedy doesn’t mean things can’t get better. You can learn and grow from your experiences and use them as fuel to reach your goals. We all deserve to experience great happiness in life, and by smiling you can also spread the good energy to others. I will retire a champion. I intend to use this platform to inspire people and share my story in hopes that others pursue their dreams too.