It could be said that Mar. 27, 2011 was an important day in the history of women’s mixed martial arts. On that day, at the appropriately titled King of the Cage: Turning Point event in Tarzana, Calif., Olympic bronze medalist judoka Ronda Rousey was making her professional MMA debut. Just 25 seconds after it started, her fight was over. Rousey would go on to win five more fights and catch the attention of UFC President Dana White, in turn sparking the creation of a women’s division under the UFC banner.

But this isn’t a story about Rousey. This is a story about the woman who stood across the cage from her on that March night in California. It’s a story about Ediane Gomes, who at the time already stood among the best female featherweight fighters in the world and had collected five victories via armbar—Rousey’s favored finishing hold—before Rousey ever entered a cage as a professional fighter.

In addition to her five total submission victories up to that point, Gomes had also scored a TKO finish and had only lost once, against fellow top featherweight competitor Amanda Nunes. Gomes, who was 30 years old at the time, accepted the fight with Rousey on extremely short notice. Taking a fight on short notice had cost her once before, when she had fallen victim to a TKO versus Nunes, but there she was, with one week to prepare and needing to cut a full 30 pounds to make weight.

Gomes (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

“I learned to give myself time to prepare and cut weight healthy,” Gomes, in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner, said of the lessons taken away from her two defeats.

Rousey has gone on to become the face of the women’s side of the sport. She has taken arm after arm in her journey to the top. In fact, she is looked upon as a fighter that is head and shoulders above the competition in her division. However, Gomes would welcome an opportunity to avenge the loss she suffered to Rousey.

“I think she has done a lot to promote women’s MMA and help make it more mainstream,” Gomes said. “I would really like to fight her again when I have time to train properly.

“I would fight her at either [135 or 145 pounds], but I would definitely drop to fight her again.”

For now, the two ladies are on divergent paths. The UFC has created a division around Rousey, and she’s set to fight at UFC 157 against Liz Carmouche.

“Do not underestimate her,” Gomes said, offering up a succinct piece of advice to the challenger, Carmouche.

Meanwhile, Gomes’ own path has led her to Invicta Fighting Championships, a promotion that is heading into only its fourth show but is already a heavily influential presence in the world of women’s MMA.

“I am very happy for what they have done to promote women’s MMA and to be able to fight for them,” Gomes admitted. “They are giving women the chance to really make a living in this sport.”

Gomes made herself known to Invicta fans with her promotional debut at Invicta FC 3. It had been more than a year and a half since the loss to Rousey, and Gomes had rebounded with back-to-back wins. She submitted Katrine Alendal and was also victorious via unanimous decision against Leslie Smith, who would later take part in Invicta FC 1’s most memorable fight against Kaitlin Young. On the slate for Gomes in her first Invicta appearance was Katalina Malungahu.

“I knew she was a good striker with knockout power and decent ground [game],” Gomes explained. “I was prepared for her. She’s a tough fighter, but I knew I would beat her.”

Malungahu was undefeated through two professional fights at the time and had notched all of her wins, including three at the amateur level, by some form of knockout. Yet, as the fight approached, Gomes, known for her grappling skills, suggested that she would test her striking against the knockout artist.

“My striking is something I constantly work to improve, but I know that I have gotten better since I started MMA and will continue to get better with every fight and training camp,” Gomes said.

Staying true to her word, Gomes did engage Malungahu in some heated striking exchanges early in their fight. Malungahu clipped the American Top Team product with one of her punches and rushed in, looking for the finish. She failed in her attempt to put Gomes away, and the Brazilian showed that she still wasn’t afraid of Malungahu’s power. Gomes took Malungahu to the mat after another brief exchange on the feet and ended the fight with a first-round rear-naked choke finish.

“I knew from the beginning she would never win that fight,” Gomes confessed. “I have more experience than her and anyone she had fought previously. She had never been really tested.”

Gomes (top) delivers an elbow (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

With the impressive win and a 9-2 record to her name, Gomes is now looking at much more battle-tested competition. At Invicta FC 4, which takes place Jan. 5 at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kan., Gomes will meet Hiroko Yamanaka. The Japanese fighter is a former Smackgirl open weight champion and a veteran of Jewels. Yamanaka has also traveled to the United States to compete under the Strikeforce banner, where she fought Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos and Germaine de Randamie.

“She’s a tough fighter, and I have a lot of respect for her,” Gomes said. “She has good stand-up and grappling, but I don’t think she will be any competition for my ground game.”

Gomes and Yamanaka reside in the top-10 rankings as two of the premier 145-pound fighters in the world right now. With Invicta FC yet to crown a champion in the division, their fight is sure to have title implications.

“I would love a title shot,” Gomes admitted. “I had not really thought about it before, but if that is what is next I would be very happy.”

One potential opponent that Gomes has her eyes on is Marloes Coenen. Coenen, a former Strikeforce bantamweight champion and featherweight contender, fought at the inaugural Invicta FC card and recently impressed with an armbar victory over Fiona Muxlow at Dream.18.

“I think the next fight for me will be against Marloes,” Gomes said. “She started training young in BJJ like me. I think her and I will have a good fight.”

For now, the focus is on a win over Yamanaka, but with a victory on Saturday, Gomes could indeed see Coenen next. And Invicta would be justified in making such a contest a title affair.

Gomes has watched the rise of women’s MMA, and she has had her part in that story as a victim of Ronda Rousey. But Gomes’ own accomplishments should not be overshadowed by the events of that one night. This time it’s Gomes who would like to climb to prominence and write her own chapter to the saga. In that new chapter, it’s the Brazilian hoisting the championship belt over her head.

Ediane would like to thank Invicta for the opportunity, and would also like to thank her fans, coaches and training partners, and Tina Vidal-Smith and her management team. Follow her on Twitter: @IndiaGomesMMA

Top Photo: Ediane Gomes (top) batters her opponent (Esther Lin/Invicta FC)