A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. We hear that a lot when discussing teams. No one ever wants to be the weakest link, so it keeps the underperformers working harder. But what if you apply that metaphor to a person? Einstein is famous for his many revelations and theories, but he was incredibly forgetful of the everyday things and he even narrowed his wardrobe down so he wouldn’t have to decide what to wear. Even a genius can have his own weakest links.

The metaphor certainly applies in the world of combat sports. A fighter can have a specialty—grappling, striking or wrestling, for example—but as every contemporary MMA fan knows, a fighter must be well-rounded. Jessica Aguilar, the No. 1-ranked strawweight in the world, takes that to heart in her fight training and her personal life.

Aguilar (Jeff Vulgamore/The MMA Corner)

Aguilar (Jeff Vulgamore/The MMA Corner)

“Growing in any aspect makes me a better person in all aspects—as a person and a fighter, with my friends and family,” explained Aguilar in an interview with The MMA Corner. “Increasing my intellectual abilities makes me a smarter fighter, and that makes the fight easier. There is no secret to being a smarter fighter. Listen to your corner, follow your game plan…I mean, it’s not easy and of course anything can happen and anyone can get caught, but I find when I am mentally challenged I am more prepared and focused during the fights. When my focus is better, it helps me train better and it gives me peace of mind. It gives me the confidence to trust in my training and my team.”

There are a lot of ways the champ likes to stretch her mind.

“I am a jokester. I love art,” Aguilar smiled. “I haven’t painted anything big yet, but I do it to relax. I like to have fun and I go out a little bit, but I prefer to be with friends and family. I also really love to travel, to go to different countries and learn about their cultures and religion. It’s hard, though, now to travel. I haven’t been able to do much lately, but I’d really like to go somewhere new once a year when I can.”

Aguilar, whose record stands at 17-4, is fresh off a resounding win over Alida Gray for the inaugural World Series of Fighting strawweight championship. Submitting her opponent in under three minutes with her almost traditional arm-triangle choke was not a surprise to Aguilar.

“I train with the best at the best camp,” said Aguilar, who hones her skills at American Top Team. “At ATT, we always go hard, train hard. In every camp, I get quicker and better. I am always ready to go five rounds, but I am always looking to make it a quick fight and get the win early.”

Aguilar’s next opponent, Japanese veteran Emi Fujino, who sits at 13-7 through 20 pro bouts, may not be as well known in the United States, but Aguilar is well aware of her history and successes.

“She has lots of experience fighting for Jewels and Pancrase and has beaten some noteworthy opponents,” Aguilar said. “She has never been finished, and I will be the first to finish her. It’s always nice to be the first to do that to someone, but it’s not personal. I just want to win, and I am not about to try to leave it in the judges’ hands.”

One of the most important links in the chain is training.

“Almost all my camps are set up the same, but we will tailor the game plan and focus for each opponent,” the champion explained. “Other than that, the routine and overall blueprint are the same. If I had to predict how this fight will go, I will say that she is going to want to keep the fight standing, but I have some new tricks. I have quite a few different setups for my takedowns and they are going to be very nice. I am looking for some new submissions and am planning to go for a crucifix or a double submission.”

Much has been made of Aguilar’s signing with the WSOF instead of Invicta FC or the UFC. You can go on pretty much any forum discussing the women’s side of MMA and find folks who think the decision to go with WSOF was, at best, a premature one, or, at worst, a legacy-ending move. But Aguilar, who promotes and manages herself, is very happy with the decision. She is confident that the WSOF will be able to bring her worthy opponents and still keep her busy defending her title.

“Fujino has beaten some of the best and her losses only come to top-level opponents,” said Aguilar. “She is a decorated kickboxer, shoot boxer and wrestler. She is well rounded.”

Only time will tell if signing with the WSOF was the best move for her career, but Aguilar is confident and stands by her decision. Yet, she admits there is some difficulty managing every aspect of her career.

“My website needs to be updated—some fresher content would be nice. But it’s just not the top priority during fight camp. Getting sponsors can be hard. Even for someone at my level, it’s hard. And I also try to help my friends, too. The best thing I can do is to keep winning. And to do that, I must keep my focus and priorities.”

Old habits die hard, though. Aguilar has been responsible for herself for most of her life. Her father died when she was only six years old. Her mother had to raise her and her older brothers in a country where she didn’t speak the language.

“When I was in school and needed help with school, I couldn’t go to my mother, because she was still learning English,” Aguilar explained. “I had to basically figure it out on my own. As the youngest and the only girl, my mother didn’t understand me wanting to play any sport, never mind all of them. We were in America, not Mexico, where she grew up. And when she grew up, girls just didn’t play sports, especially not fighting. But even though she didn’t encourage me, she also didn’t discourage me.

Aguilar (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

Aguilar (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

“I have always been different since I was little. I’ve always wanted to play sports. I’ve always been a go-getter. If I wanted to do something, I did it. And I have always wanted to do my best, no matter what it was. I always push myself to improve—when drawing, I wanted to get my lines straighter. She has always been dealing with me pushing myself, and she has always pushed me to be the best I can be.

“It’s important to me to share my story to help inspire other girls to pursue their dreams. And it’s important to me to grow my story and to constantly evolve. I would love to have my mom tell her story, too, to talk about how she had to deal with me coming out, becoming a professional fighter—that would be great.”

To be remembered for one’s skill is all most athletes desire. Not Aguilar. It doesn’t even seem to be a concern for her.

“I always try to be smiling or to give off a good vibe, you know, a positive vibe,” the champ admitted. “I want people I meet to go after their dreams, and if I can help them do that, I will. I want to be remembered for good things and deeds and that I care for people, and I know it’s kind of cheesy and cliché, but I really do want to leave the world a better place.”

When one analyzes the chains in Aguilar’s life, the term “Renaissance Man” comes to mind, despite her gender. And there is no better example of the classic Renaissance Man than Leonardo da Vinci. Da Vinci spoke multiple languages and was a master of art, engineering, anatomy and more. Aguilar is a top-level athlete in multiple combat arts, a painter, philosopher, student, mentor, spokesperson and champion. Maybe she hides it really well, but there is no weak link evident in Aguilar, which is great news for her. However, it’s not such good news for Fujino or any of Aguilar’s other future opponents.

Jessica would like to thank her sponsors: Garden of Life, Tommie Copper, Everlast and Deliver Lean. She would also like to thank the WSOF, all of her family and friends and her amazing team at American Top Team. And, of course, she would like to thank her fans, adding, “You all help me continue to stay grateful and humble!” Follow Aguilar through one or all of these channels: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and her website, http://jessicaaguilar.com.

About The Author

Staff Writer

Amber currently resides in Tampa, Fla., a hotbed of MMA. She was introduced to the sport Memorial Day weekend in 2006 and quickly became addicted. Amber loves the fact that the biggest and strongest don’t always win, the respect the competitors show and that women are finally getting their shot. She also writes a blog for Fight It Out gear. When not watching MMA, Amber can be found at the beach playing volleyball, in the gym learning from Tampa’s only female BJJ Black Belt, cheering on her eight-year-old daughter in tae kwon do, or at her day job. She has a girlfriend, daughter, too many dogs and a cat who lives in the attic. Communication highly encouraged at amber at fightitout dot com.