Jessica Ruiz wanted to find a place for her son to learn martial arts. Several years later, she’s the one who now fights professionally in mixed martial arts.
"I passed by a dojo, and I was asking for him," Ruiz said, "but I think, in reality, I was asking for me."
Ruiz, who lives in Baldwin, said the desire to fight was "always a part of me," and the 37-year-old mother of four brings that passion to the Combate Global cage on Friday night for her third professional fight. Ruiz (0-2) will face Andrea Soraluz (2-4) in a strawweight bout, the first fight of her multi-fight contract with Combate Global, which focuses on Hispanic MMA fighters and fans. The fight, part of Combate's six-bout card in Miami, will air on Paramount+, with coverage starting at 10:30 p.m.
Ruiz’s first two fights were in Bellator, the most recent being last November. Both fights were stopped in the first round. But Ruiz, who now trains at Longo and Weidman MMA in Garden City, is looking for this fight to be the start of her comeback.
"It’s hard to lose on national television the way I did the two times, you know?" Ruiz said. "My confidence level wasn't there. This fight here means a lot to me because I feel like this is a fair chance, this is fair game over here. I don't have any excuses. I have to get this done."
Ruiz grew up in Queens. School wasn’t her thing, she said.
"I just always wanted to fight since I was a little girl," she said. "I always envisioned myself being a fighter."
But she didn’t start her official fighting career until much later in life. Ruiz said she first walked into an MMA gym when she was either 32 or 33 years old. She’s about to make the walk to the cage for the third time as a professional after three amateur bouts.
Ruiz is of Mexican and Bolivian ancestry and said she felt Combate would be "a good fit" when they contacted her about signing with the promotion. Combate Global, formerly known as Combate Americas, is led by Campbell McLaren, one of the co-creators of the UFC in the early 1990s.
Ruiz said fighting in Combate Global’s "La Jaula" (Spanish for "the cage") will create an opportunity for her to blend both of her gigs and have one help the other. In addition to being an MMA fighter, Ruiz works full-time as a negotiator for Lavelle Law Firm in Locust Valley.
"I wanted to be known in the Spanish community, I thought it was a good idea," Ruiz said. "Also, you know, my job, I settle cases at a law firm. And most of our clients are Hispanic. So, it's, you know, I just thought it was a good fit."
Combate Global fight card
Main card, 11 p.m. ET on Paramount+
Welterweight: Ivan Castillo (20-12) vs. Marcos Lloreda (10-6)
Women’s bantamweight: Pamela Boveda Aguirre (5-3) vs. Kaytlin Neill (4-4)
Welterweight: Heriberto Tovar (6-5-1) vs. Trey Waters (3-0)
Heavyweight: Giovanni Sarran (6-4) vs. Marcus Gamble (3-1)
Flyweight: Taylor Ikona Mamiya (0-1) of vs. German Orpineda Ponce (0-2)
Strawweight: Jessica Ruiz (0-2) vs. Andrea Soraluz (2-4)