On October 28, 2010, Zoila “The Warrior Princess” Frausto became the first Bellator Women’s Champion. However, her victory did not come without a price, as the former 135-pound fighter was forced to drop huge amounts of weight in order to make 115 pounds on three separate occasions.
In addition, despite becoming the first woman to ever defeat Megumi Fujii in MMA, Frausto found herself unable to gain respect from critics who blamed her for the close judges’ decisions in her final two Bellator tournament fights. Now looking ahead to 2011, Frausto will return to action on March 5th.
With just one year of Muay Thai training and zero amateur MMA fights to her name, Frausto made her professional mixed martial arts debut on February 13, 2009. That night, she earned a contentious Split Decision victory over Karina Hallinan that would prove to follow Frausto for close to two years. The win was enough to earn Frausto a shot in Strikeforce, but a failure to make weight would ultimately end in the cancellation of her May 2009 fight in the promotion.
Refocused, Frausto won two more fights to earn a second – and perhaps final – chance in Strikeforce, and she made the most of her opportunity by defeating Elisha Helsper at Strikeforce Challengers 4 on November 6th. With four fights in less than one year, Frausto was already one of the most active female fighters in North America, but her 2009 campaign would pale in comparison to what took place in 2010.
A February 4th submission victory over fellow striker Jessica Rakoczy under the Tachi Palace Fights banner earned Frausto another fight in Strikeforce; this time in a grudge match with then-rival Miesha Tate. While Frausto landed numerous strikes in the fight, she was eventually taken down in the second round and succumbed to an armbar. The loss, which remains Frausto’s only to date, would be a pivotal one in shaping her career and the careers of each of her future 2010 opponents.
Dropping back down to her more natural fighting weight of 125 pounds, Frausto then faced another rival, Michelle Ould, at The Warriors Cage 8 in May. After a tough first round that saw Ould dictate the fight with a variety of throws, Frausto took over in the second round as Ould struggled with what was later revealed to be a serious ankle injury. Frausto managed to avoid takedowns and emerged victorious after a series of leg kicks left Ould unable to continue.
Six weeks later, everything in Frausto’s career would change. Taking on a huge opportunity and a fight that few believed that she could win, Frausto entered Bellator Fighting Championships to challenge the top-ranked super flyweight, Rosi Sexton, in a fight that was designed to be a “tune-up” bout for Sexton in advance of the Bellator 115-pound women’s tournament in August. With a crushing knee, Frausto changed those plans in an instant when she knocked Sexton out cold in the first round.
The victory was a blessing and a curse for Frausto, who was awarded Sexton’s spot in the 115-pound tournament bracket. Having previously cut down from nearly 150 pounds, Frausto would now be required to make 115 pounds three times in short succession. Questions immediately arose as to whether she could do it. What few people knew were the struggles that Frausto endured in order to make weight.
Dropping close to 30 pounds every four weeks, as her shell-shocked body clung to every bit of nutrition that it could, a weakened Frausto was only able to undergo limited training as she stuck to a strict diet. Discouraged and on the verge of a collapse, Frausto worked only on cardio while eating bland foods in an effort to lose weight for her fights. The trying times even led to Frausto dreaming of eating regular foods, only to repeatedly wake up at all hours of the night in a panic that she would weigh in heavy.
Amidst the emotional and physical rollercoaster, Frausto was still expected to fight three times in order to win the Bellator tournament. On August 19th at Bellator 25, she used a size and strength advantage to hand Jessica Pene the first defeat of her career. Six weeks later, while still struggling to maintain weight near 115 pounds, Frausto earned a controversial Split Decision victory over Jessica Aguilar at Bellator 31.
The fight’s result drew the ire of fans and media alike. Suddenly, Frausto was public enemy number one, despite the fact that she was not one of the cageside judges scoring the fight.
As Frausto continued to battle the struggles of limited training and even more limited food, she had to prepare for the biggest fight of her career; a showdown with pound-for-pound standout and MMA legend Megumi Fujii. Though dehydrated and unable to adequately train, Frausto managed to stay on her feet for nearly the entire fight with Fujii and earned another close decision win to become the first Bellator 115-pound women’s champion.
What should have been the happiest moment in Frausto’s career soon turned sour.
The close nature of the fight with Fujii, coupled with the fact that Fujii suffered her first loss in 23 career bouts, led fans to list the decision as a robbery. Months later, the outcome of the fight continues to be debated. For Frausto, who was stuck in the middle, insults and complaints about the decision were directed at her. As a fighter who had done all that she could do, earning a 6-1 record in 2010, Frausto found herself in a no-win situation. She had just won her first major title and defeated a legend, but could get no respect from fans.
As she returned to a more normal schedule following the tournament, Frausto opted to remain on a strict nutritional diet; even through the holiday season. With her body still in shock, any little bit of food resulted in large gains of weight until Frausto was all the way back up to 155 pounds. She has since begun safely cutting back down in weight in preparation for her next fight, which has been confirmed for Bellator 35 on March 5th. An opponent has not yet been announced.
Attributing her success in 2010 to her coaches, family and friends, the former Californian – who now resides and trains in Cincinnati, Ohio – would like to put her struggles and any fight controversy from the past behind her. As fans clamour for a rematch between Frausto and Aguilar – a fight that both have verbally agreed to – it remains to be seen who will get the first shot at Frausto’s Bellator title, nor what the status of the title will be this year. Frausto has confirmed that she will still be able to make 115 pounds, but would prefer not to do so in another tournament setup.
Though she knows that she must still earn the respect and support of some fans who remain critical of her performances in last year’s tournament, Frausto (now 10-1-0) remains confident in her abilities and feels that she can defeat any opponent at 115 or 125 as long as she believes in herself. She will return to the cage on March 5th in a fight that could shape the direction of Bellator’s women’s division in 2011.
(Photo Credit: Casper Munoz)