To say Julia Avila’s 14 months in the UFC have seen a lot of changes would be an understatement.
The latest switch-up leads Avila to the UFC APEX in Las Vegas this Saturday night where she’ll face fellow top-15 bantamweight contender Sijara Eubanks at UFC Vegas 10.
“Raging Panda” has yet to face an opponent she was originally contracted to fight since signing with the promotion in mid-2019. From her UFC debut—where she defeat Pannie Kianzad at UFC 239—to four different re-bookings with Karol Rosa, to getting a short-notice opponent in Gina Mazany in June, to three different dates on the books to face Nicco Montano, there have been 10 different scenarios for the Oklahoma based fighter in just over 14 months.
After her original Aug. 8 date with Montano was moved to Sept. 5, it would eventually be moved again to Oct. 3 in Abu Dhabi after Montano tested positive for COVID-19. Eubanks was scheduled to face Rosa this past weekend before Rosa was hospitalized due to her weight cut.
A week ago, Avila was told Montano would not compete on Oct. 3 after all. MMA Fighting confirmed that the former 125-pound champion was unable to obtain a passport which left Avila without an opponent. Moments later, that changed.
“I took the weekend to myself and my husband actually locked up the treadmill,” Avila told MMA Fighting while appearing on What the Heck after finding out the fight with Montano was moved again. “I posted something to my Instagram, there was a lock on my treadmill and you know we have two of them.
“So I took a couple of days to myself, low to moderate working out and I got a call saying, for one reason or another, Nicco won’t fight on Oct. 3 and I was told, ‘Hey, want to fight next weekend?’ I said, ‘Okay, so much for taking a break, right?’”
Despite the hiccup-filled road—through no fault of her own—in her UFC tenure, Avila is keeping her eye on the prize. Luckily, Avila’s patience, persistence, and understanding among her team have paid off in positive ways.
“I’m getting pulled a lot of different ways but I’m grateful I have such an understanding corner,” Avila said. “My coaches are very pliable to the situation, the UFC is helping in trying to find opponents for me. It’s a weird time and I can’t hold that against them. Look, if someone doesn’t want to fight me, I don’t want to force them.
“There are silver linings: I got a new contract and I do have a fight now, so I’m keeping positive.”
Avila has won her last four fights, including both inside the octagon. The 32-year-old earned the fourth-fastest finish in women’s bantamweight history in her most recent appearance, a 22-second TKO win over Mazany at UFC on ESPN 10.
For Avila, having the opportunity to face a fighter with Eubanks’ style will hopefully lead to her first UFC bonus.
“She’s ready to brawl,” Avila explained. “She’s ready to go wherever the fight is dictated. She’s a black belt in jiu-jitsu—a Lloyd Irvin black belt—and that’s nothing to shy away from, and she likes to stand up. It’s going to be a really fun fight for the fans.
“There’s gonna be blood and I’m really looking forward to that; none of it is going to be mine. But it will be fun. It’s a great fight and it has ‘Fight of the Night’ written all over it.”
Eubanks recently snapped a two-fight skid with a unanimous decision win over Sarah Moras in May. “Sarj” made the move up to 135 after a pair of hiccups on the scales while competing in the flyweight division. Eubanks would drop her first two 135-pound matchups in close decision losses to Aspen Ladd and Bethe Correia.
After all the bumps in the road en route to the fight with Montano, Avila says the ship has sailed when it comes to that rematch from the Oklahoma regional scene. In fact, she admits the matchup with Eubanks is a better one for her, and the fans.
“We’re both ranked so it makes sense,” Avila stated. “I think it’s a great opportunity for both of us to showcase what we’re capable of doing. I definitely think there’s going to be a finish and it’s gonna be good.”
With the road Avila has had in her short career in the UFC, she feels confident that it will adequately prepare her for the expectations many fans have for her; which includes a run at the 135-pound strap.
“Whether it changes or it doesn’t, I’m still gonna have a smile on my face,” Avila said. “I’m still gonna beat my opponents, I’m still gonna be prepared and I’m very confident in my approach to fighting. I’m excited for what the future holds and, after I win this one, I think it’s going to prove that I am gonna make a run for that title.”