Why you should care
Because where there’s a will, there’s an ass-kicking way.
“I was in a bar the other night and ‘had words’ with some woman there.” The speaker was a boxer friend named Jeff. “She stepped off of her barstool and got all up in my face. What series of movies have led a modern woman to believe that she could actually take me in a fight?”
Jeff’s pique notwithstanding, it’s much less an issue of movies and fictional fighting skills than it is the real lives and real skills of female athletes. From mixed martial arts champ Ronda Rousey to judoka and Olympic gold medalist Kayla Harrison, there’s a raft of current female fighters who are probably genuinely bad ass enough to take him on. “Probably,” because most combat sports events, with the occasional and very odd exception, are still single-gender affairs.
You forget for a second that she’s fighting someone bigger, taller and probably heavier than she is.
But in 2007 the now-defunct Rio Heroes combat event made one of those odd exceptions for the then-29-year-old Ediane Gomes, a sometime street kid and cleaned-up drug addict. She was trained in Brazilian jiujitsu, but more important was the way of life she’d known. As a kid, her parents deeded her away to another poor family, and from there she bounced to some version of Brazilian foster care before escaping into the streets of Sao Paulo, where fighting — for food, for drugs, for a place to sleep — was business as usual.
What wasn’t? When some guy rolled up and made her an offer she couldn’t refuse: $250 to fight, plus $250 more if she won. Sight unseen, she took the deal. Forget that the fight was super-sketchy, underground and real vale tudo, or anything goes, combat. That is, no rules of any kind and no gloves or any other protective gear outside of a stray spot of medical tape by way of a hand wrap. And forget the most obvious fact: She’d be fighting a man. A male kickboxer, to be exact.
Footage of the fight itself, if you’re used to the sheen and pomp of more regulated events, makes you feel like you’re guiltily watching something you shouldn’t be. But Gomes attacks with such brio that you forget for a second that she’s fighting someone bigger, taller and probably heavier than she is. You forget that because Gomes, after the kickboxer tries to crack her head open on the floor, goes medieval on his ass, eventually catching him with an almost-arm-breaking armbar.
… after I won this fight, I couldn’t get any fights anywhere with anyone.
At first, pulling from the great pantheon of excuse-making, her competitor tries to wave off his loss — but the screams of the other attendees tell another story, as does the way this clip spread around the globe. “The funny thing is,” she says from Florida where she now trains with the exceptional American Top Team, “after I won this fight, I couldn’t get any fights anywhere with anyone. No one would fight me. Not men, not women.”
In fact, not until she fought and lost to the aforementioned terror Rousey did she start getting fights again, something she’s steadfastly pursued since walking off with $500 that night. But now no longer struggling with substances or the streets, and regardless of what happens from here on out with the fight game, Gomes will always have this.
Watch Gomes adjust some attitudes on the mat at the 9:28 mark.