Chicago is known for some pretty famous athletes. Names like Michael Jordan, Walter Payton, Frank Thomas, Paul Konerko, Sammy Sosa, Anthony Rizzo, and so many others have been engraved in the city’s sports history, but what about the female athletes? What about MMA fighters from Chicago? While there are a few climbing up the ranks like Curtis Blaydes, Jose Shorty Torres, and Ricardo Lamas, there has yet to be a female athlete, let alone a female fighter, to put Chicago on her back and show what she is all about.
Pearl Gonzalez has been in the UFC before and although her first run in the promotion didn’t work out the way she hoped, like many from “The Windy City” she stayed fighting and is making the most of her second opportunity. Gonzalez’s mindset and attitude that makes her the woman and fighter she is today can all trace back to her Chicago roots, she told BJPENN.COM in an exclusive interview.
It’s not an easy life for anyone who grows up in chicago. i love my city, it helped shape me, it molded me and it made me the woman i am today. I’m strong, I’m determined, i can take any challenge that comes my way. if i take a step back, i’ll take two steps forward and that’s because where i come from. chicago means everything to me, it defines who i am as a woman and a fighter.
While Chicago has made her who she is both inside and outside of fighting, Gonzalez recognizes that there is a massive opportunity for her to be a female professional fighter and role model that thrives from Chicago, something she didn’t have as she was growing up in the city.
that void that we have in chicago, i want to fill that void. i want to be the leader for the young girls and ladies in Chicago as an athlete and as a woman. i want to inspire them and set an example, to raise the bar for our city. it means everything to be that female inspiration to chicago.
Being a leader and representing Chicago is important to Gonzalez, but what pushes her even more, is to set the precedent that all women, fighter or not, athlete or not, can be strong in their work form, and beautiful both inside and outside of work.
i want to be known as a top female athlete and not just for my skills but for also embracing who i am as a woman. being a fighter is all i am, but i’m also a woman, and i want to set the example. it doesn’t matter where you come from, as long as you work hard and stay focused, you’re winning in life. period.
Accepting responsibility to be an example and a role model for all women is a task not all female athletes would take on, but Pearl Gonzalez wants all women to know, this isn’t an act, this is her authentic self.
i’m not trying to be someone i’m not. i am who i am. i’ve always loved to be beautiful and i’ve always loved to punch people in the face, i’m going to continue to do that.
Many could look and say that being released from the UFC is the hardest thing that can happen in a fighter’s career, but for Gonzalez, there is no tougher challenge for her than handling the death of her father. Raised into who she is today by her father, Gonzalez says his passing has been the toughest thing she’s ever had to deal with.
living life without my dad is the toughest challenge in my life, yet. i think everything i’ve gone through and being from chicago, i have to take better care of myself. i need to own what i want in life and i promised my dad in his last breath, that i will use the pain to make my dreams come true. i’m not scared to lose today. there’s nothing that i fear and i’m not going to set any limits for myself.
The woman who never gave up was given her second opportunity which has come by the way of Invicta FC, where she was recently victorious at Invicta FC 31 and extended her win streak to three in a row. While many who have tasted the opportunity of the UFC would only look to get back as quickly as possible, Gonzalez says her first priority is a championship belt.
Gonzalez acknowledged that many other fighters in her position would only be focused on getting back to the UFC, but that’s not how she plans on going through her career.
all i want is that gold strap, that’s the only thing on my mind right now. i’m not focused on any other organization. i don’t care about anything other than this gold strap being wrapped about my waist. so whatever the next step is to get me closest to having that belt wrapped around me, is where i’ll be and i’m hoping that’ll be in december.
Pearl Gonzalez’s road isn’t about redemption and it’s not about meeting a standard, it’s about capitalizing on an opportunity to seize each and every moment. Through those moments she has plans to become a world champion and rise to the occasion as the female athlete from Chicago who is a role model for all women both inside and outside of sports. Challenged by adversity but defined by Chicago, Pearl Gonzalez is ready to show the power of a strong woman outside of work and a fearless fighter inside of it.
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 9/14/2018.