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Judo Blog: Why I Will Never Fight MMA

Updated: Oct 31, 2023

Photo by Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP via Getty Images

To round out my series of blogs on Women’s Judo, this story which appeared recently in MMA Fighting written by Guilherme Cruz. It messed with my head quite a lot: Olympic Judo Champion Rafaela Silva explains why she will never fight MMA! Don’t expect Olympic gold medalist Rafaela Silva to follow the footsteps of fellow judokas Ronda Rousey and Kayla Harrison to MMA.

A two-time judo world champion (2013 and 2022) and one-time Olympic champion (2016), Silva flirted with mixed martial arts during her two-year suspension for fenoterol, a substance used to treat asthma.

Silva claimed innocence but was forced to stay away from judo for two years between 2019 and 2021. In MMA, she found a way to stay active. MMA is not for me,” Silva said with a laugh on MMA Fighting’s Portuguese-language podcast Trocação Franca. “I can’t. It doesn’t work for me. I got kicked in the face, kicked on the leg, and couldn’t put my foot on the ground for three or four days. It’s very tough.”

Silva is close friends with former UFC champion Jose Aldo and Nova União fighters Leonardo Santos, Matheus Nicolau, and Luana Pinheiro. She said that being in the gym to work with MMA athletes has only made her admire fighters more.

“It was a very unique experience for me because it’s a whole different fight,” Silva said. “I have a judo background which is totally different for MMA, so it messed with my head quite a lot. I had to adapt a lot of things. It was a very difficult but amazing experience for me, because it came at a moment I couldn’t train judo, so I gave myself the luxury and privilege of training another sport.”

The biggest lesson Silva learned during that period of time was that, even as an Olympic champion, she still had a lot to learn about combat sports. “I believe it helped me a lot because I was always asking for help, advice, [and it helped] me in my return to judo,” said Silva, who won her second world title in her first tournament back from suspension. “I’ve trained in several spots and would always try to learn something here, something in wrestling, in the grappling area. I always had difficulties on the ground.

“At the same time, there I was trying MMA, bringing all I could to judo. Even after so many years training judo, this period training MMA helped me a lot, it made my spirit stronger as an athlete.” Silva has always admired the likes of Anderson Silva and Aldo, and watched the UFC stars compete live back when the sport became a sensation in Brazil in the early 2010s. But she became a bigger fan after watching and experiencing what they go through in camp.

The list of MMA stars include judo phenoms Ronda Rousey and Kayla Harrison, who made the transition to MMA to become superstars and win titles in UFC and PFL, respectively.

“I already admired them from the outside,” Silva said, “and knowing what they went through to make such transition — even Kayla, a two-time Olympic champion and world champion, making that transition the best way possible. You just cannot admire athletes like her.”


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Samantha Garcia (Harbor Judo Dojo -48kg) 🥉 Jenna Schurr (unaffiliated -52kg) 🥇 Joshua Yang (LA Judo club - 60kg) 🥇 Jonathan Yang (LA Judo Club -60kg) 🥈 Jacob Yang (LA Judo Club -66kg) 🥉 Bryan Davis (LA Tenri Judo Dojo -81kg)🥉 Davit Aghasaryan (LA Tenri Judo Dojo 90kg) 🥈 Tokuzo Takahashi (LA Tenri Judo Dojo 100kg🥉 Philip Horiuchi (LA Tenri Judo Dojo +100kg) 🥇

  • Team USA at the recent 2023 World Championships

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  • Daria Bilodid on Her Journey Across California

Calendar: June – 2023 2nd Friday to 4th Sunday - Texas International Camp, Dallas, TX

4th Sunday - Nanka Spring Tournament, Westminster, CA

16th Friday to 18th Sunday - USA Judo Junior Olympics, Shreveport, LA

25th Sunday - U.S. Adaptive Judo Championships, Riverside, CA

July - 2023 16th Sunday - CA State Games, San Diego, CA

August - 2023 6th Sunday - Nikkei Games Budo Tournament, Cypress, CA

September - 2023 17th Sunday - Nevada State Judo Championship, Las Vegas, NV

24th Sunday - Nanka Fall Tournament, Westminster, CA

October - 2023 1st Sunday - Capitol Open Judo Championships, Sacramento, CA

22nd Sunday - Fresno Invitational Tournament, Fresno, CA

29th Sunday - Fight for a Cure Women's Tournament & Clinic, Riverside, CA

November - 2023 1st Wednesday to 3rd Friday - IJF World Veterans Championships, Abu Dhabi, UAE

5th Sunday - Nanka Team Tournament, Westminster, CA

19th Sunday - Presidents Cup National Championships, Irving, TX

December - 2023 8th Friday to 10th Sunday -Nanka Winter Nationals & Clinics, Azusa, CA

April - 2024 7th Sunday - Nanka Spring Tournament, Westminster, CA

May - 2024 5th Sunday - Nanka West Coast Invitational, Westminster, CA

June - 2024 28th Friday to 30th Sunday - USJF & USJA Summer Nationals, Tacoma. WA

September - 2024 29th Sunday - Nanka Fall Tournament, Westminster, CA

October - 2024 20th Sunday - Nanka Team Tournament, Westminster, CA

December - 2024 6th Friday to 8th Sunday -Nanka Winter Nationals & Clinics, Azusa, CA

I’m always looking for new subjects to write about regarding judo as well as contributions from my readers. Please send them to, thanks.

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