Though this weekend may be overshadowed by the Mayweather-McGregor fight, Bellator is still vying for some of the limelight a day before the MMA and boxing worlds collide. Kristi Lopez, who fans may remember from the The Ultimate Fighter 23 tryouts, is making her organisational debut at Bellator 182: Koreshkov vs. Njokuani, against the 26 year-old Jessica Sotack.

With two college degrees under her belt, Kristi explains the contradictory nature of being a professional fighter and working as a registered nurse; a factor in earning her the title of the ‘sophisticated savage’. Kristi also tells us what it’s like being a blue belt under Eddie Bravo and to learn from Master Rafael Cordeiro at Kings MMA, where she trains with some of the best mixed martial artists in the world.

Joining athletes like Illima-Lei Macfarlane and Anastasia Yankova, Kristi was signed alongside, Valerie Letourneau, Na Liang, and Juliana Vasquez, and Sabriye Sengül (to name only a few). These additions further round out the women’s flyweight division, bringing greater depth Bellator’s ever growing roster.

The Neversphere: You have earned two college degrees, and you have worked as an EMT and a nurse. But more recently, you’ve been exploring the MMA path. This seems contradictory to your previous life experiences, what made you make the change?
Kristi: I usually say, ‘I can beat you up, then look after you afterwards’. I consider myself a sophisticated savage, I have two different parts to me. And yeah, I have two degrees, one of them is actually in art. I enjoy both sides; I enjoy helping people, being a lady, I enjoy art. But then I also enjoy blood and punching people in the face, and the realness of fighting. There’s a rawness and realness to fighting that I enjoy. I was also an ocean lifeguard for about eight years, I really enjoyed that. People have a lot of different sides to them but for me, I was always a fighter. I’ve always had it in me. It was all meant to be. I think maybe one day I’ll go back to the medical field.
The Neversphere: I read that you were considering dropping down to 115lb, but here you are at Bellator in the flyweight division. Why did you choose to go to Bellator instead of another organisation like Invicta, where there’s an established strawweight division?
Kristi: Yeah, my last fight was at 115 but I’m also very comfortable at 125, I feel pretty sturdy there. You know there’s benefits and downsides to both, but Bellator’s an amazing organisation and I’m very happy and proud to be a part of them.

Right now they only have the 125lb division, so for me, I really wanted to be a part of the Bellator roster. They’re a great promotion to be a part of. Because I have fought at both weights, it wasn’t too much of a deterrent. At 125, I’m healthy, strong, I’m able to enjoy life a little bit [laughs]. I’m still eating very healthy and clean. I think you should always do that as a fighter but I’ve been able to go out and eat at dinner, stuff like that. Live life a little bit, so life’s not too bad…And I’m much nicer to be around!
The Neversphere: Other than the TUF23 trial in 2016, we’ve not seen you compete in MMA since July 2014. Have you been dealing with injuries or struggling to find opponents?
Kristi: It was kind of a combination of a couple of things. I have had a few injuries, that’s part of the game, part of the sport. I was also working as a nurse and doing a little bit of stunt work and commercial work. It’s also finding opponents and balancing everything, it can be a lot being a sophisticated savage.

The Neversphere: I know you train over at Kings MMA with some of the very best in the world but you also train you Jiu Jitsu under the ever-entertaining Eddie Bravo at 10th Planet HQ. What’s it like training with such high-level athletes and should we expect to see you using some of your Jiu Jitsu to close this fight?
Kristi: I’ve been very blessed with the places I train at. Every day I go into train, I can’t help but be inspired. Kings is a great environment; a very tough, badass environment to train in. 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu is revolutionary, it has its own style. Eddie’s always been a great coach for me over there and for this fight, I’ve been working with Eric Cruz, one of his black belts. He’s been helping me at 10th Planet Pasadena.

I have other coaches at Kings who, along with Master Rafael [Cordeiro], have been helping me to get ready. If the Jiu Jitsu is there, then I’ll definitely capitalise on it [laughs]. But I’m open to all the possibilities in this fight and ready for wherever it may go.
The Neversphere: At Bellator 182, you’re facing Jessica Sotack. She’s 1-1 in her pro-career, a similar amount of experience to you, and I’m sure she’s hungry to get a win. What do you make of your next opponent and her skill set?
Kristi: I think she’s a great opponent, I’m very excited to fight her. She likes to fight, I know she’s going to bring it and that’s what I’m looking for. I think with our styles, it’s going to be an exciting fight, a good scrap. She’s pretty explosive and strong, she’s definitely a good opponent. It’s going to be a hard fight but that’s what you want. I’m here to fight.
The Neversphere: We cover music as well as MMA at The Neversphere, so I’d like to know: what’s your walk out song for Bellator 182 going to be and does it have any special meaning?

Kristi: Usually, it’s my little brother Evan Lopez – he’s an amazing musician and artist. He has put together almost every one of my walk out mixes for me. He actually composed a song called You’re The Wolf, you can hear the wolf howling and stuff like that. But this time I’m fighting in New York. My Dad’s from Puerto Rico, he grew up in Brooklyn, so I have a lot of my family from Puerto Rico coming out the fight. So…I’m coming out to a Marc Anthony song, to represent my people.

The Neversphere: Any shout outs before I let you go?
Yeah! Everyone at Kings MMA, Master Rafael Cordeiro, Queens MMA, 10th Planet Pasadena…my friends and my family, my boyfriend. I definitely thank them all!