Jessica Camara didn’t get an eight-week training camp for her first world title fight this Friday night in El Cajon, California. But she doesn’t mind. Not one bit. (photo by Robert Levesque)
“It's kinda nice, just coming right into camp and it being two weeks and boom, you're fighting,” she said. “Before, you have a couple months where there's that pressure and you're just anxious to fight. So I guess there is a positive in that aspect, not having to go through all of that but, at the same time, you don't have as much time to prepare for that fight. But it's so nice to just have to roll with the punches and take what's given to you and go with it.”
When IBF junior welterweight champion Mary McGee suffered a knee injury and was forced out of this week’s bout against Victoria Bustos that was also scheduled to be fought for the vacant WBO title, Camara didn’t hesitate to say yes to the short-notice assignment, which airs on UFC Fight Pass. And if you think that the Canadian is showing up for a payday, consider that at the time of this interview on August 9, she was already on weight. All that was left from that point was for the 33-year-old from Montreal to get herself focused for the biggest fight of her career.
“Honestly, I feel like I'm very mentally strong,” she said. “That's a big part of why I've been successful in boxing. I'm able to get through those tough fights and preparing for this fight is mostly mental for me because I feel like physically, I'm in shape. It's just getting my mental game ready to get in the ring and fight for a world championship. That's what I've been doing the last couple of days, just zoning in and getting my mind right and ready for the fight.”
Should we assume that means looking at facing an experienced former world champion for a major title on a couple weeks’ notice as it’s just another fight?
“No, no, no,” Camara laughs. “I'm looking at it like I'm bringing home that title. This is my moment and I have the opportunity to bring that title back home to Canada. I feel like everything happens for a reason, and I had a feeling that I was gonna get my opportunity soon, but I didn't think it was gonna happen just like that. ‘Hey, you want to fight for a world title in a couple weeks?’ But I was always in the gym staying ready in case we did get a call like that, so we were ready for it.”
From some fighters, that would sound like saying the right thing for the media. In Camara’s case, those words ring true because in her last “biggest fight of her career” in May, she came up big, winning a clear-cut decision over another former world champ in Heather Hardy. It was a fight that came with plenty of hype, more media attention, and a lot of risk for the 2015 Canadian amateur champion, but when it was time to perform, Camara stepped up, won, and got ready to reap the rewards of the upset victory.
“It definitely got me more exposure and it got me ranked higher and I knew that, especially coming off such an impressive performance and defeating Heather Hardy, who is a big name, I felt like my next fight or the next couple fights had to be something big,” she said. “I felt like something big was happening, so while I was preparing myself mentally and physically for that moment, I just didn't think it would happen like this. But I'm grateful for it and I'm rolling with it. I'm living in the moment and I'm taking what's mine.”
When Camara says that she’s taking what’s hers, it’s hard to take it seriously because she has to be one of the nicest people who punches other people in the face for a living. But fighting is in her DNA, and it comes from a place she hopes to never see again. So when asked where her mental toughness comes from, she knows exactly where it was born.
“I think it's just from everything I've been through in my life,” she said. “I didn't have the best childhood. I had tough, old school European parents, didn't have a relationship with my mother. I guess you could say she was abusive. It was normal back home where she was from, but she was abusive towards me and I had to overcome a lot of things growing up. I was just a fighter through it all and I feel like that's what makes me super tough. “
It's also what she feels will make her a world champion on Friday. And even though she doesn’t have that belt yet, Camara is already talking like a boss ready to take on the world.
“I know that there's plans for unification for the 140-pound division, so that's what I plan to do after this fight,” she said. “I'm gonna try to unify at 140 and then go back to my weight class (lightweight) and ideally I'd like to have a fight with Katie Taylor. That would be my dream fight.”