A lot of people cruise through life never really knowing what they want to do. This was never a concern for Pauline “PITA” Macias.
Macias started doing gymnastics and cheerleading at a very young age. When she was around seven years old, she started training judo under Steve Bell, a friend of Ronda Rousey’s mom, former world judo champion AnnMaria De Mars. Bell coached Macias all through high school. She then went to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., where she trained under coach Ed Liddie. She earned a college degree while in Colorado Springs, but her dreams of making the Olympic team never came to fruition.
After Macias earned her degree, but while still training at the USOTC, the rules of judo started to change. There were a lot of effective takedowns that she could no longer do. Her interest in the sport started to stray. Her love of competition did not. Burnt out, she traveled home to Southern California for a month and spent some time with Rousey, a longtime friend. Rousey talked Macias into trying MMA.
Macias went 30-0 as an amateur MMA fighter. She turned pro in 2018. Macias spent the early years of her career at Elevation Fight Team in the Denver area before switching over to Factory X Muay Thai, which is just 10 minutes down the road for her, shortly before her last fight in February. She now sits at 4-0 as a pro, but that last outing went to a split decision.
“That was a tough fight for me,” Macias admitted to Combat Press. “I had only been at Factory X for like five weeks. I obviously hadn’t fought in a while. I don’t even know what happened in that fight, but I just wasn’t there, mentally.
“I have so much competition experience, and I know what I have to do to win. I knew I needed to do enough to win, and then I was very upset in the back after that fight. In judo, when I had a fight like that where my head just wasn’t on right, that was just not going to happen again.”
Shortly after her fight at Legacy Fighting Alliance 82 in February, Macias was ready to get back in the cage with a lot of opportunity on the horizon. Then, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic struck. This really threw a wrench in her immediate career plans.
“Nobody really knew what was going on in the world,” Macias said. “I fought at the end of February, and I was supposed to fight in April, and with that win, go to [Dana White’s] Contender Series. Then, quarantine happened, the April fight got canceled, and then I found out in May that I was going to be on the Contender Series — but we didn’t know when.”
As things started to open up, especially in the UFC, there was constant change. Events were getting moved and match-ups were literally changing on 24 hours’ notice. It was pretty chaotic. The Contender Series started up again in August, and as far as Macias knew, she was going to get her shot at a UFC contract in late September. However, with less than two weeks until fight day, the event was moved to early November.
“When my fight got moved from September to November, basically, the very next day, I went home and kind of just relaxed,” said the California native. “I had almost been through a whole fight camp at that point. So, I went home and really let my body relax. I ate some good food — some good Mexican food, that’s for sure — and, at that point, I came back, and I was so refreshed”
On Wednesday night, season four of the Contender Series returns after a seven-week layoff while the promotion was on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. Macias will finally get a shot at a UFC contract when she faces Gloria de Paula. De Paula is 4-2 as a pro and has yet to be finished. She is a Muay Thai fighter who trains out of Chute Boxe Diego Lima. De Paula has won most of her fights by knockout.
“She’s from Brazil,” said Macias. “I don’t know a lot about her. I recently just watched a little bit of film on her. I don’t watch a lot of film on my opponents. I mostly just worried about my game for this fight. My MMA IQ has just skyrocketed. I’ve been at Factory X for so long now. I’m ready for everything, but I’m definitely focused on my game. I’m really excited about this fight, because I already had that mental funk happen once. My mind is right, and I’m ready to go.”
Macias may be still on the upswing with her MMA career, but she is a veteran of combat sports. She knows the UFC is where she belongs. Even though her judo career did not end in Olympic glory, she has plenty of time to make that happen in the Octagon, following in the footsteps of women like Rousey.
“I love fighting more than anything,” Macias said. “I’m ready to go get this contract and change my life. This is it. I know I started with judo, and I did all these sports, but I truly feel that my entire life has led up to this point. I believe I’m doing what I’m meant to do.
“When I was like seven years old, I remember that the only thing I wanted was to be the greatest athlete that ever lived. I don’t know why that’s what I wanted, but that’s what I wanted. Obviously, I thought I was going to make the Olympic team, but that didn’t happen. I came really close. Man, I think that not happening was the greatest thing that ever happened to me, because I’ve never worked harder in my life, and I’ve never wanted anything more than this UFC career.”
In her downtime, Macias and her wife Lin have been working hard behind the scenes on building the Team PITA brand. With COVID keeping them in a sort of self-quarantine to avoid a potential fight cancellation, and Netflix getting run into the ground, she and her partner hope that building her brand as she is set to move to the next stage of her career will hopefully yield big dividends. Between a YouTube channel and other potential ventures, the two women are ready to break out in a big way.
On Wednesday night, 10 fighters will have their shot at the UFC, and Macias is one of them. She hopes to make big waves in front of the boss against a tough opponent. She plans to showcase her unique skill set on the road to a life-changing contract.
“I am just a completely different fighter than anybody really has ever seen,” Macias said. “My judo is just so different, and I just have a lot of new things I hope I get to show, unless I finish the fight very quickly. I throw so many things off the cage and different throws that I do that the MMA world has never seen. They all think judo is just a couple of throws, but there are thousands of judo throws in MMA, and I’m looking forward to showing that in my very unorthodox style.”