An epic clash looms for Northland MMA fighter Renata Poa, who is preparing for a showdown with world No. 1, Gabi Garcia of Brazil.
At 31 years of age and weighing in at 124 kilos, Poa is currently ranked as the world No. 3 in the MMA women's' heavyweight division.
She says her preparations are especially difficult due to the current lack of heavyweight opponents here in New Zealand, "There's an opportunity to fight No. 1- her name is Gabi Garcia, she is from Brazil. We'll be fighting in Japan in April hopefully. Nothing has been signed in contract yet but that's what the korero is at the moment."
With only two amateur fights under her belt, Renata travelled all the way to Poland in August for her first professional fight despite having a badly injured foot and a broken toe, "There was a few of us, some from Brazil, Portugal, England, Venezuela so it was such an awesome opportunity," says Poa, "It was my first professional fight. I fought a lady from Brazil and ended up winning the whole fight unanimously which basically means you win all three rounds and I ended up winning and [being] ranked third in the world."
Currently studying for a degree in sports psychology, Poa was the recent recipient of the MMA Fighter of the Year award at the Northland Sports Awards. She believes she has the right mindset, coaching and support around her to reach the top in 2018.
"I definitely want to take on Gabi Garcia, not for the fame or the glory or the money that comes behind it, more for myself- to see how far I can go," says Poa, "But I'd like to open up more doors for heavyweight female fighters in New Zealand because there's a lot of us Māori Polynesian females but what are we doing? Give them a bit of confidence to show them 'yep we can do this'."
Right now Poa says it's time to put in the hard yards at training and to persevere in order to achieve her lofty goal.