Jessica Delboni believes she was “robbed” the first time she challenged Alesha Zappitella for the Invicta FC atomweight title in 2021 but made sure to get her revenge this year. Now, she’s hoping for bigger challenges in the sport.
Delboni lost a split decision to Zappitella this past May in Kansas City and considered walking away from the sport for some time to digest such heartbreak. Instead, her longtime coach Gilliard Parana convinced her to stay in the United States and train with the team in Las Vegas and enter a one-night, eight-woman tournament three weeks later, which she won with a trio of decisions, including the tournament final against Lindsey VanZandt.
Back to the winning column and having secured another shot at the 105-pound gold, Delboni defeated Zappitella in a rematch in the main event of Invicta FC 45 after “the best performance of my life.” Delboni would love to see the UFC open an atomweight class in the future. However, having fought most of her career as a strawweight, she feels ready to test her hands at 115 pounds if given a chance inside the octagon.
“I was 7-0 when I signed with Invicta FC and all of those fights were at 115,” Delboni said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “The UFC doesn’t have an atomweight division yet, unfortunately, but I’m faithful that they will open it at the right moment. But nine of my 15 fights were at 115, and eight of those were wins.
“If I had to sign with the UFC, which is my dream, since it’s the world’s biggest organization and pays the best purses and brings more eyeballs and sponsors, I could do it at 115. I believe I’ll enter [the UFC] this year.”
Delboni is staying ready and in shape in case an opportunity knocks at her door any time soon, and vows to be successful as a strawweight even though she’s “small” for the weight class.
“I’ve always had to fight bigger girls so that’s not a problem for me,” she said. “I know I’ll be a great athlete in the UFC. My master Gilliard Parana promised to put me at the top of the world and he’s done it. I know I’m the champion of the world.”
Parana, the leader of PRVT, agrees with his protege, and says it’s “about time she’s in the UFC.”
“She’s the champion of a promotion that has brought great atomweights to the UFC, like Michelle Waterson,” Parana said. “Most of Delboni’s fights were at strawweight and I’m sure she’d do great in the UFC, but right now she’s the best of the world at atomweight. We’ve been waiting for years for the UFC to open the atomweight division and that would really be the ideal.”