Vanessa Demopoulos: Concussion from pole dancing worse than any MMA injury


Vanessa Demopoulos has been fighting professionally for five years, but her worst injury came long before she stepped into the octagon.

The UFC strawweight improved to 3-0 competing in the promotion’s 115-pound division this past Saturday with a decision win over Maria Oliveira at UFC Vegas 65. She appeared on The MMA Hour on Monday to talk about her unique combat sports journey, including being an exotic dancer before trying her hand at fighting.

Demopoulos remembers suffering a major fall while pole dancing that left her with a head injury unlike anything she’s had to deal with since changing careers.

“[It hurt] like hell,” she said. “I suffered the most severe concussion from falling off a pole. I fell straight down, it was almost two stories.

” I woke up immediately and started running. Then I got this huge bag of ice covering my head and fell asleep on it. For sure [worse than anything I felt in fighting.]”

That’s quite a statement given the scraps that Demopoulos, 34, has been in since making her pro MMA debut in 2017. She started her career 5-1, including a highlight-reel inverted triangle choke submission of Sam Hughes to become the inaugural Legacy Fighting Alliance strawweight champion.

Demopoulos did not win a contract for the Contender Series. She also failed in her UFC debut, after she stepped in to face JJ Aldrich at flyweight. But it’s been mostly smooth sailing for her since then, which is a contrast to the troubles Demopoulos faced while juggling her burgeoning fighting career and her job as a dancer at the club.

” I’d be beat up,” Demopoulos stated. There were occasions when I had to tape my legs and wear a sock on top of it so they didn’t notice the tape. If I had a large lip, I would apply extra lipstick on the opposite side to make it even.

“One of the fights, I had so many stitches on my eyes right here that I could only put makeup in so many places. So I wore glasses, like reading glasses with thick frames, to kind of cover the stitches. My makeup skills .”

were really fun.

Demopoulos officially retired from dancing at the end of 2021, around the time that she was wrapping up camp for a fight with Silvana Gomez Juarez at UFC 270. She went on to defeat Juarez by first-round submission.

“Lil Monster” credits her previous career not only with teaching her lessons about overcoming adversity, but also giving her a strong business sense. That said, Demopoulos is only looking ahead as she advances up the UFC rankings.

“It was the worst,” she said of stripping while continuing her MMA training. It was exhausting to stay up until late and overstimulating the nervous system. I’d get home, I couldn’t sleep. Even though I went to bed late at night, my body would automatically get up early so that I could train. I only got three hours sleep as I would automatically wake up. In many ways, it was not good for me. I have to give a lot of my emotional energy to the job, and I just want to focus on fighting.

“I took a chance. I really didn’t have the money to quit and I believed in myself enough and I was like, ‘I’m going to make this happen, no matter what.’ So I burned the bridge and I walked away.”