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Godinez sisters make their mark on the wrestling mat, in UFC's Octagon and as a mom

You don't mess with the Godinez sisters. Lupita (Loopy) Godinez has won four straight in the UFC, where she is ranked 10th among strawweight contenders. Ana Godinez was one of the first Canadian wrestlers to qualify for this summer's Paris Olympics.
Sisters Ana (left) and Lupita "Loopy" Godinez are shown during a workout in Las Vegas in a March 18, 2024, handout photo. Ana has qualified to represent Canada in wrestling at the Paris Olympics this summer. Older sister Lupita has won her last four fights at strawweight in the UFC. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-UFCEspanol, Juan Cardenas, *MANDATORY CREDIT*

You don't mess with the Godinez sisters.

Lupita (Loopy) Godinez has won four straight in the UFC, where she is ranked 10th among strawweight contenders. Ana Godinez was one of the first Canadian wrestlers to qualify for this summer's Paris Olympics. Karla Godinez, a bronze medallist at the 2022 world championships, hopes to join her via a last-ditch qualifier next month in Istanbul.

Sister Mariana is a mother of two. "A different kind of fighter," said Loopy, the oldest of the four at 30.

Mariana is next at 28, followed by Karla (25) and Ana (24).

Loopy was 14 when the family left Mexico for Vancouver. Her father's car business had received threats from a drug cartel so he decided to move the family to safety, telling the kids they were going to Disneyland on vacation.

"It's all true," Loopy said. "I haven't been to Disneyland. I told him he owes me a trip."

Life was hard when the family got to Canada. English was a barrier and money was tight. The family did anything it could to earn money, from dishwashing and babysitting to painting and cleaning houses.

Ana was eight when she arrived in Canada. "It was definitely hard because we didn't have any friends," she said. 

Years later, the family is doing well. And the sisters are excelling at their chosen sports.

"Even though it was really hard, with tears and hard times, I think (coming to Canada) was a good thing," said Loopy.

Having started in judo in Mexico, Loopy returned to the sport in Canada. That led her to jiu-jitsu. But mixed martial arts grabbed her attention when she saw (Rowdy) Ronda Rousey, an Olympic bronze medallist in judo, fight in the UFC.

She found a gym and made her amateur debut in November 2016 (losing a split decision to future UFC fighter Jamey-Lyn Horth).

After winning the LFA strawweight title in October 2020, Loopy got the UFC call, stepping in on short notice to face former strawweight title challenger Jessica Penne in April 2021.

She lost a split decision but went on to fight three more times that year, winning twice. Loopy holds the modern-era record for shortest time between three UFC appearances at 42 days, fighting on Oct. 9, Oct. 16 and Nov. 20 of 2021.

After going 1-1 in 2022, Loopy (12-3-0) continued to put her hand up when asked.

In 2023, she became the first woman to win four UFC fights in a calendar year when she beat Cynthia Calvillo (April 8), Emily Ducotte (May 20), Elise Reed (Sept. 16) and Tabatha (Baby Shark) Ricci (Nov. 11).

"I don't plan on fighting four times (in a year) or whatever, It just happens," Loopy said. "I really enjoy what I do. And I love it. I'm young still and I'm healthy so if I can do it, the time is now." 

Loopy (12-3-0) returns to action Saturday in Atlantic City, N.J., against fifth-ranked Virna (Carcara) Jandiroba (19-3-0), a 35-year-old Brazilian who has won two straight and five of eight in the UFC.

The UFC Fight Night main event pits Erin (Cold Blooded) Blanchfield, ranked second among flyweight contenders, against No. 3 Manon (The Beast) Fiorot of France. Canadian featherweight Kyle (The Monster) Nelson faces (Senor Perfecto) Bill Algeo on the undercard. 

Saturday's bout will be the fifth in a little over a year for Loopy, who holds her fight camps at UFC strawweight champion Alexa Grasso's Lobo Gym in Guadalajara.

"I'm super-happy to be (training) in Mexico. It's part of me," said Loopy, who comes home to Freddy, her Formosan Mountain Dog.

A technically gifted striker, Loopy works on her wrestling with former Canadian Olympian Colin Daynes. In 10 UFC bouts, she has fought off 25 of 29 takedown attempts.

Ana booked her ticket to Paris at the recent Pan American Olympic Games qualifier in Acapulco, Mexico., rallying from 3-0 down to defeat Brazil's Lais Nunes in the 62-kilogram division. She did it despite being sidelined ahead of the tournament by a concussion.

An accomplished rugby player (she played fullback and flanker) with dreams of making the national team, she took up wrestling in Grade 11 thinking it would help her tackling skills.

"I remember winning my very first match (in a novice tournament) … but when I lost is when I wanted to take it more seriously, when I wanted to start training more," Ana recalled. 

"I was like, 'I need to join a club. I need to beat this girl.'"

Ana, whose coach is former Olympic wrestler Dave McKay, has since won bronze at the 2019 junior world championships and 2022 under-23 world championships, silver at the 2022 Commonwealth Games and gold at the 2021 U-23 world championships and 2022 senior Pan-American championships.

Karla, who wrestles at 53 or 55 kilograms, took up wrestling the same time as her sister. Both are looking at MMA after wrestling.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 29, 2024.

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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press