One day when Mariya Agapova hurt her ankle at American Top Team, her manager Alex Davis brought her over to his house, since she was going to train later on in the afternoon.
Davis took a nap, and his wife told him that Agapova was looking for a knife.
“The next thing I noticed, she got her coach on video, showing her how to bleed her ankle. An ancient method to prevent or cure the body,” Davis said. “She comes from Pavlodar, Kazakhstan. A very poor and very faraway place.”
Kazakhs carried the tradition of bleeding as an alternative to medicine. If someone has a Hematoma, they would cut it to release the blood.
“In my country medicine sucks. Doctors leave to other countries because they pay more. People use medicine like this [bleeding],” Agapova said. “I used medicine like this too, because I didn’t have good opportunities, so I healed it myself.”
Agapova decided to train kickboxing at 9 years old, after the constant violence she endured, growing up in her hometown of Pavlodar.
“I would go to school and everybody would beat me up there, and on the street. I would go home and my parents would beat me up as well,” Agapova said. “I got to a place that I had to defend myself.”
“My father died when I was 11 years old, and my mother worked all day. I hanged out a lot in the streets with guys, fighting them and just making adventures.”
The Kazakh flyweight had aspirations to represent Kazakhstan in the Olympic Games. She competed in amateur boxing for seven years but never got called up for tournaments. Instead, the national team’s coaches would only ask her to be part of their camps to help other fighters for their upcoming fights.
“No one didn’t give me an opportunity because they saw me as a no-name. The national team was full of corruption and politics,” Agapova said. “So, I was pissed off and switched to MMA. After three fights, they called me back, but I said f-ck those b-tches and decided to stay in MMA.”
The UFC flyweight came to the U.S for an opportunity on Dana White’s Contender Series. After her loss to Tracy Cortez, she joined Invicta FC and earned two first-round finishes.
Kazakhstan’s Agapova found success in the cage but struggled in her finances. She wasn’t receiving sponsorships at the time. Instead, she had to sell drawings and paintings just to have some money in her pocket.
“Those were crazy times. I almost couldn’t sleep nor eat, losing my mind and then the UFC signed me,” Agapova said. “Now my life means something. I have no more worries.”
After a couple of bout cancellations, Agapova will finally make her UFC debut when she meets Hannah Cifers in the prelims of UFC Fight Night: Eye vs Calvillo.