Jessica Delboni found herself on the receiving end of one of 2021’s most controversial decisions when vying for her first Invicta FC title.
The Brazilian atomweight sensation co-main evented Invicta’s first event on AXS TV in May opposite champion, Alesha Zappitella. A loss by split decision left Delboni dejected after feeling she was the rightful 105-pound queen without her crown.
“I wasn’t happy, I was tired,” Delboni told MyMMANews. “I told my coach I don’t want to fight anymore, no more in Brazil, not here [in Kansas City], I need rest, I need the time now. But he said, ‘No! [Invicta President] Shannon [Knapp] is asking if you want to fight in the tournament in two weeks. Before you give up, please fight in the tournament. If you lose the first fight, okay. I will side with you, go rest. But if you win, okay, train again, go rest, and we fight for the belt.'”
The pressure from friends, family, and fans ultimately got the better of the Vila Velha native as Delboni picked herself up and took the offer her coach presented her with.
A matter of weeks later and Delboni went from arguably becoming champion without obtaining the title, to having to re-earn her spot by defeating three fighters in a single night.
The second event of the year for Invicta came in the form of the atomweight Phoenix Tournament on June 11. Eight women were set to battle for supremacy in one night. This time, opening rounds were decided by fan votes with the semifinals continuing the trend of the fastest fighter to finish getting their opponent choice.
Due to the short turnaround, Delboni was forced to quickly study up on her potential roadblocks. Therefore leading to her knowing exactly who she wanted and encouraged everyone she knew to vote for the matchup.
“I wanted to fight with Tabatha [Watkins] for the first fight because she’s teammates with Alesha,” Delboni said. “I was thinking that Tabatha thinks, ‘Oh, Jessica maybe beat my friend…’
“I knew she was tough but it was difficult. After that fight, I had to wait because I didn’t get a finish. I was thinking Lindsey [VanZandt] and I were the most experienced so I thought, okay, we will fight in the finals. She submitted her first girl so now she had her choice.”
The 27-year-old Delboni defeated both Tabatha Watkins and Marissa Messer-Belenchia by unanimous decision en route to a rematch with Invicta favorite, Lindsey VanZandt. Delboni bested the streaking “LVZ” by split judges’ call in what was her second bout in the promotion in August 2019.
Despite having perhaps the most impressive performances in the whole tournament, VanZandt would succumb to her old foe once again.
Delboni turned right around and ran the table as she capped things off with a unanimous decision against VanZandt settling things at 2-0. In the end, it’s one of the rarer cases where the longer path to the ultimate goal may have had some better overall outcomes for Jessica Delboni.
Now, she just awaits her chance to face off with Zappitella once again – hopefully in September or October.
“I thought I won the first round, lost the second round, I won [the rest],” Delboni said of the Zappitella fight. “But I don’t know what the judges saw. I know that the champ has the belt so you need to TKO or submit the champ. But I saw my fight, I think I need to go more [aggressively] and the judges will say ‘It’s you.’
“It’s all God’s plan. Maybe I needed the tournament for my history, I don’t know. I think God did this, he thought, ‘Okay, you need to stay for three weeks.’ It’s funny, but I think my name – everyone’s talking about me now and fighting for that belt. Because a lot of people said ‘You won, you won!’ In an interview with a USA guy, he said I was more famous with my loss than a win – and if I won the tournament, even more famous.”
Drake is an MMA writer based out of Brush Prairie, Washington, USA who specializes in feature pieces, the women’s fight scene, lists, news coverage, and rankings. He has been a passionate fan of MMA ever since 2009. Drake has most notably written for BJPenn.com, FanSided, The Body Lock, South China Morning Post, MyMMANews, WhatCulture, Cageside Press, Sherdog, The Scrap, and MMA Today. He has also written for and created video content for RT Sport. As for other sports, Drake is a longtime fan of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers and Jacksonville Jaguars.
You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @DrakeRiggs_ . Also check out all of his video content on YouTube at YouTube.com/DrakeRiggs where he uploads fighter interviews, podshows, and various other types of content.