After arriving late to her kickboxing class eight years ago, Jessica Aguilar decided to try a Brazilian jiu-jitsu lesson instead. A few days later, she won her first match, and a month after that, she fought in her first MMA tournament. Now, at the age of 31, she's the #1 ranked female MMA fighter in the world in her class, and will compete in her first world title championship.
From a struggling twenty-something to a professional athlete, Aguilar is living her dream and making six figures a year doing it.
"I've always been an athlete since childhood, but when you grow up and you get into the real world, you feel like you can never be a professional athlete anymore," Aguilar tells the Good News Blog. "You think your dreams can't come true."
Aguilar, who's based in Miami, had been a part-time model and actress, hoping for a career in Hollywood. After taking up the sport as a pastime, and almost instantly catching onto the moves, she left her old career behind and began earning money in the ring. Promoters saw the young athlete fight and win, and began inviting her to matches. Her good looks, agility and athleticism took her very far, very fast.
At present, Aguilar has competed in 21 tournaments, averaging between two and four a year. She trains up to eight hours a day, six days a week, and eats a clean diet that consists mostly of vegetables and proteins.
"A lot of times the training is the hard part, and the fighting is the easy part," she comments. "The thing about this sport is that it has evolved into four or five different sports all comprised into one."
Perhaps even more remarkably, Aguilar is the first lesbian in MMA, and after breaking the news to Sports Illustrated several years ago, she's made it her mission to focus on helping people and inspiring others with her story.
"I am very proud of who I am," Aguilar explains. "I want to empower females and let them know, wherever you are coming from, whatever is going on in your life, you can accomplish your dreams."
If Aguilar's story proves anything, it's that even running late could work out in your favor.
"I was a girl that was just working out to stay in shape, like a lot of other girls, and that evolved in literally three days to competing," she says. "I started out like every other average girl in the gym taking a kickboxing class."