There’s been plenty of instances of fighters suffering the ill effects of elevation inside the cage.
We all of course know the cautionary tale of Cain Velasquez losing his heavyweight title, but he’s not alone in the struggle.
With this weekend’s card nearly a mile and a half above sea level in Mexico City, there are plenty of fighters who have gone the extra mile to prepare. Perhaps none of them is more dedicated to making sure their cardio is on point than Sijara Eubanks, who went south of the border a full two weeks before the fight.
“We’re up higher than Mexico City right now, so we’re definitely checking that box as far as preparing for that altitude,” Eubanks explains of her work in Zacatecas, Mexico (a city even higher than Mexico City). “So when I go down to Mexico City, I’m going to be real confident in my lungs.”
That aspect of her training was one of the ones that was most important to her. So important, in fact, that she had to make some sacrifices in order to achieve it.
“It’s one of the reasons I came out a little early, I miss my camp back home,” she shared. “But I think it was really important for me to keep that cardio because I always want to put my best foot forward coming into the cage.”
And although there is no doubt to her that she made the right choice for her fight camp, that doesn’t mean her whole team agrees. Coach Mark Henry is one who thinks she may have taken off a bit too soon and could have instead stayed with him just a little longer.
“He thought I left a little bit too early - he wanted some more time with me,” she said, then recalling a joke he told about her choice. “He’s funny. He said ‘Did the Denver Broncos go 8-0 at home? Altitude isn’t that big of a deal - you should have stayed home with me a little longer.”
But even though he may not have agreed with the decision 100%, she and Henry continue to work together on a daily basis to get her ready for her big fight.
“He teased me a little bit, but I talk to Mark every day,” Eubanks said. “Any time I spar, I get the film and send it back to him. We’re constantly in contact about how the training is going, how’s my body feeling.”
Eubanks feels like her time with Henry is paying big dividends, even with her on the other side of the continent completely.
I think he’s an absolute legend. He is an absolute genius. I think his intelligence in how he knows how to break down film, how to prepare a gameplan, and how to make each fighter he has in his camp better - I think he’s just the best at it,” she said. “He’s the hardest working coach I’ve ever been under.”
We’ll see those benefits of working at elevation, and with the highly touted coach, when Eubanks steps in this weekend against Bethe Correia at UFC on ESPN+. The fight will air on the preliminary portion of the card.