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WAKE FOREST — Hannah “Shockwave” Cifers is the only female Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter in North Carolina and she represented her home state well by beating Polyana Viana in a split decision at UFC 235 in the T-Mobile Area in Las Vegas on March 2.
The strawweight fighter defeated her opponent in the early preliminary fight at UFC 235 to improve her overall record to 9-3. Viana had 10 wins under her belt before her bout with Cifers.
“It was a really good fight,” Cifers said. “I was pretty happy with my performance. I kind of messed up my arm in the first round and that wasn’t planned on.”
The most impressive story of the fight was that Cifers won with a broken left arm. With 20 seconds left in the first round, she blocked a kick, which caused the injury. However, she kept fighting for two more rounds and ended the night with a win.
“My arm didn’t hurt at the time, but I knew something wasn’t right,” Cifers said. “I thought it was just a deep bruise. I was hoping that it wasn’t broken, but I still used it.”
Cifers’ trainer and head coach, Joel Garcia, said her performance in the fight against Viana was something he has rarely seen in professional fighting.
“In that fight, Hannah showed heart that I’ve only seen in few other people,” Garcia said. “When she broke her arm, she didn’t ask for the fight to be stopped. There’s not too many people who do that. That shows her commitment. I was very proud of her. Her three months of hard work paid off.”
Cifers lives in the rural area between Oxford and Kittrell. She has been training at Embrace Martial Arts in Wake Forest for the past three months. She said the main reason she joined the academy was to be trained under Garcia.
“Joel is the highest level coach in this area,” Cifers said. “He’s just really good at what he does.”
Cifers used to train with an instructor that Garcia knew, which is how they connected. The 43-year-old mixed martial arts trainer has been involved with the sport since he was 4 years old. He said Cifers was raw when they first met, but knows what she needs to work on to get better.
“Hannah is a hard worker, she listens well and she does anything I ask her to do,” Garcia said. “As a coach, there’s nothing better than that. She has so much more room to improve. She is humble, hungry to learn and willing to do anything to improve.”
Cifers originally got into fighting for self-defense seven years ago. She started training in the Japanese martial art of Jiu Jitsu. Her first professional fight was six years ago and she’s been climbing up the UFC ranks ever since.
Cifers earned her fighter nickname “Shockwave” from her sparring partners, who said her punches sting like a shockwave.
“I just love fighting,” Cifers said. “I enjoy training. It feels good to make it far in the UFC to see where I have come. I plan to fight for as long as I can.”
Garcia has been a mixed martial arts instructor for many years. He started out as a professional fighter and has been involved in competitions on four different continents. He used to work with the top UFC teams near Orlando, Fla.
Garcia sold his fighting academy in Florida and moved to Wake Forest. He started out as a project manager in Cary, but he wanted something more out of life.
Garcia opened Embrace Martial Arts 10 months ago at 1608 Heritage Commerce Court. He now trains almost 100 students.
“I was missing what I’ve been doing for my whole life,” Garcia said. “I left my regular job and opened Embrace Martial Arts. I’m doing what I love. Fighting is not just a hobby for me. My main goal is to share what I know. I have always wanted to be a professional instructor.”
Garcia also trains UFC heavyweight fighter Allen Crowder, who is originally from Burlington. He 10-3 overall and currently training for his next fight at Greenville, South Carolina on June 22.
Cifers said she hopes to be on the title card by then depending on how her broken arm heals up. She will get a report from the doctor within the next couple of weeks to see if she will continue to fight this summer.