“It was the dopest s*** I’ve yet to do.”
Tracy Cortez has a fight on one of the year’s biggest pay-per-views Saturday at UFC 274: Oliveira vs Gaethje, but she’s still buzzing about another Phoenix-centric sports phenomenon. As you might have heard, the Phoenix Suns are in the NBA’s Western Conference semifinals, and during game one earlier this week, they honored Cortez during the popular ‘Go The Gorilla’ slam dunk demonstration in the Footprint Center where she’ll fight Melissa Gatto this weekend.
“It was a dream come true, being a girl from Maryvale here--born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona--and just being a little kid and looking at the arena and the people coming in and out of here, I was like, ‘Damn, man, I want to be there one day.’ To have the Suns invite me out and be on that floor…it was an amazing experience. I had like a natural high all night and I was struggling to sleep, but nevertheless, it was amazing.”
And, of course, as she sat there taking in the game, she couldn’t help visualizing her own moment under the bright lights later that week.
“I was walking out from the back, and I was just imagining the crowd. The crowd was full, everybody was yelling--not for me, it was for the Suns game--but I felt the energy and I'm like, ‘Dude, this is how it's going to feel when I walk out,’” she recalls, genuinely excited by the thought.
“When I found out that UFC was coming here to Phoenix and that the card was stacked, I was pushing for it. I really wanted to fight on this card.”
Manifesting dreams and making them a reality is something of a specialty of Cortez. From becoming a prizefighter to honor her late brother, to winning a UFC contract on Dana White’s Contender Series, to her perfect 3-0 start in the promotion, the flyweight has figured out how to get things done.
Beating Gatto will be the next task she tries to get done, and it won’t exactly be a walk in the park. Like Cortez, the Brazilian is undefeated in her time at the UFC, finishing both her opponents by TKO. But Cortez knows that the quest of both fighters to stay perfect is a recipe for an epic scrap.
“She's a tough opponent. She has great skills. We have similar fighting styles. I know we're going to put on a show. It's a great card.
“I get asked, ‘Are you excited to give her her first loss?’ I'm not looking at it that way. I'm just looking at it as: I refuse to lose. I'm not going to lose.”
It will be a moment made all the sweeter by the capacity crowd, many of them hometown family and friends cheering her name this time instead of Chris Paul’s.
“I know it's going to sound corny, but we really are what we set our minds to, you know? I set my mind that I was going to do this, and even though I didn't believe it, I kept telling myself that I told myself I'm going to fight in this arena. I'm going to fight in my hometown. I'm going to make my people proud.
“Not to get into too much detail, but my life has been a roller coaster. I remember telling my friends, and even my family, things that I expected and see for my future, what I wanted. And they would laugh at me. My own family would laugh at me like, ‘Oh my God, come on, get over yourself.’
They’re not laughing anymore; they’re rallying around her.
“To still be able to achieve what I'm achieving and to do what I'm doing…I am blown away. I'm just blown away at the way my life has played out.”
UFC 274: Oliveira vs Gaethje took place on Saturday, May 7, 2022, live from a sold out Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses — and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!