The email should have begun by cautioning “Warning: Spoilers Below,” but the news that she had been invited to the UFC was so welcome that Emily Ducote didn’t mind that it stepped on her “where I was when I got the call” story.
“So my manager called my coach and I didn't know about it. It was supposed to be a little surprise, but then I got an email about it and kind of ruined the surprise.
“So I found out via email then I asked my coach, ‘What is going on here?’ and he was like ‘Dang it, we were going to tell you later, but you have a fight in six weeks in New York.’”
That fight, set to open the prelims Saturday at UFC Long Island, has her stepping in to replace Brianna Fortin0 against women’s MMA pioneer Jessica Penne, and Ducote is suitably still quite happy about it.
“Super excited. Really excited. It was good timing because sometimes they call you on super short notice. So I was really excited that I had six weeks, which is plenty of time in my mind. It's short notice, not short-short notice. Not too short, not too long. Really excited.”
Not that shorter notice would have blunted her enthusiasm. Ducote lives to train, and outside of the occasional dog rescue, you can usually find her working on her craft.
“I really like to live the lifestyle. I don't like to go out and do a whole bunch of other things. In camp or not in camp, I'm pretty much in the gym.”
The commitment has paid dividends for the 28-year-old Oklahoman, who arrives to the UFC on the back of winning and defending the strawweight title at Invicta FC. Despite the measurable success, she admits the road to compiling her 11-6 pro record hasn’t always been a smooth one.
“It was pretty hard. I had a lot of hard fights and then I was able to move over to Invicta and got the belt there, so I was able to defend that and then we got the call. So, it was a long, difficult journey here, but I'm really excited and, more recently, I feel like everything has really fallen into place.
“I had a really good time in Invicta because I had a lot of great matchups. I did a lot of growing there. I feel like I reinvented myself quite a bit there in those five fights that I had. So I do feel like I really sharpened up in my past couple of years with them. I’m really excited to have gotten that belt and made the move over here.”
With a childhood background in taekwondo and, eventually, wrestling, she found MMA in her early twenties, inspired by athletes she saw on television.
“There were a lot of girls that I watched when I was kind of amateur getting into it. I pretty much watched every single girls’ fight on any show.
“Obviously, Invicta and UFC had the best, the highest level of athletes. So I'm very familiar with all those girls. But you know, Rose [Namajunas], Tecia [Torres], Michelle Waterson all those girls that came up through Invicta…I really enjoyed watching at the time.”
There was another name, too, the one she’ll be facing Saturday: Jessica Penne.
“I've watched her. She's kind of in that group of people that I watched come up through Invicta and make their way in the UFC. So I'm very familiar with her and I am really excited to be able to fight somebody like her because I feel like she's very technical and that's the type of fight I like. There's different types of fights, there's a more brawling style and then there's a very technical style, and I view her as a technical opponent, which excites me.”
There’s an undeniable similarity in the fighters’ résumés: both vets spent time in Bellator. Both are former Invicta champs. Both are BJJ black belts. If Penne has a decade or so more in the experience department, Ducote doesn’t seem to be worried about it.
“I'm looking to go out there and show a full set of skills and to be as sharp and technical as possible.”
Win or lose, Ducote will mark the occasion the same way she does at the conclusion of every fight: with a donut. Her dessert of choice even resulted in her fighter nickname.
“So “Gordinha” is Portuguese, and my coach is Brazilian. It basically means “little chunky.” When I walked into the gym, I was a little chunky and I like donuts,” she laughs. “I actually have a donut sponsor in Oklahoma City. So I kind of got a little donut problem, but, more recently, I have it under control. But when I was first starting out it was a little bit of a battle.”
I start to ask her favorite flavor, but she cuts me off before I can finish.
Straight off the bat?
UFC Fight Night: Ortega vs Rodriguez, took place live from the UBS Arena in Long Island, New York on July 16, 2022. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards, and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC FIGHT PASS!