Combate Americas is making a run towards widespread popularity. In the second week of September, the organization announced a major broadcast deal for its English speaking viewers. The Latin American based promotion partnered with DAZN, the two will broadcast at minimum 13 Combate Americas events, per year. Before the deal inked for its English broadcast partner, the promotion signed a far more important broadcast deal. Far more important to the organization’s fighters, especially active duty servicewoman, Francis Hernandez.
In March, promotion officials announced a partnership with Univision. Univision, the US Spanish broadcast network, signed a deal with Combate, providing the network with 16 live events in 2018. Of the 16 events to be broadcast on the network, a particular event falls in that space. One very important to Hernandez, her friends, and family.
Combate Americas: Road to Copa Combate, takes place Friday, September 28th from The Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, California. The main card streams live on Univision. Because of the broadcast deal, the family and friends of Francis Hernandez will have the pleasure of watching their favorite MMA fighter compete on television.
“My family in Puerto Rico can actually watch the fight on TV. I think that’s like, I don’t even know how to express those feelings about everybody you grew up with and everybody back home gets to see you making it. We talked about this dream forever and [I’ve] really been fighting for it. I feel like I can show them that this is really happening, you can be proud of me, I am here.”
What makes this so important for the close supporters of Hernandez and herself, is the distance between them. Francis Hernandez was born in Puerto Rico where she spent the entirety of civilian life and childhood. She didn’t leave the US territory until enlisting in the military. The fighter had trained martial arts throughout her childhood but it was a desire for something more that brought her and a friend to a recruiting office.
“I started [with] the military when I was in Puerto Rico. I was in college and I had one of my friends joining. We wanted to do something extra. We wanted to do something that it was going to require being out of our comfort zones and just do something else.”
Hernandez’ lust for a challenge possibly derived from her experience as a martial artist throughout her childhood. She trained Tae Kwan Do from age 6 to 16 when her interests in the fighting arts expanded. Hernandez began working under the disciplines of kickboxing and the advanced art of JKD (Jeet Kune Do). She also worked in a bit of grappling.
Although she worked in a multitude of disciplines, the style she developed wasn’t in the mold of MMA. It wasn’t until she deployed to Iraq in 2009, that MMA became a fixture within her. Other members of her outfit had a real passion for the sport, so much so that it quickly infected Hernandez.
“In 2009 when I got deployed to Iraq, I was lucky enough that there [were] some guys deployed with me in Iraq that they did MMA,” Hernandez told MMASucka. “All the little bit of time off that we had we would get together and start training. I started doing a lot of grappling, a lot of No-Gi.”
Upon returning to Puerto Rico, her experiences overseas brought her to an MMA gym and the realization that military work was what she desired her career to become.
In 2012, Hernandez took an opportunity from the military to relocate in the continental United States. It wasn’t an easy choice to abandon her entire life, family, and friends in Puerto Rico. Yet, what the opportunity provided was a chance at realizing her dream of competing at highest levels of MMA. The relocation brought her to the state of Arkansas.
“One of the main things that I thought about when I moved was pursuing my career on a different level. In Puerto Rico, we have great fighters, great coaches but here in the states, you have the ability to find people who are more in touch with the MMA scene. [People] competing at all these high levels and that’s really who you want to be around. Where you want to go a little bit more. That was one of my big pushes. The army gave me an opportunity to move let’s take it and make it so we can use this in growing our MMA.”
In Arkansas, there was only one gym she wanted to train at. Her coaches from Puerto Rico immediately recommended Westside Fight Team. It didn’t matter where she was stationed, Westside became her gym. When she first settled in Arkansas, in order to stay closer to the gym, Hernandez would drive an hour and a half to work.
“When I first got to Arkansas, I was looking for a gym, one of my coaches in Puerto Rico was like ‘Do not look for any other gym. Go to Westside. You are going to find Roli Delgado there, you have to go there.’ I went there and I made it my home. I used to travel an hour and a half from Little Rock to work. But I wanted to be close to the gym because that’s my place.”
The Road to Copa Combate
Fast-forward six years, past the sweat-drenched days, hectic schedules, and cluttered life, Francis Hernandez co-headlines Friday’s Combate Americas: Road to Copa Combate. At the event, the active duty servicewoman faces undefeated Mexican fighter, Melissa Martinez.
Both are young in their mixed martial arts careers. Martinez holds a 4-0 record to Hernandez’s 3-2 record. It is a matchup featuring two of the best strawweight prospects that Combate Americas has to offer.
“I think she is an amazing fighter. I think she has very good skills, that’s why she’s 4-0. But I also think she hasn’t faced anybody like me before and even if you watch all my previous fights I don’t think none of them look alike. They were all very different fights. I never finished a fighter by submission before, that’s how the last one went down. I got somebody knocked out before. So I feel like, my game is always changing,” Hernandez told MMASucka. “I give her all the props, I think she is really good but being sure of myself I think I am better.”