10 hard-hitting questions for Houston-based MMA fighter Jessica Aguilar

Jessica Aguilar
Don't miss the action this Wednesday night!Photo via: XFC

The co-main event of XFC 43 will feature Houston-based fighter Jessica "Jag" Aguilar returning to action against Danielle Taylor, Wednesday night at The Tabernacle in Atlanta. The two women will throw down at 115 pounds. This will mark the first XFC card in more than four years as the fighting world attempts to seek out fighters for the next generation of MMA.

Aguilar grew up in Pozarica Veracruz, Mexico, made her professional fighting debut in 2006 and has served as a pioneer for women's MMA while fighting in WSOF, Bellator, UFC and now XFC. She has rung up 20 wins worldwide during her reign as strawweight champion. Aguilar is not only an inspiration to female MMA fighters, but a leader for the LGBTQ community.

Wednesday will mark Aguilar's first fight in two years since signing an exclusive, multi-year contract with XFC in October. The two parties are confident it will be a successful partnership.

"Jessica Aguilar is a true icon of MMA, and we couldn't be more excited to see her back in action in the XFC Hexagon. Jessica has accomplished so much, but she came to us hungrier than ever. She's going to be tested as a world-class athlete at XFC, and we believe she'll once again rise to the occasion," XFC President Myron Molotky said.

Aguilar has been training with Bob Perez, co-owner of Main Street Boxing and Muay Tai in Houston. SportsMap caught up with Aguilar for a quick 10 questions before Wednesday's bout.

SportsMap: Was it your dream as a child to become a professional fighter?

Jessica Aguilar: Never in my wildest dreams. It's a wild story that I just fell into place, and I became a world champion! I did dream of becoming a professional athlete, doctor or movie star.

SM: Where do you find the drive to continue to fight at 38 years old?

JA: My love for this sport drives me! It's that feeling you get when you're in the ring. It's the best feeling ever.

SM: Is professional fighting your only job?

JA: Yes, currently. However, I also teach self-defense classes, commentate and just got my licenses to do EP work (executive protection).

SM: What are the ups and downs you've faced being a pioneer for the LGBTQ community in MMA?

JA: There are so many ups. One of those is getting awarded by GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) in NYC for being me. As for the downs, I ignore them and use it as fuel which led me to becoming the best in the world. I'm just honored to be representing the LGBTQ on my platform.

SM: What does your training day schedule look like?

JA: Monday-Saturday. 6-10 hours a day. My training consists of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, boxing, Muay Thai, wrestling and strength and conditioning.

SM: What do you eat on fight day?

JA: A good hearty breakfast followed by a clean lunch with good carbs and protein. I also snack on fruit throughout the day.

SM: What unfinished business do you have to take care of on November 11?

JA: The unfinished business is to show myself that I still got “it" by finishing my opponent in a dominant fashion.

SM: Favorite takedown move?

JA: The single leg takedown.

SM: What does your body feel like the day after a brutal fight?

JA: Like a truck hit me.

SM: How have you managed to avoid cauliflower ear?

JA: I have small ears and I am very good at protecting them.

You can follow Jessica Aguilar on Twitter @jagatt and watch XFC 43 LIVE on NBC Sports Network this Wednesday night.

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The NBA Draft takes place this Wednesday and Thursday. Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images.

This year's NBA draft features potential starters and valuable role players more so than no-doubt future stars. That becomes evident when looking at the headlining prospects among big men.

French teenager Alexandre Sarr from France could go No. 1 overall with his length and defensive potential, key reasons why he has thrice topped the AP's NBA mock draft. Meanwhile, Donovan Clingan from two-time reigning national champion UConn also will likely be a high pick as a rim-protecting force.

It's just unclear how quickly any will be ready for a leading role in the league, particularly offensively.

Here's a look at some of the top players in the position:

Alexandre Sarr, France

STRENGTHS: The athleticism, mobility and length offer significant upside at both ends of the court for the 7-footer, whether as a rim protector and versatile defender or as a rim-runner off pick-and-rolls for lobs on offense. Sarr, 19, spent two seasons with the Overtime Elite developmental program for top prospects in the United States, then last season with Perth in the Australian-based National Basketball League as part of its “Next Stars” program. He ranked tied for second there by averaging 1.5 blocks despite averaging just 17.3 minutes.

He finished strong by averaging 10.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and 1.3 assists in his last six games with Perth. He also ranked among the best at the combine with a wingspan of better than 7-4.

CONCERNS: He'll need time to add bulk to a lean 224-pound frame and handle the rigors of an NBA season. Developing more consistent 3-point range (he shot 29% in the NBL last season) will be key to fully realizing his defense-stretching potential.

Donovan Clingan, UConn

STRENGTHS: He is big, strong and surprisingly nimble for his imposing 7-2, 282-pound frame, which made him an interior shot-blocking force in the Huskies' run to college basketball's first repeat men's title in 17 years. He ranked eighth in Division I by averaging 2.5 blocks per game despite playing just 22.6 minutes, then had some massive games in the NCAA Tournament. That included eight blocks and 14 rebounds in the second-round win against Northwestern, followed by 22 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks in a regional final against Illinois (the Illini were 0 for 19 on Clingan-challenged shots ) and four more swats against Alabama in the Final Four.

The 20-year-old sophomore runs the floor well despite his bulk and is a strong finisher. He also was tied for first at the combine in standing reach (9-7) and was second in wingspan (nearly 7-7).

CONCERNS: It's unclear how well he might handle switches to defend outside the paint in space. While he shot nearly 64% to rank among the national leaders, he has rarely had to produce much outside of the paint. He also shot just 55.8% from the line in two seasons.

Kel'el Ware, Indiana

STRENGTHS: The 20-year-old sophomore has flashed intriguing two-way potential to make himself a first-round prospect, first in a season at Oregon and then last year at Indiana. He averaged 15.9 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks last season as a starter for the Hoosiers. He made 17 of 40 3-pointers (.425), indicating the potential for growth in terms of pulling defenders outside.

The 7-footer has a nearly 7-5 wingspan and tested well at the NBA combine by ranking second among bigs in the lane agility test (second at 10.97 seconds) and shuttle run (second, 2.91).

CONCERNS: He'll need to add strength to his 230-pound frame and improve at the line, where he shot just 63.4% last year.

Kyle Filipowski, Duke

STRENGTHS: The 6-11, 230-pound sophomore could play either forward or center as a first-round prospect. He was a steady producer by averaging 15.8 points and 8.6 rebounds with the Blue Devils. He also more than doubled his shot-blocking totals last year (54, up from 26 as a freshman) when having to work as Duke's interior anchor after Dereck Lively II's departure for the NBA. He has shown improved mobility and footwork after surgery on his hips before last season, and he has improved as an outside shooter (34.8% from 3 last year, up from 28.2% in 2022-23).

CONCERNS: Filipowski isn't an elite athlete, so he could be vulnerable defensively in space as well as struggle against physical play. He slipped at the foul line last year, shooting just 67.1% after checking in at 76.5% as a freshman.

Others of Note

—ZACH EDEY: The 7-4, 299-pound Purdue center is a two-time Associated Press men’s college basketball player of the year who led the Boilermakers to last year’s NCAA title game as the national scoring leader (25.2) and Division I’s No. 2 rebounder (12.2). He closed his career with 37 points in the title-game loss to UConn. He has a ridiculous wingspan of nearly 7-11 to go with the ability to shoot over any defender. There is uncertainty whether the first-round prospect is athletic enough to handle defensive switches or guarding in space.

—DARON HOLMES II: The 6-9, 236-pound junior from Dayton spent the past two seasons putting up big numbers, averaging 19.3 points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting 56.7%. He also hit 38.6% of his 3s last year and averaged 2.1 blocks for his college career. The Atlantic 10 co-player of the year and league defensive player of the year could go in the back half of the first round, though he is a bit undersized among bigs.

—YVES MISSI: The 6-11, 229-pound center from Baylor came on as the season went on as a one-and-done prospect with bouncy athleticism, helping him finish at the rim (61.4% shooting) and block shots (1.5). That could make him a pick-and-roll or lob threat in the pros, though the 20-year-old from Cameroon will have to expand his offense beyond those crowd-charging dunks and improve at the line (61.6%).

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