FIGHT NIGHT!

10 hard-hitting questions for Houston-based MMA fighter 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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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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