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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Return of ‘La Mamba’: Unbeaten Spokane MMA fighter Melissa Amaya goes for her seventh win on Saturday

By Charlotte McKinley The Spokesman-Review

Unbeaten Spokane fighter Melissa Amaya will have more than momentum on her side when she fights France’s Samantha Jean-Francois on Combate Global’s fourth all-women’s fight card in Miami on Saturday.

“I’m excited to have a bunch of strong, feminine energy around me,” said Amaya, who has won all six of her previous fights.

Amaya, who has fought five of her six fights at 125 pounds, is making the move down to the strawweight limit of 115 for the second time – a strategic move by coach Rick Little.

“I actually didn’t plan on fighting at 125 until Rick told me to just to get my feet wet with fighting,” Amaya said. “But 115 was always the goal.”

Her last fight in 2023 came at 125 against fellow Spokane fighter Gillian Noll, which ended in a majority decision win for Amaya, known as “La Mamba.” That victory came at a cost, though, as Amaya broke her right hand during the fight.

“It wasn’t like some of those basic fractures you get,” Little said. “Her hand was broken all the way through the lead knuckle.”

As a full-time nurse, the broken hand also impacted Amaya’s work.

“I was able to do literally everything, I just had to do it with my left hand,” Amaya said.

“I had a lot of help from my co-workers … they were literally my right hand.”

Amaya kept pushing through and continued training during the healing process.

“In MMA, there’s so much stuff to work on,” Little said, mentioning how they still worked on her grappling. “You just learn to compensate.”

Five weeks before what would be her seventh fight in October, Amaya again broke her hand in training.

“We were going light,” Amaya said. “I didn’t hit hard at all.”

It took Amaya a few days to get an X-ray to confirm the break.

“I was in denial … there’s no way that I really broke it,” Amaya said. “Sure enough, it was a clean break.”

Months later, she’s back. With a minimum 12 weeks for a bone to fully heal, “La Mamba” is ready to extend her win streak against Jean-Francois (8-7).

“I love the matchup,” Little said. “(Jean-Francois) always goes for the kill.”

The reigning strawweight champion of French MMA promotion Hexagone, Jean-Francois has won six of her eight professional fights by submission.

This doesn’t worry Amaya.

“Grappling is what I’m comfortable with,” Amaya said. “My first few competitions when I first got into MMA were through jiu-jitsu.”

As a veteran fighter, Jean-Francois has more cage experience than Amaya – especially since Amaya has no amateur fights under her belt.

“In normal settings we’d be talking about her (professional) debut right now,” Little said. “Instead, we’re talking about (professional) titles.”

Raised in El Paso, Texas, the 5-foot-4 Amaya moved to Spokane in 2021 and started her fighting career here. She is ranked the No. 21 pound-for-pound North American female fighter, according to Tapology. Half of Amaya’s wins have come by decision, two by submission and one by knockout.

“You’ll see not only a girl that’s very difficult to beat, but I think you’ll see a more revamped skill set and just a tad bit sharper,” Little said of Amaya.

Also 5-4, Jean-Francois is coming off a decision loss after a four-fight win streak. Ranked No. 3 out of 91 pound-for-pound French female fighters, according to Tapology, “Spicy,” as she is known, will prove to be a challenge for Amaya.

“(Jean-Francois is) a brawler. She’s really good,” Amaya said. “She’s been fighting since before I started training, but that doesn’t bother me.”

A win against Jean-Francois could propel Amaya into title contention for Combate Global.

“Even in the women’s division, back in the (older) UFC days, girls would have to win two or three fights in a row to get a title shot,” Little said.

“(Amaya) hasn’t even fought outside Combate and she’s (6-0). To me, she’s already the champion.”

Little previoulsy talked about getting Amaya to the UFC, but both fighter and coach are comfortable with Combate Global.

“They’ve been a family, (and) they’ve taken care of me,” Amaya said. “Combate is my home.”

Starting pay for the UFC is comparable to what Amaya is receiving now, according to Little. It would not make sense to move.

“Everybody thinks the grass is always greener, but if someone (is) treating you right, then it might not be greener right now,” Little said.

According to Little, Amaya could soon become the face of Combate Global.

But first, “La Mamba” needs a win Saturday.

“There’s no way this fight goes to a decision,” Little said. “Spokane should be excited.”

Combate Global: Amaya vs. Jean-Francois can be watched from the Univision Studios in Miami on Saturday on Fuse at 9 p.m.