World champion fighter blazing trail for women in the MMA

HOUSTON -- ABC Owned Television Stations and ABC's Localish present 50 inspiring stories from around the country for Fifty/50, as part of The Walt Disney Company's monumental initiative highlighting the 50th anniversary of the passing of Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in any educational institution that receives federal funding, and gave women the equal opportunity to play. This story was originally published in July 2021.

When Jessica Aguilar first made her professional fighting debut in 2006, major promotions didn't include women.

More than 15 years later, women headline cards for all major MMA organizations - thanks in part to trailblazing fighters like Aguilar.

Aguilar recalls spending just two months training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu before her first professional fight, which she lost in the second round. But that only inspired her to train harder, and soon she fought her way to the top, racking up 20 wins worldwide. For three years, she reigned as World Series of Fighting strawweight champion.

Aguilar is not just known for her epic cage fights, but as a leader and advocate in the LGBTQ community.

"It's very important for me to be an out and proud athlete," said Aguilar. "Because I'm showing others that it's ok for them to be themselves, and happy as well, and do whatever they decide to do. So I love being a role model for female MMA fighters coming up and for the LGBTQ community. I'm very proud of that."