Polyana Viana: Brazilian crime-fighting Instagram star aims for return to winning ways inside the cage at UFC 248
Viana, 27, made headlines far beyond the bounds of MMA circles after she fought off a would-be mugger in Rio de Janeiro in January of last year.
Viana drew on her combat skills to take the assailant down with two punches and a kick before subduing him in a choke hold until police arrived.
Viana was hailed for her bravery as she made news around the world – not least when UFC boss Dana White shared images on his social media accounts of the damage the fighter had done to the man who tried to rob her.
The Brazilian strawweight contender saw her online fame surge in the ensuing period – her Instagram count currently stands at 472,000 followers – but also revealed recently that she had come in for criticism over the incident.
"I felt it was cool to show women that we are able to defend ourselves, but I also faced a lot of criticism," Viana told CNN.
"I ignored most of it, it was my life that was in danger and I feel like I did the right thing.
"Doing the right or the wrong thing, there will always be criticism. Overall, all the attention was really good for me."
Nicknamed ‘Dama de Ferro’ – which translates as ‘The Iron Lady’ – Viana has fought twice since the incident, but her rise in fame outside the cage has not been accompanied by success inside of it.
Viana lost to America’s Hannah Cifers via split decision at UFC 235 last March before being submitted in the first round by Veronica Macedo of Venezuela at UFC Fight Night 156 back in August.
That means the Brazilian 115lbs prospect is on a three-fight skid heading into this weekend’s match-up with America's Emily Whitmore on the undercard at UFC 248 in Las Vegas.
At 3-1 in the UFC (and 10-4 overall), Viana knows this is potentially a pivotal moment in her future with the promotion as she aims to return to the win column against Whitmore – who owns a 2-2 record in the UFC and is 4-3 overall.
Despite her recent woes in the octagon, Viana says she is still fixated on reaching the summit of a division currently ruled by China’s Zhang Weili – who just so happens to put her belt on the line this Saturday night against former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk in the co-main event of UFC 248.
"I'm really confident. I want to be the UFC champion. That is my focus and I can't wait to make it happen. I'm working really hard," Viana told CNN.
"I'm training everything and will be ready for anything. I completely believe that I can win. I'll try to impose my game plan and try to finish this fight as quickly as possible."
While Viana has already made headlines that few in her position could have imagined through her crime-fighting exploits outside the cage, the Brazilian will now want to ensure she makes them for her actions inside it. Starting this Saturday night in Las Vegas.