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Diana Belbita of Romania raises her hands after facing Maria Oliveira of Brazil in their women's strawweight fight during the UFC 289 event at Rogers Arena on June 10, 2023 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
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Diana Belbiţă: 'I’m A Fighter And A Warrior'

Surging Strawweight Contender Diana Belbita Feels Like A Win Over Former Title Challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz Is The Perfect Way To Showcase What Level She’s At

Diana Belbiţă will be the first one to admit that it took her some time to find her footing in the Octagon. 

The 27-year-old Romanian-Canadian failed to notch a victory in each of her first two UFC appearances, which came at flyweight, but she didn’t let those defeats get her down. She took those experiences and combined them with the lessons she was being taught at House of Champions MMA in Ontario to bring a totally different version of “The Warrior Princess” to the Octagon.

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“When I started fighting in UFC I was just a kid,” Belbiţă told UFC.com. “A kid that fought at the wrong weight class, a kid that didn’t know how to cut weight, and a kid that didn’t know how to throw a punch, to be honest.”

Diana Belbita of Romania punches Hannah Goldy in their strawweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on July 24, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Diana Belbita of Romania punches Hannah Goldy in their strawweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on July 24, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

A very raw and inexperienced Belbiţă succeeded in applying some of those lessons in her third fight with the world fight leader, beating Hannah Goldy in her strawweight debut. Her next bout would come against Gloria de Paula in February of 2022 and even though she dropped a close decision, there were plenty of positive takeaways that Belbiţă took away from the fight.

Belbiţă made her return to the Octagon in June of 2023 on the UFC 289 card which took place in Vancouver, Canada. She delivered her most impressive UFC performance to date against Maria Oliveira and earned a unanimous decision victory in front of a packed pro-Canada crowd.

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It was a big moment that helped Belbiţă realize that she’s not only in the UFC, but she truly belongs competing with the best mixed martial artists in the world.

“I needed two years with the right team to improve a lot and to realize what it means to be a fighter and actually become a fighter,” Belbiţă said. “Today, I can say that I’m a fighter and I’m a warrior.”

Diana Belbita of Romania punches Hannah Goldy in their strawweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on July 24, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Diana Belbita of Romania punches Hannah Goldy in their strawweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on July 24, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

“After I fought in Vancouver, I realized that it’s my time to start to shine. It’s my time. It’s now. I feel like I’m not a kid anymore. I’m 27 years old, I’m a woman and I’m a warrior. I fought in Vancouver even though my foot was broken, and even with some other injuries, I realized that if I can do that even if I’m not 100%, I believe I’m capable of great things when I’m 100% ready to fight.”

This weekend, Belbiţă looks to earn her second win in a row when she faces former strawweight title challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC Fight Night: Dawson vs Green. It’s a milestone fight for Belbiţă, who has always admired Kowalkiewicz from afar. 

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The fight came together when Kowalkiewicz mentioned to MMA Junkie that she’d like to fight Belbiţă. That surprised Belbiţă, considering the fact that she’s still just making her name in the UFC.

But, then again, when the opportunity rises, you have to make the most of it.

Diana Belbita of Romania celebrates her victory over Maria Oliveira of Brazil in their women's strawweight fight during the UFC 289 event at Rogers Arena on June 10, 2023 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Diana Belbita of Romania celebrates her victory over Maria Oliveira of Brazil in their women's strawweight fight during the UFC 289 event at Rogers Arena on June 10, 2023 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

“I’m happy that she’s the one that said my name. She’s the one that said she wants to fight me,” Belbiţă said. “Before that, I didn’t really think that I’m at her level, but when she said my name, I was like, ‘Oh, this girl really thinks that I deserve it, so I’ve earned my spot step-by-step.’”

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“I always see in Karolina the heart that she has. Even if she had ups and downs, she never gave up, and even if she had bad times and she had a few losses, one day she said, ‘OK, that’s it; that’s enough. I just need one more chance and I’m going to shine again.’ It’s funny, because at that time I was down, too, and I was losing fights. I was watching her and [feeling] like, ‘If she can do this and be this sweet, cute, ‘fragile,’ I can do the same thing,’ and here I am.”

Belbiţă wouldn’t exactly call Kowalkiewicz her idol, but she’s definitely up there for the budding strawweight contender.

Diana Belbita of Romania kicks Maria Oliveira of Brazil in their women's strawweight fight during the UFC 289 event at Rogers Arena on June 10, 2023 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Diana Belbita of Romania kicks Maria Oliveira of Brazil in their women's strawweight fight during the UFC 289 event at Rogers Arena on June 10, 2023 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

A win over Kowalkiewicz could be Belbiţă’s ticket to the strawweight rankings, but that’s not her main concern. For now, it’s all about living up to her potential, having fun, and loving every bit of the fight game.

“I’m happy to fight her now and I think that’s the proof I’ve leveled up and I’m ready for the top 15,” Belbiţă said. “Right now, I’m not really focused on the rankings. I don’t really care. I still have time and, to be honest, I want to enjoy fighting. I feel like I still have two or three years where I can just have fun with the fights. After that, I will be more focused on the rankings, but of course that means history for me. I would be the first Romanian to go in the top 15, so being in the top 15 would be great.

“I think it’s time to switch generations. I think it’s time for me to level up.”

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UFC Fight Night: Dawson vs Green took place live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 7, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!