Jharley Reyes is ready for her closeup. The woman who made quick work of a male opponent at age 17 will make her professional debut for Combate Global four years after fight fans spotted her tapping out a boy in an amateur mixed martial arts fight.
Back in 2018, Reyes was paired up with a male opponent in an amateur fight. It was a last-minute arrangement after the girl she was supposed to face never showed up, but Reyes made the most of the unusual circumstance. She avoided wild kicks and punches, executed a well-timed takedown and secured a quick rear-naked choke.
"Before going into that fight, I had seven previous fights without losing. I was on a winning streak. I was meant to be fighting another girl but, unfortunately, during the tournament, that girl couldn't arrive because she lived very far away," Reyes told CBS Sports through a translator. "They found me an opponent and the only opponent that was left was a boy who was the same weight. They decided to let me fight and the only condition was that this boy was not going to be subtle. He was going to do his best to fight me. I knew this boy was not good at jiu-jitsu. I didn't even get touched by this guy. He had nothing on me. My parents were very excited and, at that point, they were super confident that I was meant to be doing this professionally."
Her parents' encouragement was a full-circle moment for Reyes. Her initial forays into jiu-jitsu and boxing were kept from her mother as Reyes feared that she would not approve. Despite her success against a male opponent, Reyes warns against the premise of men and women competing against each other MMA. She hopes, however, that her story encourages other women to chase their combat sports dreams.
"I feel like there are a lot of stereotypes surrounding women inside the MMA community," she said. "I feel like women are treated like little girls and they are very excluded from real competition because guys tend to think that women can't really accomplish championships. I feel my story is an example of how you don't need to be stronger than your opponent but you have to be smarter. I didn't win because I was stronger. I won because I was smarter than my opponent. I think women should compete more often and have more confidence to go out there and try to accomplish bigger things inside the MMA community. I hope my story can really speak to that."
Reyes will make her professional debut against fellow debutant Melissa Gomez at Combate Global's show on Friday, May 20.