Power couple: Fighting a family affair for UFC's Mark and Montana De La Rosa

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 10: Mark De La Rosa (C) poses for a post fight portrait with his wife Montana (L) backstage during the UFC Fight Night event inside Pepsi Center on November 10, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

It’s been an eventful eight months for Montana De La Rosa, who hasn’t fought since a June 22, 2019, loss by decision to Andrea Lee in Greenville, South Carolina, but who has been anything but idle.

Not long after the loss to Lee, she decided to correct a long-standing problem. Every time she got tapped in the nose, it would bleed profusely, which usually isn’t that good for a professional fighter.

“It always looked worse than it was,” De La Rosa said of her bloody noses. “Anytime I was touched in the nose, there it went and blood was everywhere.”

She had surgery to correct that and so, while she was at it, she had surgery on her arm. Her ulnar nerve was displaced, so the surgeon moved it.

A return from surgery is always difficult, but there has been one bright spot for the UFC flyweight when she takes on Mara Romero Barella on the main card of UFC Fight Night in Rio Rancho, New Mexico.

Her husband, Mark, has been at her side throughout the process. Mark De La Rosa is not just another supportive husband, though. He’s also a UFC fighter, and will fight Raulian Paiva in the show’s opening bout.

That scheduling is no accident. Montana usually corners Mark and Mark usually corners Montana. She won’t be able to corner her husband since she’ll have a fight upcoming, but he wanted to get his fight over with so he’ll be able to work with her.

They met at a jiu-jitsu gym. Mark was teaching a class when he saw the then-17-year-old Montana walk in.

“I remember the day she came in,” he told Yahoo Sports. “I saw this really pretty girl come in but after that, I didn’t pay too much attention to it and went back to what I was doing.”

Montana, who had a child, Zaylyn, when she was a 15-year-old high school student, has vivid memories of the day, as well. She’d brought her daughter with her to the gym and when she spied Mark, she was impressed.

Though Montana was a wrestler in high school, she didn’t know jiu-jitsu and wanted to learn.

“I remember seeing him doing jiu-jitsu and I was like, ‘Wow, this guy is really good,’” she said. “I thought he was a talented guy and I wanted to learn from him.”

She approached him and asked to roll with him. Mark soon began to coach her.

She first began to develop feelings for him when she saw how he treated her daughter.

“He was so sweet the way he interacted with her,” Montana said. “He was coaching kids’ classes and I loved the way he treated those kids. Things kind of went from there.”

Being married provides some built-in advantages because there is always another fighter in the house who understands what you are thinking. 

Fighters often say that lay people can’t possibly understand what they’re going through unless they have experienced it themselves. It’s difficult for a non-fighter spouse to provide the kind of support that a spouse who is a fighter can, because there is a much deeper understanding of the emotions involved and the issues fighters deal with.

They both say they love having someone they can talk with and share their concerns.

“Like any couple, we’re there for each other, of course,” Mark said. “But when you both fight, there is a different kind of connection and understanding there. Media, fans, people who don’t fight, they don’t really get it and don’t understand what it’s like to go in there and do what we do.”

Each of the De La Rosas has a bit of pressure on them heading into this fight. Mark is 11-3 overall in MMA, but 2-3 in the UFC and has dropped his last two bouts, to Alex Perez and Kai-Kara France. Montana is 10-5 overall and 3-1 in the UFC, but is coming off of that loss to Lee.

“He’s really ready and I can see he has that look in his eye,” Montana said of Mark. “He’s really trained hard and I expect him to really be amazing. He always takes such tough fights, but I am sure he’s going to put on a good show in this one.”

Mark feels that as good as Montana has been, she’s only begun to scratch the surface of her potential. They had a new wrestling coach in camp and Mark believes it will make a huge difference in Montana’s performance.

He believes she has a lot of raw talent and that she hasn’t displayed everything she’s got yet.

“She’s going to be 25 [on Friday], and she’s still young in this sport,” Mark said of Montana. “She’s learning every day. I’m so impressed with how every day she picks something else up. You can just see it. She made it to a high-level really fast, but she’s still on the rise. She has so much potential and I think she’s going to do a lot of good things in this sport.”

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