Teen BJJ Sensation Carolina Vieira on Training With UFC Stars for Jan 29 MMA Debut: “I’m More Than Ready”

Carolina Vieira may only be seventeen, but she’s already earned herself a spot in the growing pantheon of jiu-jitsu’s teen phenoms, having won Mundials gold several times over as she’s progressed through the color belt ranks. Now a purple belt, Vieira has set her sights on the MMA world, where she’ll be making her debut at Fury Fighting 73 on January 29, against 22-year-old Alivia Bierley.

According to Vieira, she takes a lot of inspiration from fellow teen fighting phenomenon and close training partner Raul Rosas Jr., who recently became the UFC’s youngest signee in history. 

“I met [Raul] at a 10th Planet gym where I was training,” Vieira shares with the Jiu-Jitsu Times. At the time, she’d also started training with Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles – as had Rosas. As two elite teens in a field of competitive adults, the pair quickly bonded over common ground. However, Vieira doesn’t let age dictate her attitude in the gym. 

“For me, I don’t really think about [how young I am]. I’ve always been around adults, doing my thing,” she explains. “That feels good, especially because the adult athletes push me.” For Vieira, training with older, more experienced competitors has helped her maintain a steady pace of discipline throughout her career. 

Despite her youth, Vieira – like Rosas – has been hungry for a career in the cage for a long time. Even when she was racking up accolades on the IBJJF majors circuit during her early teens, her mind remained focused on her eventual MMA debut. “When I first started competing in jiu-jitsu, I was always thinking about MMA,” she explains. 

“I never thought I’d just stay in jiu-jitsu. But I started with jiu-jitsu, so that’s my first love, you know? And then I started competing more and more and more, and I started thinking, ‘Okay, time’s getting close for me to do what I really want to do.’ And that’s when I started thinking that it was really time for me to do MMA.” 

As a little girl, Vieira actually started out as a ballerina – but grew impatient with the lack of violence in her dance classes. “I always wanted to throw someone or punch someone,” she recalls with a laugh. Her parents, wisely, quickly enrolled her in martial arts classes at a nearby gym instead. 

How do they feel about raising a daughter who dreams of fighting for a living? “It’s crazy how much they love it now,” says Vieira, smiling widely. “I feel like before, if I told my parents I was going to do MMA, they maybe wouldn’t be so cool about it. But both of my parents love watching MMA, love sports, and always pushed me to do what I wanted to do. 

“So now, when I tell them I want to do MMA, they go, ‘Okay, let’s find a coach for you in MMA, and boxing, and stuff like that.’”

Of course, their support is also tempered by a note of caution. Vieira’s mother, in particular, expresses some trepidation from time to time. “You sure you want to do this?” she’ll ask her daughter from time to time, careful to check in. 

But the answer is always yes. 

Vieira’s father, on the other hand, claims to be more nervous about his daughter’s jiu-jitsu matches than the prospect of her fighting on an MMA promotion. According to Vieira, he always declares that he’s “not nervous” before her matches. “And then he won’t sleep for two days!” she exclaims, giggling. 

Her father is also delighted that his daughter’s combat sports CV to date has frightened off several would-be suitors among the teenage boys in Vieira’s social circle. “My dad is so overprotective of me – so always, whenever someone’s close to me, he wants to know who it is, and who I’m talking to,” says Vieira. She laughs. “And whenever he hears about [guys being intimidated by the fighting], he’s like, ‘Perfect, keep doing what you’re doing.’” 

“I don’t have anything [against guys who don’t fight], but I don’t know if I could ever date a guy like that,” she admits. “Because they’re always like, ‘Oh my god, you fight! Oh my god, you’re buff!’” She pulls a playfully unimpressed expression. “And I think, ‘Ah, never mind.’” 

Vieira credits a great deal of her success to the sheer caliber of talent in the coaches, mentors, and training partners she’s found, the likes of which include two-time UFC flyweight champion Brandon Moreno, current UFC strawweight queen Zhang Weili, and renowned jiu-jitsu coach Hector Vasquez

“I’ve never seen someone who teaches like [Hector Vasquez],” observes Vieira, who has been a student of the “underground coach” since she was only twelve years old. “I’m not just saying that because he’s my coach. It’s crazy how he teaches things, how he explains things, the little details he goes over with you. If you need him to show you something ten times, he’ll go over it with you ten times. It’s crazy how his mindset works.” 

Though Zhang isn’t one of Vieira’s regular training partners, the teenager has relished the opportunity to learn from one of the best women in the game. “I’ve trained with [Zhang] a couple times […] and it was super cool, and she was super nice. It was a pleasure for me to train with the champion, you know?”

As if working with one UFC champ wasn’t enough, she’s also had the good fortune to train with Brandon Moreno almost every day at the gym. “I feel like I’m more than ready for a fight, because I’m training with the best,” Vieira says of the experience. “It’s a pleasure. And I feel very welcome on that team. Everyone helps me a lot, my coaches help me a lot, and I just think, ‘Man, that’s crazy.’ Sometimes, I stop to think about why I’m here, why I’m [training] with these people, and I’m just so happy [to be there].” 

As Vieira grows her career, she aspires to develop the well-rounded, exciting skills of female fighters like Zhang Weili and Valentina Shevchenko. “Everyone at the top, I try to put my head in their mindset. I want to be there, you know?”

She’s also keenly aware of the challenges that follow women in a traditionally male-dominated sport. “I feel like it’s a little harder for a woman,” confides Vieira. “For guys, it’s a little easier to get to that point, to get to the top. For girls, you can get there too, but I feel like it’s a little harder, where you have to work a little more to get there. Everyone has to do the work, but as a woman, I feel like I need to do a little more.”

Vieira, however, is beyond willing to take on that extra challenge. “I’m so excited for my fight – and nervous, since it’s my MMA debut.” She grins. “But I’m ready to do it.” 

Tune into Carolina Vieira’s MMA debut at Fury Fighting 73 on Sunday, January 29 via UFC Fight Pass

Meanwhile, follow her on Instagram


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here