LAS VEGAS -- The UFC will celebrate Mexican Independence Day for the first time this weekend with a card centered around Mexican and Mexican American fighters. Alexa Grasso, the UFC's first Mexican-born women's champion, will headline Noche UFC on Saturday, defending her women's flyweight title against former champ Valentina Shevchenko at T-Mobile Arena.
Amidst the festivities, the UFC presented Grasso with a brightly colored custom championship belt created in Mexico and inspired by the nation's cultural heritage. Grasso posed with the title -- called Tribe Belt #1 -- at a media and fan event Thursday. It looks similar to a traditional UFC title belt but has details on the straps in purple, blue, red, orange and green.
The belt was designed by Taller Jacobo y María Ángeles in Oaxaca and "seeks to exalt the leadership of those women who, among the adversities of the territory, make their way to face of adversities of life," per a UFC release. Mexican-born fighter Yair Rodriguez, the former UFC interim featherweight champion, was gifted a similar title over the summer by Cesar Gomez, the founder of Mexico-based Upper Sports Management. The same designers created a WBC belt for Canelo Alvarez last year after he beat Gennadiy Golovkin. That belt was called "Zapoteca Jaguar Warrior."
"This design retakes elements of the Mexican pre-Hispanic culture in the heart of the Mixtec/Zapotec cultures, in which values are abstracted in a design that as a memento shows the long road to triumph," the release stated.
The details on the belt are iconography, representing things like protection, people, happiness, movement and "maximum power in a bid to materialize the arduous path of a champion."
Grasso said she's superstitious about belts and doesn't want to touch them or be near them until she wins. But she did hold the new piece on her shoulder Thursday.
"It's not mine yet until I win it and I'm going to do everything to earn it," Grasso told ESPN on Wednesday.
Grasso defeated Shevchenko to win the UFC women's flyweight title at UFC 285 in March via fourth-round submission. The 30-year-old competes out of Guadalajara, Mexico, and she and her teammate Irene Aldana, a top contender at women's bantamweight, were two of the first Mexican-born women's fighters to grace the Octagon.
While the UFC has said that the Tribe belt is Grasso's to keep, in honor of her winning the championship earlier this year, Shevchenko has said several times this week that if she wins Saturday, she wants to take home the regular UFC title -- and the Tribe belt, too.
"I'm going for that," said Shevchenko, who was born in Kyrgyzstan but speaks fluent Spanish after living in Peru for a number of years. "I'm here for that. Mexican Independence Day, it's a huge celebration. And what is my mindset and what is the goal? Win the belt and celebrate with [the whole of] Mexico [on] their day."