I was run over by a car about three years ago. I had to learn to walk again, train, play sports… I think MMA helped me the most back then.

Among the thirty-five athletes that the Czech MMA Association is sending to neighbouring Slovakia for GAMMA’s 2024 European Championships are three returning medallists – Veronika Zajicova, Natalie Trikalova and David Vasilek.

Here we had the opportunity to catch up with 52.2kg prospect Veronika Zajicova ahead of next week’s competition.

Accolades and Record

Having placed third in her GAMMA debut in the 2020 Euros, Veronica proceeded in 2022 to win European gold and bronze medals in Striking MMA and MMA. She ranked #5 in the GAMMA worlds that same year, and based on these successes, was awarded Sportsperson of the Year for the Moravian-Silesian region, as well as the City of Krnov.

Zajicova boasts accolades across other combat sports, including as national champion in boxing in 2017 and 2020 and as national silver medallist in 2022. Since her last GAMMA appearance, the prospect collected two gold medals in 2023, in the Lowkick Czech Championship and Czech Championship in K1. Meanwhile triumphs in grappling have seen her pick up a no-Gi silver and Gi-bronze in the IGF World Championships, a No-Gi silver at ADCC in Paris and, at national championships level in 2023, a No-Gi gold (Czech Republic), and a No-Gi gold and Gi silver (Israel).

However, Veronica’s track-record at professional level so far on Real Fight Arena has been mixed (2-3-0), with 3 losses on decision (including a split decision) but rebounding in her last fight with an definitive 25-second victory via strikes.

In Interview

Talking about how she found her path in life, Zajicova relays:

“At first I devoted myself to dancing. But I didn’t really enjoy it because too much of it was about too girly arguments. Then I started boxing because my parents wanted me to be able to defend myself in life. After that, when I started going to competitions, I started to enjoy it a lot. After a while, I tried MMA. This excited me because it is far more complex and interesting than boxing. There are a lot of possible endings. One has to think ahead a lot. Like in chess. Well, nowadays I practice a lot of combat sports because I use it all as preparation for MMA. I do a lot of grappling, also boxing, kickboxing, oriental boxing, kick-light, point-fighting and so on.”

Asked about how popular MMA in her country is and how easy/ difficult is it to access training and opportunities in the sport, she reports:

“I think MMA is still just developing here. You can train in the bigger cities. However, training is often linked to other disciplines such as boxing. MMA is often an additional discipline or alternates with other combat sports classes. The problem is also the lack of professional trainers who can provide daily training, but there is high-quality training available in cities such as Prague or Bratislava. That is why I now live partly in Bratislava, where I train at OFA Bratislava. I get to train here every day and several times a day, so I can’t complain.”

Outside of martial arts, Veronica is still at school. She relays:

“It’s not easy at all. In addition to training, I am still doing high school. I travel often between my home, where I’m at school, and Bratislava, where my gym is. I also help my parents in their business. Almost every weekend we drive or fly to tournaments, where I test how I’m progressing in preparation with individual combat disciplines. For example, recently I was at the WMAC martial arts tournament in Germany. Here, in one day, I had about twenty matches in several disciplines and weight categories. It was really very challenging. I took home 6 gold medals, 7 silver, 2 bronze and several championship belts. I was announced as the most powerful fighter of the tournament. I did the same at a recent tournament in Austria.”

However, it’s not all been a smooth ride for the tenacious young athlete and a near-devastating accident almost put an end to her sports career:

“Probably the biggest obstacle was when I was run over by a car about three years ago. I had to learn to walk again, train, play sports… I think MMA helped me the most back then. I knew I wanted to be back in the ring, in the cage, that I wanted to win and that I wanted to achieve my goals. To win. Win in GAMMA, RFA.. and then, the top professional leagues.”

Veronica recounts in a steelily how she has also had to deal with difficult personal challenges:

“The attitude of some of the coaches I had before has also been a problem for me. They thought I was their property. In addition to paying them to train, I went to tournaments and brought them back medals and awards. When I had no further avenue to develop with them and moved on for the training I felt I needed, they took revenge on me in various ways, and they are still taking revenge on me today. I’m getting used to it, but it’s a shame. We could still get along and rejoice in what we achieved together.”

On a more positive note, looking ahead to the Euros and what motivates her, Veronica attests:

“My only goal is gold. I am committed to it. I have training twice a day and I attend grappling tournaments as dedicated preparation for the GAMMA Euros. But I still have many challenges ahead of me. There are the smaller ones, like I have to beat a specific opponent. And then there are the bigger goals… GAMMA, RFA.. the big leagues..”

To earn another medal for her country would mean: “Unreal joy. Pride. Honor… GAMMA is the pinnacle of MMA competition for me. And that’s because professionals meet amateurs here. It is not just for some narrow group.”

As for Valeria’s ultimate goals in MMA, her sights are set justifiably high:

“I think that apart from competitions like GAMMA, there are also the top pro leagues which are probably my biggest goal. But as I already said. I have a lot of small goals before that. I’m also only 20 years old and I believe I can do it. Every win brings me closer to this goal of mine. And the strange thing is, I have the impression that each of my losses brings me even closer to my goal. Just in the last four months, I’ve had about 50 matches – in grappling, MMA, boxing, kickboxing and so on.”

Valeria’s timetable is jam-packed, for sure. And yet outside of MMA, she still finds time for some surprising hobbies for a fighter and also values family time:

“Last year I ‘fought my way’ to the finals of Miss Czech Republic, so I became interested in modelling. Otherwise, I really like animals. At home I have several dogs, ponies, lambs, a turtle, guinea pigs, hamsters… And when I have free time, I like to spend it with my little brother and my friends.”

Clearly intensely motivated by competition, Veronica will surely be bringing everything she’s got and putting it all on the line at the 2024 GAMMA Euros. But no matter win or loss at this stage, every experience is a teacher that will move her closer towards her end goals.