Based on appearance alone, it would be easy to underestimate Boise’s Veta Arteaga.
The mixed martial arts fighter stands just 5 feet, 4 inches tall and weighs 125 pounds. She has a welcoming smile and calm demeanor.
But in the four fights since she turned pro in early 2016, Arteaga has scored an early knockdown, broken an opponent’s nose and caused a hematoma so big over one foe’s eye that the fight was ruled a technical knockout in the third round.
Arteaga now hopes to improve her record to 4-1 at Bellator 182 on Friday at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, N.Y. She will take on Brazil’s Bruna Ellen in a Spike-televised main card that could move her one step closer to attaining Bellator’s open flyweight belt.
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“I don’t like controversy. I’m just a very chill person, and I think some of my opponents might overlook the fact that I hit hard and I’m strong,” Arteaga said. “I think that works in my favor, and it might intimidate an opponent here or there knowing the fact that it’s shown on paper I can definitely do some damage if you stand up with me.”
It takes fearlessness and a great deal of self-confidence to step into the MMA cage.
I like to consider myself a well-rounded fighter, but the past few fights, I’ve been known to hit hard.
Veta Arteaga, on her MMA bouts under the Bellator banner
Arteaga, originally from Burley and a graduate of Minico High, believes she developed those traits thanks to three older brothers and parents who told her she could do anything she wanted.
“I grew up just being around sports,” Arteaga said. “I don’t know if maybe that has a little bit to do with why I’m a fighter, but I felt like I always had to defend myself.”
One of Arteaga’s brothers, Freddy, first introduced her to MMA about nine years ago. Freddy, whose nickname is “Lil Man,” fights for the Combate Americas MMA organization and has a professional record of 7-6-0.
Veta started out training with him as a way to stay in shape, and then she incorporated boxing and later tried jiu-jitsu in a tournament, which helped build her confidence.
“Once she started sparring, I knew she could be really good,” Freddy said. “She’s really aggressive, and she has that fighting instinct.”
Before long, Freddy convinced her to try an amateur bout.
“I owe a lot to him. He’s a great mentor, great brother. It’s just crazy knowing that when we grew up, I’d always get him in trouble. We weren’t that close,” Arteaga said. “But now he pushes me to become a better person and to become a better athlete.”
Arteaga, who still trains with her brother at Combat Fitness, made her amateur debut at Front Street Fights 1 in 2014 at CenturyLink Arena in Boise, winning by submission.
“Right there I was like, ‘Oh, man, this is such a cool feeling,’ ” Arteaga said. “I just fell in love with the sport.”
Freddy will be in her corner Friday against Ellen, and Dave and Buster’s in Boise will host a viewing party for Arteaga fans.
“We were raised to be polite and respectful to everybody, but in this game, when you go in the cage, you know that they want to hurt you, so you have to hurt them,” Freddy said. “You have to kind of have that in your mind.”
With any luck, this won’t be the hard-punching 29-year-old’s last televised bout.
“Growing up, I always wanted to be that person that people looked up to, especially coming out of a small town,” Arteaga said. “... I feel very honored and excited that I’m actually fighting in a top organization. I’m grateful. I’m grateful for all the support that I have, especially here locally.”
How to watch
Dave and Buster’s in Boise will host a viewing party for Veta Arteaga’s flyweight bout on Friday. Coverage of Bellator 182 is set to begin at 7 p.m. on Spike TV. Arteaga’s fight is likely to start between 7:15 and 7:30.