Pearl Gonzalez has always been a fighter. Whether it was growing up the hard way hanging with the wrong crowd or inside the mixed martial arts cage, fighting has always been an outlet for her. Thankfully, now she gets to do it legally after making it her career. The talented Team Hurricane Awesome member earned her first win in the XFC cage earlier this year against Suzie Montero and the promotion rewarded her with a title shot against undefeated Cortney Casey. Her championship opportunity will go down later tonight (Oct. 18, 2013) when she competes at XFC 26 on AXS TV in Nashville, Tennessee. Gonzalez spoke to MMAOddsbreaker during an appearance on The Verbal Submission about her troubled past, her inspiration and her goals in this exclusive interview. Check it out: Brian Hemminger: You were actually at the Glory 11 event in Chicago last weekend. What was it like to see world class kickboxing first hand? Pearl Gonzalez: Oh my gosh it was so amazing. Actually, the fun part for me in the beginning of the week was some of these fighters who flew in early and they were training at our gym and warming up and doing work so it was awesome to see these fighters in there hitting pads with their trainers. It was amazing. At the show, the stand-up was sick. The skills were amazing, the crowd was amazing. I was close to the ring, it was awesome. Brian Hemminger: Did being at the event ease the sting of finding out one of your teammates Fallon Fox suffered her first loss in MMA? Pearl Gonzalez: You never want your teammates to lose and I while I was there I saw someone’s status congratulating Ashley for beating her, but I can’t let that affect me. I’ve got tunnel vision right now and all I’m thinking about is that XFC belt around my waist. Brian Hemminger: You finished up this training camp by doing five weeks completely isolated from your family in Chicago. Can you tell me about that? Pearl Gonzalez: It’s absolutely a huge deal. I’ve had an amazing training camp both at Team Hurricane Awesome with Manny and Liz where I had so many opportunities to work with great women in sparring. Five weeks ago I came out here to Chicago and I’m staying with my coach. I’ve been here the entire time. I’m only two hours away from my family because I’m from Chicago and my coach lives out of the city in the corn fields and all I’ve been doing is reading books, training and in between training I’m at the fighter house with other fighters who are also in training camp, then I come home and do it all over again. On the weekends I’m hanging out with my coach and his girl and they’re health nuts so we’re always doing these nutritious recipes. It’s taken my mental game up five notches. I’m on another level right now. It’s been amazing. I miss my family, I miss home, but I’m so focused right now, so positive. I’m just so mentally strong, physically strong and definitely blessed to be where I am right now in my life. Brian Hemminger: Now what kind of performance do you have to have to make those sacrifices worth it? Pearl Gonzalez: Just a win, which I will get. To get that belt around my waist is all I’m looking for. There’s nothing spectacular I need to do. All I need to do is go out there, respect every single second that I’m in the cage and just be Pearl Gonzalez, the same Pearl Gonzalez that spars every single day at the gym and that’s all I need to do and I’ll get a win on Friday. Brian Hemminger: I’ve heard through the grapevine that you were a troublemaker as a child. What kind of trouble were you getting into? Pearl Gonzalez: Oh my gosh, (laughs). I was a fighter for one. I was always fighting. I think my freshman year, my first two months I’d already been suspended and arrested for fighting three times. I was just a big fighter, constantly fighting. I hung out with the gangbangers at a young age and it was just a way of life back then where I come from that we only knew. I was definitely a tough cookie and I’m glad I went through that at a very young age so I able to get my head together earlier to get turned around. Brian Hemminger: What snapped you out of it? Pearl Gonzalez: My dad put me in martial arts at a young age and it definitely helped as an outlet for me but I still loved to fight. I was always being challenged. I was never a bully, but I didn’t take any crap from anybody and I didn’t like people picking on people. I felt like I had to protect everyone so I was always fighting. My dad wasn’t very happy about that and I went through a lot of trials and tribulations in my life but I was very grateful to have some positive role models in my life at 19 and 20 to set a good example for me. My aunt, my big sister were incredibly important for me and big in my life at that time. They helped me focus on a completely different way of life and I found my way back into the gym and didn’t look back from there. Brian Hemminger: You had a very extensive amateur career over the course of several years. What went into the decision-making behind that choice? Pearl Gonzalez: My head coach Master Bob Schirmer was very adamant about us having 10 amateur fights before we went pro. He just wanted to make sure we got a lot of experience which was why I had so many amateur fights. I was always competing whether it was boxing or kickboxing or tons of jiu-jitsu tournaments. He was very competitive and wanted to make sure we were ready for that next step. Brian Hemminger: Was there a specific moment that helped you decide you were ready? Pearl Gonzalez: Yeah, I finally made my way over and decided to go pro at 24 years old. I realized I was getting older and I was ready to go. I had to beg my coach to let me do this and he finally let me go and that’s how it all started.