by Mitch Gobetz – MMAWeekly.com
Tara LaRosa will take on Cody Welchin tonight in LaRosa’s return to 125 pounds for the first time since May of 2003. Her lone trip to 125 pounds resulted in her only loss, to Jennifer Howe. She’s looking to turn that tide against the relative newcomer in Welchin.

“I’ve only done [the cut] once, and that’s where I have my only loss,” she told MMAWeekly Radio. “That was in May 2003. I’m a completely different fighter now. I actually have a little better stand up. I have ring experience.”

LaRosa is the No. 1 female mixed martial artist in the world according to many fans and media outlets. She’s fought the likes of Amanda Buckner, Julie Kedzie and Shayna Baszler, to name a few. However, she goes back to her roots tonight, fighting in the organization where she made her pro debut, Hook ‘N’ Shoot.

“It’s absolutely great. I know everybody up there. It’s kind of like my MMA family. I’ve known them for so long.”

Her opponent is a relative newcomer, but apparently she’s been preparing for LaRosa for a while.

“I heard that they have been grooming her to fight me, which is very interesting,” explained LaRosa. “If she only has a year experience, which is what I heard, they might be jumping the gun. But she could be a phenom, who knows? I hope that the nerves of being in a high-profile fight doesn’t get to her, doesn’t hinder her. I hope that she’s able to come out and give me the best that she has.”

As tough of an opponent as Welchin is, LaRosa has just gone through something that hits harder than any fighter. Three months ago, her boyfriend, Adrian Elizalde, was killed while serving a tour in Iraq.

“It’s been horrible,” said LaRosa in a press release. “I cry every night on the way home from the gym. Thankfully, my training partners – like Eddie Alvarez and Stephen Haigh – at the Philadelphia Fight Factory have been wonderful with me, and have helped me to really focus on this fight, which hasn’t been easy with everything that has happened.”

While she is fighting for Hook ‘N’ Shoot tonight, her recent success has come in Bodog defeating all four opponents that the promotion has thrown in front of her.

“I’ve done really well under Bodog. It’s not like they’re feeding me cans or giving me any easy fights. I’ve fought the best chicks in the world. I fully expect them to give me the best fighters at 125 pounds.”

While she is considered the No. 1 female in the world, casual viewers have seen Gina Carano being promoted as the No. 1 girl by EliteXC. Carano has more or less been the face of women’s mixed martial arts since her highly promoted bout with Julie Kedzie for EliteXC. She has garnered a lot of attention and notoriety, but she only has five fights to her credit.

“I’m not real bent about it like that,” explained LaRosa. “I think they are promoting her as the face of women’s MMA. That’s fine. That I don’t mind. But you got to work your way up. I did it the hard way. I didn’t have a big promotion and I didn’t come from a big ‘fancy-shmancy’ gym.

“It’s hard because she can’t avoid us forever. I don’t think she’s avoiding us. It’s her promotion that makes the fights. I’m not just talking about Gina, best of luck to her. I think she’s great for women’s MMA.”

Right now though, LaRosa is focused on the task at hand, Cody Welchin, at Hook ‘N’ Shoot in Evansville, Ind.