Raquel Pa’aluhi Looks to Invicta Title

by Bryanna “Pink Ranger” Fissori

“We have this idea that success is reserved for these extraordinary people, but we are those extraordinary people.” – Raquel “Lionheart” Pa’aluhi


Hawaii native Raquel “Lionheart” Pa’aluhi (6-5) is getting ready for her championship title match on August 31 against Yana Kunitskaya (9-3, 1 NC) for the vacant Invicta FC Bantamweight title.

Rooted in Hawai’i MMA Culture

Pa’aluhi was born and raised on the Oahu west side and spent the early part of here career training and competing on the island. Her first several fights were with the local promotion X1 World Events, also competing for Destiny and Pro Elite. Her first fight off of the island was on Invicta FC 2, which she took on short notice against current UFC champion Amanda Nunes. Since then Pa’aluhi has made some very big changes in life and her fight camp including re-locating to Las Vegas, Nevada.

Raquel Pa’aluhi at X1 Champions 3 in 2011 (Photo by Greg Honda)

“I think the hardest thing about Fighting in Hawai’i was there were too many distractions for me,” Pa’aluhi tolde Xclusive MMA. “I was working, teaching, trying to pay bills, see family, get from Waianae to town everyday without being stuck in traffic for two hours, be a million places at once and train. When I came to Las Vegas I had absolutely nothing to do but train and I poured myself into that.”

Her new-found focus has helped Pa’aluhi rise to the top in more than just MMA. She is also a jiu jitsu brown belt and has competed and won numerous high level competitions. In doing so, she also met her husband Renato Canto. Of course there are plenty of things she misses about the island.

“What I miss the most about Hawai’i is my family, the beach and the food. All in that order,” said Pa’aluhi. “My brother and my sister have kids so I missed a lot of my nieces and nephews growing up. I am an ocean girl so at least every two days I’m wishing I were on a beach in my bathing suit, musubi and Arizona green tea in hand. Luckily, we have A LOT of good local restaurants here (Las Vegas) that are really good but there are so many places I miss eating at in Hawaii. And just how convenient it is to get the things I love at any store!”

Pa’aluhi with an Invicta FC win

Success Without Limitations 

Pa’aluhi is not the only fighter to get significant recognition beyond the island.

“I am truly so happy to see so many local fighters shining in larger promotions. We have Ilima McFarlane, Angela Lee, Max Holloway, Yancy Medeiros and even most recently Boston Salmon getting signed to the UFC on Dana White’s Contender series, just to name a few. I believe it’s because the sport is growing rapidly and right now there are a lot of opportunities presenting themselves. I also think more fighters are looking at it from a professional stand-point and treating it as such. It’s not enough anymore to train a couple of times a week with some friends. Diet, jiu jitsu, striking, strength and conditioning, management, (social) media presence . . . Everything is important now. It’s not a small time thing anymore. People are able to make a very good living for themselves from fighting these days.”

Words of Encouragement 

If Pa’aluhi could say anything to up and coming fighters on the island, she would make it clear that they can do big things despite geographical limitations.

“I would encourage them to get out there and do it. That simple. Find the best training they can whether it’s there in Hawaii or uprooting themselves if they have to and just keep growing their arsenal everyday. We have this idea that success is reserved for these extraordinary people but we are those extraordinary people.”

Invicta FC 25

Invicta FC 25 will take place on August 31 at Tachi Palace in Lemoore, California and can be viewed live on UFC Fight Pass. Fans from Hawaii and beyond can look forward to a great and entertaining performance from Pa’aluhi as she looks to take home the bantamweight championship title.

“Thank you so much! Win, lose or backwards record, I have always had so much support from everyone back at home. I’ve never been booed, discouraged or given up on and I am forever grateful for that. This belt is coming back to Hawaii in September!”