Sonya Deville, real name Daria Berenato, burst on the scene as a competitor on Tough Enough. Now she’s transforming herself into the ultimate athlete to differentiate herself in NXT. WWE.com recently interviewed Sonya about her evolution as a MMA fighter turned wrestler, her humble beginnings, and what she hopes fans at NXT understand about her.
On how much she’s changed since Tough Enough: “My first time being inside the Performance Center was for the WWE Tough Enough tryouts, and although I knew hardly anything about sports-entertainment, I knew I wanted to be a part of this place. All I knew was that I loved to fight, I loved to perform and I loved being inside the WWE Performance Center. Here we are almost two years later and my mindset is the same as day one: I love being here and I love fighting, and with NXT, I get to do that almost every single day of the week. My life is amazing. I get paid to hurt people.”
On her MMA background: “When I was 14 years old, I said, “Mom, I want to fight MMA.” My mom hardly knew what MMA was because there was no women’s division in the UFC, and UFC president Dana White had said at the time, “Women will never fight for my company.” But I knew that wasn’t true, and I knew women in sports, in general, were on the rise. I knew I could be the next big thing in the fight world.
My mom drove me an hour away to a gym called Liberty Boxing. I walked in, asked to speak with the owner, and I’ll never forget the conversation. A little bald Italian guy named Phil came out of the back office. I said, “Hi, nice to meet you, I want to be a fighter.” He laughed in my face, then said “OK” and put me through one of the most vigorous workouts I’d ever been through. He tested me, and I passed. I started training judo along with boxing and, five months later, I entered an in-house grappling tournament against the boys in my gym. I ended up winning first place.”
On the differences between wrestling and MMA: “It’s all the same to me. I train very similar for the ring as I did for the cage. I treat every practice like it’s preparation for the biggest fight of my career. Every day I work on throwing the hardest, fastest strikes, then I work on my ground game and perfecting the slickest, tightest submissions. I hit the ropes like I’m running from a fire because I believe cardio can make or break a person inside the ring. I will be the best, and it’s because I train every day like I’m the worst.”
On what she hopes fans at NXT understand about her: “I live for the pressure, I live for the moments when I’m deep in the match, out of breath, hurt and feel like throwing up. It’s in those moments that I push through, I keep punching, I keep going forward, because no matter what, I will never stop. That challenge, that uncomfortable feeling is what fuels me, and honestly, it’s what I live for. I’m not here for the games. I didn’t come here to be anybody’s little sidekick. I came here to fight and to take over. I’m changing the game. I don’t expect anyone to know that yet, but you will.”
What do you think about Sonya’s evolution? What do you hope she brings to NXT? Sound off in the comments below.