Brenda Gonzales Means was feeling awful, days on end, beset by headaches, confusion and lethargy, and she didn’t know why.
What she did know was that, as she reached her mid-30s, her combat sports career — her passion and her principal source of income — was slipping away.
But finally, as she might solve the style of a difficult opponent, Gonzales figured it out.
On Friday, free at last from the debilitating effects of mercury poisoning, the former Moriarty Pinto basketball and volleyball star is scheduled to resume her MMA career. She’s matched against Panama’s Joselyne Edwards Laboriel in a bantamweight fight in Clive, Iowa, a Des Moines suburb.
The card will not be telecast, based on information on the TFS Facebook page.
It will be Gonzales Means’ first MMA fight since November 2016, when she defeated Yumi Matsumoto by first-round TKO on a King of the Cage card in Albuquerque.
She has had one fight since, a loss by unanimous decision in a boxing match against Jessica McCaskill in Chicago in April 2017. By then, though, Gonzales Means was in the throes of a then-mysterious malady.
“I hadn’t been feeling good for a long time,” she said in a recent interview at Albuquerque’s FIT-NHB gym, her longtime training base. “… I was getting bad headaches, especially after that last fight, and I was getting gray fog and just wasn’t feeling right. My lungs felt really heavy.”
Then came the figuring out.
Earlier, Gonzales Means’ kinesiologist had told her the mercury in her dental fillings might be responsible for thyroid problems she’d experienced.
“I just couldn’t shake the headaches, so I kind of read up on the mercury stuff,” she said. “And surely, I had, like, every single symptom (of mercury poisoning).”
Gonzales Means had all her amalgam fillings removed. After a detoxification process, she said, “I started to finally feel alive again.”
In the meantime, paydays had been scarce. It doesn’t help that her husband, UFC welterweight Tim Means, hasn’t fought since February — for no reason he’s aware of. The couple has four children, two adoptive sons and Tim Means’ two daughters from a prior relationship.
Sponsorships have helped, Gonzales Means said, as has the couple’s work with FIT-NHB’s “Fit Kidz” and “Fit Teens” programs.
Of the lean times, she said, “It keeps us hungry, and you’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do to make ends meet.
“It’s been a long year for me. I’m used to fighting three or four times a year, so it’s taken a lot of patience. But I feel things fall into place when they’re supposed to.”
Gonzales Means (8-3) said she knows only a little about Edwards Laboriel (7-1), her opponent on Friday in a card promoted by The Fight Series.
“I know, well, I don’t know if it’s an extensive background in amateur boxing, but I know she’s got hands,” she said. “I believe she’s a purple belt in jujitsu, so I’m expecting a well-rounded fighter.
“So I’ve been working on everything, and I’m just gonna bring it.”
Now 36, having lost many months of her career to illness and injury — she was out the cage for 16 months in 2013-14 after suffering a broken arm — she knows there’s no time to waste.
“I feel like this is it,” she said. “This is my last go, and I’m feeling good right now.
“I feel strong.”