efe-epaBy Beatriz Limon Phoenix

At age 47 with two grandchildren, Lady Apache, a living legend in women's freestyle wrestling in Mexico, celebrates every time she fights in the ring the fact that as a woman she has triumphed in a sport dominated by machismo.

"It's been hard for women wrestlers to win respect in a sport where we didn't belong, a space for men only. They didn't like us being there, much less making a name for ourselves," Sandra Gonzalez, known in the wrestling ring as Lady Apache, told EFE.

The wrestler is back in the ring this Saturday, Oct. 28, in Phoenix, during the Osborn Block Watch Gain Event, and will then continue her tour of the United States.

She said that since promoters in Mexico have shrunk their fees to "almost nothing," wrestlers have to find somewhere else to live off their sport. Their best bets up to now have been the United States and Japan.

"Fraud and extreme wrestling are killing the sport in our country, and since we all had to emigrate to get paid, I spent 22 years wrestling in Japan, a country that really respects Mexican lucha libre (freestyle wrestling)," she said.

Gonzalez debuted in 1986 at age 16 and got her wrestling name from having been the partner of another Triple A legend, the late Mario "El Apache" Balbuena.

"But I owe my love of wrestling to my father, who was a boxer, as well as to the bullying I suffered as a kid, so when I was 10 I started learning self-defense," she said.

At first she wasn't particularly successful in the ring, but was laying the foundation for women to be able to take up wrestling.

Her successes, the champion said, have been due to discipline and dedication, traits that have won her the respect of agents, wrestlers and fans, as well as of the CMLL-Triple A World Council.

"I consider that I've a way to go before I become a legend, but I have had a great career, and that I earned with discipline," she said.

She said her fighting has not just been in the ring, but also as a defender of the rights of women gladiators.

Lady Apache was barred for trying to create in 2014 the Women's Lucha Libre A.C. Foundation for Equality and Dignity.

"Starting the foundation got me fired from my work. Sponsors don't always like it when you raise the wrestlers' awareness. We're still without protection - just because you're a woman they put their heel on your neck," said the wrestler, who in the course of her career has suffered dislocation of vertebrae and numerous other injuries.

Nonetheless, she remains one of the most renowned exponents of Mexican lucha libre for her technique and experience, and at her age still has the energy to be a formidable opponent in the ring.