clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

MMA fighter and Tony nominee find love amid the pandemic

The XFC’s Jessica Aguilar and ‘Search Party’s’ Shalita Grant were introduced during lockdown. Soon after, they started a pandemic romance.

Jessica Aguilar and Shalita Grant pose for photographer James Law.
Jessica Aguilar, top, and Shalita Grant 
James Law, with permission

It’s the classic romantic comedy pitch you’ve seen in numerous Meg Ryan movies: MMA fighter meets Broadway/TV actress at opposite ends of the country during a global pandemic.

Cue the Phil Collins soundtrack.

It sounds comically improbable, but that’s how things began for XFC combatant Jessica “Jag” Aguilar and “Search Party” star Shalita Grant. The two got together as a couple after being set up by a mutual friend while Aguilar was locked down in Florida and Grant in Los Angeles.

Jessica Aguilar and Shalita Grant pose for photographer James Law
Shalita Grant, left, and Jessica Aguilar.
James Law, with permission

In a 21st century touch, they began their courtship with some long distance texting and gradually worked their way up to chatting on the phone. Then, as Grant recalled to The Advocate, things almost went full-on slapstick...

“I put on some mascara because I was like, ‘What if this turns into a FaceTime? We’ve been chatting for a month, so it could?’ And in the conversation, she had made me laugh so hard I started crying and had wiped my face.”

At that point, Aguilar interjected, “I was laying on my bed and we were talking on the phone and the phone just fell and FaceTime appeared.” And as Grant told it, the first thing her soon-to-be girlfriend saw was “I had mascara all over my face and I was like, ‘Really?!’”

That is the very definition of “meet cute.”

About a month later, Aguilar found herself flying across the country to meet Grant in person and love blossomed from there. At a time when many of us were just trying to survive another day, Aguilar knew she had found somebody special, remarking, “I think that the universe gave us a reset and put each other in our lives for a reason.”

During her career, Aguilar has earned 20 wins and the Women’s Strawweight Championship in the World Series of Fighting. Grant, for her part, has garnered a Tony nomination and generated Emmy buzz for her “Search Party” performance.

Jessica Aguilar and Shalita Grant pose for photographer James Law.
Jessica Aguilar, top, and Shalita Grant.
James Law, with permission

The couple posed for a series of photographs by iconic Los Angeles photographer James Law.

Aguilar summed up how their relationship developed and what she hopes it becomes going forward: “It’s powerful. I think we have so much to share. I just want to inspire the next generation to be themselves, to love, and not be afraid of anything. Just to go after greatness.”

By finding each other during the past year, Aguilar and Grant are inspirations for every generation.

Follow Jessica Aguilar at @jagatt on Twitter and at @jagatt on Instagram. Shalita Grant is @ShalitaGrant on Twitter and @shalitagrant on Instagram.