Diana Ocampo built Total Combat Paintball in Barrio Logan into the San Diego Sports and Entertainment Center. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Diana Ocampo is a fighter.

In a new episode of I Made it in San Diego, Voice of San Diego’s podcast about the stories behind the region’s businesses and the people who made them what they are, Scott Lewis talks to Ocampo about the battles she’s faced and the businesses she’s built, then lost, then built again.

When mixed-martial arts first started getting big, matches were illegal in California. Still, Ocampo saw an opportunity, and launched MMA matches at a venue in Tijuana. Her events quickly took off, and she outgrew the space just in time for California to lift the ban on the sport in 2006.

The matches she organized at places like the Del Mar Fairgrounds, Starlight Bowl in Balboa Park and casinos across the San Diego region attracted thousands of fans. She was one of the only female MMA promoters in the nation, and her business became a big financial success.

But then she got cancer — and lost everything.

“Going from having been very comfortable to nothing was very shocking,” she told Lewis.

What she didn’t lose was her resourcefulness and resolve. She found someone who believed in her entrepreneurial ability, and got an investment that helped her open Total Combat Paintball. Without knowing anything about the game, she quickly built that business into a success, too.

“I’m like OK, let me figure this out,” she said. “And I did.”

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Kinsee Morlan was formerly the Engagement Editor at Voice of San Diego and author of the Culture Report. She also managed VOSD’s podcasts and covered...

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