I wandered into a martial arts gym in November of 2009, with zero idea what to expect, no prior experience in any kind of sport, and several serious addictions, including a decade long, pack-a-day cigarette habit. I had never seen a UFC and had no intention of fighting. 6 months later, I took my first pro MMA fight. Four years after that, I found myself in the UFC Octagon, faced off with some of the best and most experienced fighters in the world.
Sounds crazy, right?
It has been.
This sounds odd now, but I actually never played any sports, or was athletic really at all until I found MMA. I had times as a teenager and young adult when I would lift weights and run recreationally, but it was sporadic and self taught, and never competitive.
Instead of playing sports as a child or teen, I struggled with addiction. As a teenager, drinking and using were big parts of my life. That carried well into my adult years. Addiction ran my life for a long time, not just affecting me, but everyone around me, as well: My family, friends, co-workers, etc. Jail, clinics, long term-institutions and detox centers made up several years of my life. Sometimes I would put together periods of sobriety- sometimes they were quite long- but I always ended up turning back to drugs, or when I was older, to alcohol. Throughout it all, I was struggling to hold my family together, go to school, and work to support us. In short, it was a mess. I was a mess.
One day, when my son was 9 years old, I thought he might like to try martial arts. Like all parents, I wanted to give my son a better life than I had had. I thought, at the time, if he were in martial arts, it would be good for him. It would give him a way to protect himself, build some confidence, get in shape a little, develop some social skills, maybe have some purpose. I figured it would be great for him. I opened a phone book, stuck my finger on the page, and decided to take him to the school it landed on. It was a jiu jitsu school, but I didn’t know what that was at the time. I told him, “I will take a class too, so we can do it together.” I wanted to encourage him so he wouldn’t feel too shy.
I was in love from the beginning. One class turned into three classes a week, then five, then daily. Every day turned into two-a-days at the dojo. All the things I wanted for my son-confidence, purpose, social skills, fitness-started developing in me. I quit smoking. I made friends. I carried myself better. My son? He wasn’t too interested then, but he does practice a little now, all these years later 🙂
Sometimes after jiu jitsu class I would watch the next practice. It was an MMA session for local fighters. I had never seen a UFC before, but I was totally in awe of those guys. To me, they were basically rockstars. I wondered what it would be like to be a fighter, but at 26 years old, I figured it was too late for me to be anything big. But, I thought, maybe I could take one fight, just to try it. “Just to tell my grandkids some cool stories some day.”, I figured.
Three months after starting jiu jitsu, I began practicing with the MMA team. A lot of the guys didn’t want a girl on the team with them, especially one that was new! So some of the guys tried to make me leave by being mean, but the meaner they were, the more determined I was. I honestly thought that if I kept going to practice, I would get good enough to whoop their asses. That never happened, but I’m happy enough with the way things turned out. We got a new coach, those guys left, and our new team became very close, very hard working, and very successful.
I trained with the MMA team for three months before taking a fight. It was a professional fight. I never had an amateur career. I won the fight in 17 seconds, with a TKO victory. After that, I decided to take “just one more”. I won that one, too. I took “just one more”, six more times , staying undefeated through eight professional bouts in four years.
In 2014 I signed with the UFC to fight Olympic wrestling silver medalist Sara McMann. I’ve competed four times so far in the world famous Octagon and am looking forward to many more. It’s been a wild ride in a short amount of time, and it’s not over yet.
On this crazy journey, I have had tons of adventures:
*I met my husband, who became one of my most trusted coaches, best friend and life partner
*I collected three professional MMA titles, including one world championship
*I gave my son a better life, but not in the way I expected
*I fought fire as a wild land firefighter
*I moved from Alaska, to Florida, to Houston, to Phoenix
*I quit a number of bad habits and addictions I had before I started fighting. MMA has been one of many bricks in my foundation of sobriety.
*I’ve won two jiu jitsu world championships, fought two UFC title contenders, participated on the TV show The Ultimate Fighter, and won a UFC Fight Of The Night Bonus.
The adventures aren’t over yet, either! I am looking forward to sharing my journey with you all!