Back when I first earned my nickname “Overkill,” I was the one in the gym trying to hit combos the fastest, going hardest on the bag and always going the extra mile. I also got used to being the only girl on the fight team and having to go apeshit against my male teammates who were bigger and stronger than me.
It made me tough, but once I got to a certain level, I realized that I should seek out training partners that best fit the description of who I’d be competing against. After #TheUltimateFighter, when I was looking at new gyms, the first thing that drew me to Alliance MMA was that they had a small girls team there.
I currently train with Jessica Penne, Bec Rawlings, Christine Stanley, Cat Zingano, and Paulina Granados, and they all challenge me in very different ways. Sometimes I’ll hear from female fighters who’ve only been able to train with other guys. They always seem to think ‘well I train with dudes, so fighting this girl isn’t gonna be harder than sparring my teammates.’ Toughness can only get you so far, and when you aren't accustomed to sparring women that are high-level fighters, it's easy to underestimate your potential opponents. Being the only girl on the team is similar to a male flyweight only having middleweights to train with -- it's just unrealistic.
At #AllianceMMA, we don’t have to rely on training with guys who are bigger than us, or guys who are our size, but maybe just a little stronger. There’s also the possibility that a guy will coddle a female fighter because they don’t want to be a jerk. You don’t have that issue as much when your training partners are predominantly women. If I get hit, or if I get choked out, or whatever, it’s not because the person is bigger than me or stronger than me, it’s because I have a hole in my game that I need to cinch up. Training with girls my size who can beat me in certain areas is a humbling experience and it helps me learn faster.
I've also gained more confidence in my strengths. There is nothing more discouraging than landing your hardest body shot and getting no reaction or going for a submission and having your partner escape from it, not by technique but due to their size and strength advantage.
Being part of a female-friendly gym has been a great experience. I have always been lucky enough to have had support from my coaches- past and present- but that isn't always the case for a lot of women.
There are some coaches that consider women at the gym to be something of a novelty and don't take them as seriously their male counterparts.
Currently, I think when people see women getting ready to fight, I think their expectations are lowered, so when you do see two women who are going at it and scrapping, like Jessica Andrade and I did at UFC Houston, I think it gets a lot of attention. But people shouldn’t be too surprised because the talent pool is still growing and you’re going to start to see more exciting and more technical WMMA fights, especially as more women start to train together.