I just celebrated the three year anniversary since my pro MMA debut, and if my career hasn’t been crazy enough, the story of my first fight is even wilder.
Back in December 2013, I was booked to fight Stephanie Skinner in an atomweight bout at an XFC show but the fight fell through a week or so before fight night, and the promotion couldn’t find me a replacement who wasn’t going to be over 115. They offered me a couple of veteran fighters and I think maybe even Randa Markos came up as she had fought and beaten the girl I fought in my second pro Muay Thai fight, in MMA rules. I remember because I was pissed I missed Thanksgiving to stay under 110lbs! Following that cancellation, I made the decision to move up to strawweight (115) because most atomweights (105) cut a lot of weight and I'd probably run into that situation again.
Soon after, I heard that they would be introducing strawweights into the UFC through #TheUltimateFighter, and while they had already picked eight girls to be on the next season, there were still eight open spots. That's when I got the call to train with MMA coach Chad McPhatter down in North Carolina (I was living in NYC at the time) to help me get a fight and get ready for the show.
I quit my job, left my husband, cats, Muay Thai coach, and friends, and moved down to North Carolina to eat sleep and train. Strawweights were hard to come by that close to tryouts but we managed to book Stephanie Skinner again for a USFFC event in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Unfortunately I wasn't able to book it until April 26th, two days before tryouts for "The Ultimate Fighter" season 20. In order to tryout you needed a winning record and at least 1 fight, so a lot of pressure was on me to get the W. We already booked the flight and hotel in Vegas, and headed out to weigh-ins with my Muay Thai coach from NY, Brandon Levi, hoping for the best.
This USFFC card was also a Skillet concert for some reason, so whenever I see a Skillet t-shirt at Hot Topic it brings back old memories. Luckily I got the TKO win in the second round; I kneed her about 20 times in the arms and then finally hit something that made her quit. I was really stoked about it, I remember when they asked me 'what was next?' I yelled "I'M GOING TO TUF 20 AND I'M GONNA FUCK THOSE BITCHES UP!" Not my most eloquent moment but I couldn't contain my excitement.
My teammate Kodey Gulley also fought on the card and won. We were hours away from home so we didn't have time to head back before going to Vegas. However, before we could catch our flight, our coach needed to make a quick stop, to marry a couple, of all things.
My MMA coach, Chad, was also a preacher, so we rode up to this beautiful country home, somewhere in South Carolina I think, so he could go marry a friend of his. Kodey and I waited around this really beautiful property having just fought; we both had black eyes at the wedding.
Once the ceremony was done, we flew out to Vegas. My coach Brandon met us there and held pads for me for the striking part of the tryouts. #DanaWhite seemed to be really impressed by it, they made me stop after about 20 seconds of hitting and he said something like ‘You have some good fucking striking’. That was definitely the highlight of the whole trip.
Next was the grappling part of the tryouts which was really where I was really nervous, being a striker and all. A few girls got subbed multiple times and of course Dana White rewarded the submission artists with money. I managed to stay on top of my girl and not let her get off any subs so I was happy enough with my performance.
At the time, I didn’t know if I was going to get on the show or not, but the producers seemed pretty happy with me, and I was able to make it to all the final stages. It was also my first time seeing and meeting a ton of big names in MMA, which was really surreal at the time.
It all kind of melds into the same memory, from my first fight, to looking like a bum at a wedding, to the TUF tryouts. I didn't expect to get on the show with only one fight, and of course I could have performed better with more experience, but when opportunity knocked I went for it and I wouldn't be where I am today if I hadn't.