I was a small, shy child who would do anything to avoid conflict. But I didn’t get into martial arts to deal with any of that. It was because of Mortal Kombat and the Ninja Turtles – I just thought it looked super cool. So when my big brother started doing karate at the community church I couldn’t wait to join in. I caught the bug right away and martial arts really brought out a new confidence in me and gave me a voice I didn’t have before.
The rise of women’s MMA has been incredibly rapid and in the UFC we get top billing alongside men, we fight the same number of rounds and get just as many eyeballs on the sport. I am incredibly grateful to have got into the sport at such a good time.
The UFC does not see us as female fighters, just fighters. We are professional athletes just like the men, which is exactly how it should be.
I have been fighting professionally for more than 15 years, the last five in the UFC. Walking into the Octagon to fight some of the toughest women in the world is a long way from learning karate in a local church. But my passion for martial arts is the same, and I will definitely carry on training and teaching once I have stopped fighting.
My daughter is 10 years old now and outside of the pandemic she has been to every one my fights.
When I got pregnant it was scary…
There I was in my mid-20s, wondering how long I would have to take off work, and whether I would be the same fighter when I came back.
In fact I didn’t need to worry, because it gave me whole new focus. My husband and my daughter are all in this with me as a team. When you are half-assed about something, or scared, that’s when you can go and get yourself hurt.
I need to go in and try and inflict damage on my opponent. If I don’t do that I am disrespecting both myself and the other fighter. So if anything, it has made me more savage. It’s you or me and I’m coming home to my family.
I have the deepest respect for anyone who has served for their country. My husband, brother, father and grandfather are all military and I see the sacrifice that these guys make.
Walking away can be tough…
That’s why I love what REORG is doing. I know martial arts will always be there for me, and I hope we can encourage more people to join the community. You might start training just because it looks fun, but it ends up giving you so much more.
Michelle Waterson is a former Invicta FC champion. She is a top-10 ranked UFC strawweight and she trains with the Jackson Wink MMA Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Michelle was talking to Richard Holt.