A few years back the idea of female fighters within the UFC was unheard of. Higher ups rejected it, some fans rejected it and it got to the point where many people felt as if it would never happen.
Thankfully, however, smarter heads prevailed and in the present day there’s one woman who shines through as the beacon of light for women’s mixed martial arts – and her name is Michelle Waterson.
Popular figures have come and gone since the inception of a women’s division within the Ultimate Fighting Championship, with the Ronda Rouseys and Miesha Tates of the world being recognised as household names above all others.
“We’re attractive, athletic women within the realms of combat sport. We all have different lifestyles and different stories. I’m a wife, I’m a mother and I come from a military background.”
But as the dust settles in 2017, it’s a charismatic straw-weight from Aurora, Colorado that is capturing the hearts and minds of fight fans around the world. We are of course referring to The Karate Hottie herself Michelle, who took the time to speak with us in the wake of her appearance on the cover of ESPN’s 2017 Body Issue.
It was the latest step in a journey that’s taken her from karate lessons at the age of 10 all the way through to becoming a household name in mixed martial arts, and yet as late as early 2015 the majority of people reading this probably never would’ve heard her name before.
The former Invicta FC Atomweight Champion has been running through her opponents left right and centre ever since her debut over a decade ago, establishing a 14-5 record to go alongside her infectious personality.
But above all that, we need to talk about what a role model Michelle has become. The above clip of her training with daughter Araya in the lead up to her fight with Paige VanZant tells you all you need to know about her not only as a competitor, but as a human being.
“A lot of people make fun of the models and modelling, but it’s not easy. What makes me happy is fighting, and to have a body for modelling is different than having a body for fighting.
“When I started taking fighting more seriously I was getting broken noses, broken hands, cauliflower ear and my core would get thicker from the wrestling. These are things that are hard to hide in modelling, but my heart is for fighting so that’s what I chose to do.”
Down to earth, humble, talented and a phenomenal fighter – is it any wonder that Waterson is being tipped to become the next poster girl for the UFC? From vlogging to making scrapbooks Michelle herself will admit that she’s just a regular person, and it’s clear that this meteoric rise hasn’t affected the way in which she views life.
In an environment where fighters are starting to feel pressured into fabricating this pro wrestling-esque persona, Michelle is proof that you don’t need to be over the top in order to connect with the fans. If you have the skills necessary to thrive, have the drive to succeed and can consistently be the best version of yourself then the rest will come in time.