Saturday, February 1, 2014

Chicago's Approaching!

Chicago is fast approaching, and I am counting down the days until my fight! I've been keeping up with my ridiculously early morning training sessions and I've surprised myself by rewiring my body clock so that I'm actually well-rested and awake in the morning. Well, as awake as you can be at 5 am.

The training isn't the difficult part for me; the diet is the difficult part. Maybe not so much difficult as unpleasant. I've even cut out my sweet-tooth satisfier and savior: coffee creamer! Just the thought of the cookie sundae flavored creamer mixed with a steaming cup of coffee makes my taste-buds cry. Fortunately, the deprivation of all foods pleasurable has been working and my weight is exactly where it needs to be.

This week, I had my first meeting for the Fighters Source League. Travel arrangements have been made, and I finally feel like this is real. I'm flying out on a Thursday, weighing in the next day, fighting Saturday, and flying back Sunday. The fight will be held in a civic center with space for thousands of people and I will be fighting on the same card as Jeff Monson, a very well-known UFC veteran. Although I still don't know my opponent, I'm trying to just focus on what I need to do to be a better fighter.

It was announced at the meeting that there will be no shin pads worn at any of the fights. Getting kicked in the shin hurts, as does kicking someone with your shin- who would have imagined? To help condition my shins for the upcoming beating, my trainer has me kick a thick rope wrapped around the base of a pole. The concept is that my shins develop calcium deposits and eventually the nerves become numb. Until that happens, my shins feel exactly like one would expect...they hurt! At first, I felt tough kicking the rope. Now, I just feel the pain.

Grappling is a new passion of mine. At first, grappling just frustrated me. Every day, I spend at least an hour drilling submissions and submission escapes. There are few things in life more satisfying than getting someone 40 pounds heavier than you to tap out. It requires a lot of thinking and pushes every muscle in your body to the limit. It also leaves you with plenty of bruises, and I am excited to announce that I got my first black eye. It really is just a baby bruise under my eye and I'm not entirely sure when I got it, but I wear it proudly.

February 15th can't come soon enough!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Weekly Recipe 1: D-Licious Sweet Potato Patties

Starting this week, I'll be posting one healthy but oh-so-delicious recipe a week. The first recipe is D-Licious Sweet Potato Patties.

After having a tough work-out, eating sweet potatoes is a great way to replenish your carbs and energy. This is a recipe for sweet potato cakes that I found and modified. I served myself one patty (about 200 calories) over a salad with a lime vinaigrette, but it would have paired great with some grilled chicken.

3 medium peeled sweet potatoes

2 eggs

3/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

1 small onion, finely chopped

1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

garlic powder (to taste)

dash salt

2-3 individual wedges of low-fat creamy swiss cheese, each wedge cut into thirds

1) Boil water in a large sauce pan.
2) Roughly chop the peeled sweet potatoes and place in the boiling water.
3) Cook for 10-25 minutes, until tender (like your bruises from sparring) and very mash-able.
4) Strain potatoes and allow to cool.
5) Combine potatoes, bread crumbs, onion, garlic, garlic powder, and salt in a large bowl.
6) Mash together (fighters can use their fists), or blend in a food processor.
7) Mold mixture into patties- about the same diameter as the bottom of a regular coffee mug (or a mouthpiece container). Press one small piece of cheese into the center of the cake.
8) Heat some olive oil in a frying pan. When hot, place patties in the pan and sauté until lightly browned. Flip (or judo throw) and brown the other side.
9) Place cooked patties on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.

This should make about 8 patties. The amount of cheese used and the diameter/thickness of the patties will affect the calorie content, but they are relative low in calories. They can be served hot or cold and freeze well.

Friday, January 24, 2014

International Dreams

I expected things to go back to normal after my first fight. Instead, there was a flurry of excitement. Messages from old friends and acquaintances continued to fill my inbox. Friends of friends of friends were contacting me, congratulating me on my win. At the gym, everyone was thrilled for me. The excitement only continued when I was contacted by someone from Fighters Source, an organization with which I was very familiar. They were looking for a 135 lb female to fly out to Chicago and represent for Team Miami. If I won the fight in Chicago, I would fight in New York. A win there would guarantee me a spot on Team USA, where I would be representing in the UK in an international MMA tournament.


The news was huge; the event itself is monumental. As MMA continues to be recognized as a true sport and spreads from country to country, there is an increasing desire in the community to bring it to the Olympic games. This tournament, which will be televised in millions of homes, is taking the sport a giant step forward. In fact, it's more of a flying knee forward...or maybe a superman punch forward. Either way, being a part of this event means a great deal. Just being offered the invitation made me feel like I was on top of the world.

To my disappointment, I had to keep the news quiet until the press release came out. Nelson (my coach/manager/sanity-keeper), was the only one who knew about it and was as excited as I was. Days passed by, and finally the announcement was released to the press. I had been checking my social media on the hour, waiting for the moment I could announce the exciting news. After the news broke,  it became real. Everyone was congratulating me yet again, and I felt like the luckiest person in the world.

Because the fight is in 3 weeks, I have been training even more than usual. I was disappointed with my performance in the first fight; I have a lot of work to do before I can feel like I deserve this opportunity. Nonetheless, I don't plan on disappointing. My new training regiment involves me waking up at 5 and drilling skills all morning. Nelson has created a training plan to help me make the most of the few weeks left before the fight. Luis and Pablo, my incredible striking and grappling coaches, are helping me improve every day. Everyone at the gym is donating their time and energy to helping me prepare for this fight, and I plan on doing everything I can to represent for them in Chicago.

Whether I'm rubbing sleep from my eyes in the early morning, mopping away sweat from my brow in the middle of an intense workout, or limping home after a never-ending day, international dreams will be motivating me.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Don't Let Go!

It's over, and only just beginning. It has been a crazy couple of days. I weighed in at 142 Tuesday night after only having some tea and an apple all day. After the weigh-in, they had photographers ready to take a picture of my opponent and me in a stand-off. We started off a few feet apart, but they urged us to stand closer. For well over a minute we stood inches away from each other and waited for them to tell us to move. It felt so awkward being nose to nose with the girl I would be competing against. There was no smack talking or ill will; we both stayed silent and went our own ways after they finished. I immediately drank two giant coconut waters and could feel the fluid coursing through my veins. All of the fighters had jugs of water or pedialite to replenish themselves as soon as they weighed in. When I got home I ate a giant piece of salmon with rice, boiled plantains, and avocado. Food never tasted so good!

The next morning, I felt like a kid waiting to go to Disney World for the first time. To my surprise, I wasn't very nervous, just excited. I had a hearty breakfast of eggs, avocado, and tomato. I went to the gym and stretched for awhile, then had a short and very easy workout. It was nice to get the blood pumping and helped to get out some of the excited energy. As I was leaving the gym, I realized that I didn't get my hair braided. With MMA fights, hair will not stay up in a regular up-do. It was the last thing I was worried about all week, but if I didn't have my hair braided it would be a major distraction. One of the fighters I worked out with that morning had a friend who did her hair, so she contacted her about helping me out. I was told she could do it later in the afternoon and would text me when she was ready. I needed to be ready to leave by 5 pm.

After watching two motivational fight movies and eating a dinner of pasta and meatballs, I was anxiously waiting to hear back about my hair. I tried braiding it on my own and ended up with a tangled mess. Nervousness started to build up as I was reading all of the good-luck messages and texts, and it made the hair situation worse. Finally, at 3:30 my trainer had sorted the whole thing out and I met the girl at the gym to get my hair braided. I couldn't believe such a seemingly trivial thing was such a big deal, but I learned my lesson for next time. With my hair braided and all my gear ready to go, I shook out all the nerves and we were ready to leave for the fight. Everyone was telling me how "cute" and "adorable" I looked, but I felt like a beast.

The venue itself was amazing. They had two warm-up rooms for us in a large warehouse. They made sure all opponents were in separate rooms, but I didn't even notice anyone else there. I listened to some music while everyone else wandered around. The DJ was taking requests for walkout music- I chose Conteo by Don Omar, a song that usually got me pumped up for hard work-outs. Tom and I were at the venue early, so we stepped in the cage to get a feel for things. We lightly shadow-boxed with each other for a few minutes. I felt light, agile, and ready to go.

By the time I stretched out a little in the back, the doctor showed up and most of the fighters were present. They measured our blood pressure and heart rate as they looked over our blood work. My Muay Thai coach wrapped my hands and I put on the issued MMA gloves. I was third to fight, so we started to warm-up immediately. We just ran through a few drills and did some pad work, just enough to get my blood flowing and to work up a sweat. They had a brief rules meeting, and the fights started. While the first two fights were going on, I continued to warm-up. Finally, I was issued my shin guards and told to wait at the entrance for my chance to fight. The whole evening I felt calm, but every so often I would get a surge of nervousness. The thought of losing was scary. I did everything I could to push the thought out of my head.

Finally, they announced me and started my music. I walked out to the cage and was checked by the referee. Stepping into the cage, I barely noticed the large crowd or the large televisions that were capturing live feed and broadcasting to everyone on youtube (XFN runs an extremely professional and well-organized event). I bounced around and kept my eyes on my opponent as she entered the cage. The adrenaline was surging through my body and I did everything I could to control my breathing. The ref went over the rules, and the bell rang.

I went towards my opponent to touch gloves, but she chose not to and immediately tried to jab at me. Most of the fight is a blur, but I know I managed to stay calm. She kept trying to take me down, so we ended up pushing each other against the fence for most of the first round. It was exhausting, and we exchanged more knees than punches. When I landed a few light punches to her head, it felt bizarre. I had never been in a fist fight, so I had never hit anyone with intention before. While sparring, we use boxing gloves and the hits don't feel as strong. It took me a few seconds to get used to the feeling, but when someone is trying to hurt you, it's not difficult to return the favor.

The first round ended with her on top of me, and me trying to avoid any submission attempts from her. The bell rang, and although I was a little winded at the end of the round, my trainer had worked hard to ensure I was in good enough shape to recover by the end of the minute break. As the bell rang for the second round, I felt replenished. I was starting to feel beaten, but I tried to push the thought out of my mind and immediately found myself defending yet another take down.

Towards the end of the round, she went for my legs and I instinctively wrapped one arm around her neck. I hadn't drilled the guillotine choke but had seen it, and I knew the basic idea. While I tried to work the choke, she got me to the ground. I still had my arm around her neck and wrapped legs around her. I could hear her struggling for breath, but I didn't think I had the choke tight enough. Everyone in my corner was giving me advice, and I tried to do what they were telling me without losing grip. My grip started to slip and I knew the round would be over soon. All I could do was tell myself not to let go.

Finally, I felt three taps and the ref signaled me that it was over. I can't even begin to describe the ecstasy that I felt as I stood up. The referee lifted my hand, and everything was like a movie. Just seeing the excitement of my coaches made me even more thrilled. For weeks I had been joking about getting a submission for my first fight. It was, and still is, the weaker part of my skill set. No one could believe that I actually won by submission. The ring announcer gave me the microphone and asked me a few questions, but I barely knew what I was saying. On the way out of the ring, strangers congratulated me. A reporter interviewed me in front of a camera, but my mind was in another planet. I walked out to the back room to a million hugs from my corner. They have always worked so hard, and I was so happy I didn't let them down.

The rest of the night was great. I was unscathed and felt like a million dollars. People I never met were complimenting me, and the people I did know were thrilled for my win. Tom ended up with a win in his fight, and we all went out to celebrate with a meal of giant burgers and fries.

The fight was a great experience. There is no other sport like MMA, and the rush you get when you are locked in a cage with someone is inexplicable. Putting all of the brutal training to the test is an incredible feeling, and I can't wait to do it again. I'll train light for the rest of this week and Monday I'll start training hard. I have a renewed energy and can't wait to come out an even better fighter.

More to come next week!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Weight Cut Woes

Making weight is a huge part of being an MMA fighter, and it is no easy task. It's now a little over 24 hours from the weigh-in for my fight, and I still have weight to cut. This is normal; some fighters even eat everything they want up until two days before weigh-ins, then they cut 15 pounds in two days. I did my best to avoid this, but this morning I stepped on the scale and it read 152. After 45 minutes of running and a 1.5 hour workout, I was only a pound lighter. I need to weigh in a 145, and although they allow amateurs to be 4 pounds under or over, I want to come in at exactly 145.

I'm eating very little today, and practically nothing tomorrow. I started my day off with a coffee, then had a 200 calorie protein shake after my work-out. Three hours later I had another coffee, and I just ate an apple for some pre-workout energy. I've limited my water intake, so I've been both thirsty and hungry all day. I've been drinking a diuretic tea and also took two epsom salt baths. That's the one part I can't complain about; being ordered to soak in a tub for 20 minutes with lavender epsom salts is not a bad thing.

Tonight I'll have a light work-out and then try running with a sweatshirt and sweatpants. If I'm lucky, I'll drop a few pounds and can have a small piece of salmon with lettuce. Tomorrow morning I'll weigh myself and hit the treadmill again, trying to sweat out as much as I can. I probably won't take in anything but a very small amount of water until weigh-ins at 8 pm. Today hasn't been too torturous because I've been able to focus on the fight, but my growling stomach tells me that tomorrow will be miserable.

As soon as the weigh ins are over, I can eat again. Dinner will be a giant plate of pasta with turkey meatballs. I'm drooling at the thought of food! Most fighters do their best to gain weight before the fight because there is no second weigh-in. It may not make much sense, but I think I can handle eating again.

Even more exciting is the thought of food is the thought of being at the weigh in. I'll stand on the scale in front of a crowd, and stare down my opponent. If my stare doesn't scare her, my growling stomach sure will! It's going to be an exciting night!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Fight Week

Here I am, only four days away from my debut amateur MMA fight! On January 15th, at Knockers Bar in Miami, I'll be taking on my first opponent. The holiday season changed up my schedule a little, but I've managed to stay on track and I feel ready to fight. I was given the green light to eat over the holidays, and although I was still training, I've been paying for it now by having to drop a few more pounds than I would have liked. For about two weeks I've been on a diet of limited carbs. I've managed to drop about 9 pounds in that time period, and I did have one or two cheat meals the first week of the diet. My schedule hasn't changed much, so here's a sample of my daily routine:

7 am: Eat a granola bar for breakfast and have a coffee.

7:30 – 9 am: Train on my own at the gym.

9 am – 11 am: Fighter Training Camp every other day, otherwise solo drills.

11: 30 am: Eat turkey with lettuce and tomato on a pita (I changed this up to chicken, ground beef, etc)

2:30 pm: Snack (grapes with honey, an apple, etc)

5:00 pm: Granola Bar if needed, coffee

5:30 -8:00 pm: Strength and Conditioning Class, Grappling, Boxing, or Muay Thai classes

8:30 pm: Protein shake with fruit

In between training I worked, and afterward I usually just passed out. Sundays were my only day off. Although it may seem monotonous, the drills varied day to day and time has managed to fly by. It also helps a great deal to have such a great support system at the gym. A few of the members here are almost as excited for my fight as I am! I even got my first sponsor- a neighborhood cigar shop decided to sponsor Tom and me for this fight. Even though it may seem like such a small thing, it feels incredible to know that someone has enough faith in you to choose you to represent their business.

Tomorrow is the start of my pre-fight recovery. I've been running about two hours total a day to drop weight and have been training hard, but now my body can have a chance to relax. I'll do some shadow boxing and light skill work over the next few days, but nothing intense. At this point, it's all about mental focus and making sure my body is healthy for Wednesday night. I feel great mentally; I'm excited but I feel very calm and focused. I'll do my best to hang onto this feeling and will try not to let the crazy rush of adrenaline take over. I know one thing for sure- I'm going to go into the cage and fight for all those workouts that left me gasping and squirming, for all those times I felt too sore to get out of bed, and for all those hours my trainers and training partners put into preparing me for this moment.

I fight, she falls.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Solo Training Tips

I've been doing a lot of training on my own, and I thought I would share a few training tips with anyone interested in getting a good work-out in without having the benefit of a coach or partner to push you through it.

1) Start with stretches and a proper warm-up. I like to do static stretches for about 10 minutes. This is followed by 5 minutes of jump rope, 5 minutes of shadow boxing, and 5 minutes of dynamic stretches. If I have a really hard time moving (mornings have never been my strength!), I start off with a 20-30 minute light jog. A good warm-up is the key to a good work-out.

2) Write out the workout in detail, including how long each drill will take. This should help motivate you and keep you from cheating yourself by cutting the workout short.

3) Stick to things you know how to do. If you practice a new move with improper technique, you will only have to relearn the technique.

4) Repetition is key! This can get boring, so I try to do my workouts in a circuit. For example, I'll do 4 minutes of kicking techniques, 4 minutes of grappling with the grappling dummy, 4 minutes of footwork drills, and 4 minutes of combos. Then I take a minute rest and start again- this usually helps the time fly by.

5) Imagine an audience. When I'm feeling tired or just plain lazy, I imagine a pro scout is peeking through the window. It might sound silly, but it's usually enough to remind yourself to push the tempo.

6) Stick to simple drills. Oftentimes, the simplest drills are the best for developing skills. Power circuits, which involve things like jumps and weights, are best left for strength and conditioning coaches. Bag work is always a great drill that develops both skill and cardio.

7) Music motivates me! I have a playlist full of songs that keep me full of energy. When I start to get tired, I blast my favorite song and get back in the zone.

8) Shadow boxing is always good. It simulates a fight and brings all your skills together. Visualization is a great tool to use while shadow boxing; I always imagine my opponent standing in front of me and defend or attack accordingly.