Tonight at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Michelle Waterson and Felice Herrig will finally get the chance to meet in the centre of the octagon for their strawweight battle at UFC 229.
To some, this will be another showcase of the talented females in the strawweight division getting to show why women should be on the main card within the UFC, to others (like myself) this has been a fight 10 years in the making.
Back in 2007, an oxygen original tv show, similar in spirit to The Ultimate Fighter TV series had ten female fighters live together and train together with Muay Thai instructor – Master Toddy, in Las Vegas for six weeks to win a Muay Thai championship in Thailand.
The group of women were then narrowed down to five via a three-round fight between the housemates, the winners got to go to Thailand and the losing fighter was eliminated from the house and the competition.
Felice Herrig and Michelle Waterson were two of the original ten women to compete to try to go over to Thailand and were mentored by Lisa “The black widow” King, who was the original shows winner back in 2006, when there was a one-off documentary with seven female fighters and female Muay Thai & MMA legend Gina Carano.
Whilst Michelle lost her fight to get to go to Thailand, Felice won and set off to Thailand with the rest of the other four finalists, winning her fight in Thailand via TKO.
Felice went back to her kickboxing roots for a further two years before transitioning to MMA in 2009 where “The Lil Bulldog” had arrived.
Having competed for XFC, Bellator and Invicta, Felice was finally signed to The Ultimate Fighter season 20 in 2014.
Michelle transitioned to MMA in 2007 with help from Donald Cerrone at the time and “The Karate Hottie” competed at strawweight and atomweight in which she won the Invicta Atomweight Belt before being signed to the UFC in the strawweight division in 2015.
After Felice’s third win in a row against Justine Kish in 2017, she called out Michelle Waterson citing “she had already been offered the fight and accepted it, but it got taken away from her.”
With Felice Herrig being ranked #9 and Michelle Waterson being ranked #8 in the UFC fighter rankings and given both their shared history, this is one fight not to be missed.
On Saturday, June 22nd, 2019, Bellator MMA will be making their return to the SSE Arena in London.
Making her debut for the promotion will be U.K’s Bryony Tyrell, and if you had told her six years ago that she would be on one of the world’s largest MMA promotions and competing in front of her home crowd, I’m pretty sure she’d be laughing at just the thought.
Born and raised in Sevenoaks, Kent, Bryony has always enjoyed the thrill and excitement of extreme sports; from BASE jumping, Bungee jumping, and sky diving, to testing herself in mixed martial arts.
Holding a Masters Degree in nursing and a Degree in Molecular Cell Biology, the critical care nurse now based in Southampton has always had a passion for martial arts.
Starting in Kickboxing and Kung Fu 19 years ago, Bryony quickly fell in love with all aspects of martial arts so much, that, she added in Krav Maga, Japanese jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai before finally concentrating on Wrestling and Brazilian Jiujitsu, forming the mixed martial arts career she has today. “Martial arts are my passion in life. I love the contrast that they can be beautiful and deadly at the same time” Bryony said. “Anyone that practices a martial art to a high level knows that it involves incredible dedication and discipline, and also pushes your body and mind to the limits of endurance.”
Originally part of U.K MMA pioneer (and ex UFC athlete) Rosi Sexton’s mentoring scheme, Bryony went about taking Rosi’s advice on training, nutrition, competing and training with Rosi. “I was very privileged to be on a mentorship scheme with Rosi. I gained invaluable advice at the beginning of my amateur career” said Bryony.
The 18th of May 2013 is a day that Bryony will forever have as a fond memory. It was when she made her amateur debut and found out exactly what she is capable of in the cage. “I think the only way to truly know how good you are at fighting is to compete. Being locked in a cage with another trained fighter who can use pretty much any style or technique against you is the ultimate test”, Bryony said when recalling the first time she stepped into the cage.
Not only content with competing in amateur MMA bouts, but Bryony also tested her skills by competing in white-collar boxing bouts, Muay Thai bouts, and grappling matches to gain invaluable experience before turning pro in November 2015.
Holding a current professional record of 4 wins 3 losses and 1 draw, with all 3 of those losses coming from title fights with two of those athletes currently competing in the UFC and Bellator, Bryony is no stranger to adversity in the MMA industry.
Having started in her MMA career aged 33, Bryony was considered by some promotions and coaches to be ‘too old’ to be competing in the sport. Once Bryony turned pro at the age of 35 and started to win, it was only then that she began to believe in herself more and knew that ‘age was just a number’. At least, to her anyway, and she set about proving just that.
Having gone 4-3-1 in her pro career, taking short notice fights and a title fight in a weight class above her usual weight division, Bryony felt that her current gym, Exile, had let her down. “I felt like the industry had written me off for being too old, and some of the coaches at my gym had said I was too old and slow after I lost the Cage Warriors title fight against Molly McCann. When they wrote me off because of that loss, I didn’t think that was fair. It was quite demoralizing for me. The whole experience was quite demoralizing, and I just stopped the enjoyment of the sport.
On top of that, Cage Warriors wouldn’t give me a fight at strawweight, and I felt I was not valued as a fighter, and not being given significant opportunities. It just wasn’t worth the sacrifice anymore. So, I decided to retire in July 2018.”
Since retiring from competitive MMA, Bryony thought that she’d feel better because of the less stress involved and would have more time to spend with her husband and two children. However, she felt like there was a massive hole in her life and felt very down, having nothing to work towards with the Adrenalin rush that she always knew she had. “Having just a normal life is not good enough for me. I know it is quite a selfish attitude to have especially the fact that I have got young children and an amazing husband and a stressful job. I need that buzz to make me happy.”
Looking to replace that ‘buzz’ Bryony decided she would concentrate on achieving the top levels in grappling. After taking home silver at the IBJFF and silver at the UK ADCC, she didn’t have the same drive for grappling as she did in MMA, stating that “I didn’t put 100% in because I just didn’t have that kind of fear factor that someone is going to smash your face in if you don’t train properly, and it wasn’t dangerous for me.”
On May 30th, 2019 it was officially announced that Bryony had come out of retirement and will be competing on the Bellator London card on June 22nd at the SSE Arena, where she will face the current kickboxing champion Denise Kielholtz in a flyweight MMA bout. A fight that has been over a year in the making, as Bryony initially accepted a short notice (1 week) fight against Denise back in February 2018 but had to withdraw due to being medically suspended after her fight with Molly McCann. It was suggested to Bryony that Denise wasn’t matched up for the London card and did she fancy another fight. It was at that point that Bryony messaged her managers, who then contacted Bellator, and they came back with a yes straight away.
With ten weeks to prepare for the bout, Bryony went to Cross Face gym in Watford, training with head coach Dave Lee and Charlie Leary who is also on the London card. For the final two weeks of her training camp, Bryony flew out to Thailand to train at UFC athlete Johnny Walker and Leo Gosling’s new gym Chokchai Muay Thai. “While Johnny and Leo were here in Southampton, I trained with them, so it made sense for me to go out and spend two weeks over at there new gym in Thailand. They have a few UFC athletes training there, and Jorge Kanella who is also on the London card. Being surrounded by world-class coaches and fighters, this fight camp has been on a different level to any other I’ve had. They treat me as an equal, and I’m keeping up with these guys who are top-level pro fighters, so it’s been a massive confidence boost to come back to fighting after people had written you off. I’ve got some amazing people around me that believe in me, and I know I can win this fight.”
With the advantage of having 16 MMA fights compared to Denise’s 4 MMA fights, and factoring in that Denise is Bellator’s kickboxing champion and has had numerous kickboxing bouts, Bryony realises that Denise is a superb striker, having watched a lot of her fights just purely to learn from her and improve her own striking. She is also a classy athlete and represents the sport incredibly well.
Feeling that this is a good match-up and an opportunity Bryony had been asking for throughout her MMA career, she now thinks that having dedicated her life to MMA and competing for the last five years, come June 22nd it will have paid off.
With the fact that Denise is a world champion kick-boxer, Bryony knows that it is unrealistic to think she could beat a multiple world champion striker on her feet, and therefore feels Denise will probably think that Bryony will want to get her to the ground as that is where she tends to do best. “She will be physically stronger than me and be powerful so it will be down to see who can implement their fight game, as always in MMA.
“It’s going to be a fair fight as we both have had a good preparation for this bout. I think I am probably going in there as the underdog and that’s fine with me as that’s normal, but the nice thing for me is she may well be a top striker in Bellator and the promotion, but we are fighting in London in front of my home crowd, which is nice for me because it’s rare that I get to fight in front of a home crowd. It is going to be amazing to have support there, and I’m also fighting on the same card as good friends of mine, Kate Jackson, Charlie Leary and Jorge Kanella, and Johnny and Leo are also going to be there. It is going to be amazing.”
Aiming for a submission win, Bryony has one last thing to say. “Last year my fire went out, this year it’s back with a vengeance! I am incredibly honoured and grateful for this opportunity on the world stage against such an impressive opponent. I got written off as a fighter. This year, I’m training alongside Bellator and UFC athletes treated as equal. Don’t let anyone crush your dreams if you surround yourself with the right people you will succeed!”
Don’t miss out on the last opportunity to apply for the IMMAF Pan American Championships of Amateur MMA. Apply here: http://bit.ly/1CIwnUR
Due to challenges posed by local authorities, the event was recently moved back to 24th to 26th April in Toronto. The Canadian Combat Alliance has carried out incredible work to enable the event to go ahead.
The “Pan American AMMA Championships” will follow a tournament format and the event includes open contests for Amateur Mixed Martial Arts, youth and adult submission grappling, adult Brazilian jiu jitsu and karate. In addition, fans can enjoy traditional Muay Thai and kickboxing matches featured at the event.
The Amateur MMA competition spans a three day period and is open to attendance from Pan American Nations. Amateur MMA competitors eliminated in the preliminaries on 24th April may participate in the BJJ or Muay Thai Championships on Saturday 25th April; and Amateur MMA Competitors eliminated on 24th April or 25th April may participate in the ISSGF Submission Grappling or Kickboxing Championships on 26th April. Finals for the IMMAF Pan American Championships of Amateur MMA will take place on Sunday evening (26th April) in the form of a carded show.
The contests are open invitationals, so that non-member countries from the American continents are welcomed to discover IMMAF and its worldwide Amateur MMA movement. Individual athletes from the American continent are also warmly invited to apply.
The event launches IMMAF’s wider global program of Amateur MMA competitions. The Americas have been pivotal in the evolution of the sport of MMA. The region is also renowned for producing high calibre talent, which will make this first annual tournament particularly compelling ahead of the 2015 IMMAF World Championships in July.
The IMMAF Pan Americans will also see the piloting of the www.splitdraw.com tournament management system that will be used for the 2015 IMMAF World Championships at UFC® International Fight Week in Las Vegas in July.
IMMAF CEO Densign White said:
“The Canadian Combat Alliance has managed to keep faith and worked incredibly hard to make this inaugural event happen in spite of great obstacles. We hope that this event will be the first of many more to come over the years, as the IMMAF family expands its footprint in the Americas. We encourage all MMA athletes that are able to, to make the journey to support this historical event by taking part.”
Bryony Tyrell will be making her fifth amateur MMA appearance tomorrow night, Saturday, February 21st on UIC 14 at GL1 Leisure Centre in Gloucester.
Bryony trains out of Exile Gym in Southampton; is a working mum with two children and competes up and down the country. Here I get to find out what Bryony has been achieving since I last spoke with her 18 months ago and I for one can say WOW!
It has been awhile since I have last caught up with you [July 2013] and since then you have been one busy lady. Can you talk me through the last year of your achievements for which I know you have achieved a lot.
It’s lovely to catch up with you again, I can’t believe it’s been that long! Yes it has been a very busy couple of years.
In October 2013 I fought on Extreme Cage Championships – Banned 1 in Blackpool and won by split decision. A few weeks later I was asked to do a white-collar boxing match at short notice in Andover which I won by decision.
Last but not least (lol) in November I fought on Shock ‘n’ Awe in Portsmouth (MMA) and won by TKO second round.
That’s a lot of achievements for a working mum of two, to fit all of those achievements into your ‘spare’ time. How do you do it?
I’m not really sure how I managed to do all that. My life is absolute chaos for the most part to be honest, but I love it! I couldn’t do it without the amazing support of my husband, coaches and teammates.
You train out of Exile Gym in Southampton, alongside Arthur Frost who is another top amateur MMA fighter and also Pro fighter Benny Carr. How does it feel to train alongside Arthur and Benny when it comes to a fight camp?
Benny and Arthur are a massive inspiration to me. Arthur in particular has helped me out immensely; I’m very lucky to train side by side with someone of his calibre.
Your’re now 2-2 in your amateur MMA career; have been on one of the biggest shows as in Cage Warriors, when can we see you make the move to the Pro ranks?
My aim was to turn pro at the end of this year if I do well in my next two amateur fights. My concern with turning pro though is the lack of opponents at my weight. The amateur scene for women is definitely expanding but the pro level still seems to be very scarce in the UK.
You’re facing Jemma Jacques at UIC 14 at GL1 in Gloucester this Saturday February 21st in an Amateur MMA bout; do you know much about your opponent or the challenges she may pose on the night?
I know quite a lot about Jemma because I’ve been matched against her before. I’ve never met her but I like her. She seems savvy and a bit fiery, good characteristics for a fighter . We’re both from a kickboxing background so I’m quite familiar with her fighting style. She has powerful striking which I’ve got no doubt could cause me serious problems if I don’t keep moving (lol).
Where do you feel that you will be stronger in this fight and where do you feel it may end up?
To be honest I’m not sure what will happen on Saturday, I’m quite comfortable standing and on the ground, although I think my grappling is stronger. I expect this fight to go to the ground at some point where I think I’ll dominate.
Are you still part of ‘Rosi Sexton‘s’ mentoring scheme? If so, how is that going?
I’m not part of Rosi’s mentoring scheme anymore. She was understandably very busy when she got signed to the UFC so I think that went on the back burner. I will always be very grateful for the help and advice she’s given me. She’s a true icon for WMMA.
I really enjoyed TUF 20. It was quite interesting to have an insight into some of my favourite fighters. It’s a shame they gave so much airtime to the more unpleasant characters in the house. Angela Magana was particularly vile. It was nice to see Jo Jo and Aisling coming across so well, both a true credit to WMMA.
After your fight will the ‘Gazelle’ be eating lots of cake?
Haha…yes I’ll definitely be eating lots of cake after the fight, I might even indulge in a cheeky cider too! I can’t relax too much though because I’m fighting again in March.
Lastly, is there any sponsors or anyone you would like to thank?
I don’t have any sponsors, only my brother who spoils me with random MMA related pressies..lol. So obviously I would like to thank him and my beautiful sister-in-law Lisa who are always there for me. I’d also like to thank all my fantastic coaches and training partners at Exile and Look Borai, in particular Daniel Bourne, Gareth Blair, Dean Kendall, Janis Meiksans, Trevor Birmingham, Jarrod Speed, Rich Harding and Arthur Frost. I’d also like to thank my Mum for being brave enough to come and watch me and last but not least my husband for enabling me to chase my dreams and only complaining a little bit..lol.
Thank you for your time Bryony it is very much appreciated.