There is no doubt that at the minute, women’s boxing has taken off, long overdue in my book but then again, I guess women’s boxing is not for everyone; however, on 10 April 2021, that changed and for the better.
There is no doubt that at the minute, women’s boxing has taken off, long overdue in my book but then again, I guess women’s boxing is not for everyone; however, on 10 April 2021, that changed and for the better.
Rewind to 10 years ago, 27-year-old Bec Connolly walked into Paddy Fitzpatrick’s boxing gym in Swindon, Wiltshire, with no prior boxing experience and asked Paddy if he would train her. He did, however, he also took convincing that she was for real and would train hard, as hard as the men; Paddy never gave her any special treatment; in fact, he was harder on her than the men.
After completing her “apprenticeship” in the amateur ranks, Connolly turned pro in September 2017 and “Lady Luck” was born.
You could be forgiven for just looking at Boxrec and seeing the numbers in the Win, Loss and Draw columns, but then again, any pure boxing fan would delve a little deeper into who the opponents were.
Sharing the ring with the likes of Terri Harper, Rachel Ball and Tasha Jonas, to name just a few on Connolly’s resume, regardless of the result, shows just how determined she is to win a boxing title.
“Some may see me as a journeywoman, but that’s not the case. I find that rude. People only look at the record. They don’t look at the quality of the opponents. I am a contender. I’m also not anyone’s stepping stone.”
For the time being, Connolly is concentrating on campaigning for a fight for the vacant Commonwealth title (super bantamweight/featherweight/super featherweight), which the boxing fans also want to see.
“I’ve been asking for the Ebanie Bridges fight since last year, and that’s the fight I’d still like to have.
“It would be an interesting fight because I wouldn’t have to chase her all night as she comes straight forward like I do—a match made in heaven – in boxing terms. I mean, fans want to see an all-out war in the ring. Bridges bring that, and so do I.”
This brings me back full circle as if you didn’t know 10 April 2021 was the Courtenay vs Bridges fight, which got women’s boxing back on the map, front and centre.
British athlete Leon Edwards will be using Freetrain products ahead of his blockbuster fight with Nate Diaz next month, June 12, 2021.
Freetrain, the innovative fitness and running brand, are proud to announce UFC fighter Leon Edwards as their next athlete ambassador.
British athlete Leon Edwards will be using Freetrain products ahead of his blockbuster fight with Nate Diaz next month, June 12, 2021
Freetrain, the innovative fitness and running brand, are proud to announce UFC fighter Leon Edwards as their next athlete ambassador.
As part of a new initiative to work with exciting sporting talent, Edwards has signed a partnership with Freetrain to see him use Freetrain products in his training camp to prepare for his next fight against American Nate Diaz on June 12 at UFC 263 in Arizona.
The fight was initially due on UFC 262 but was moved to UFC 263 on June 12 after Diaz suffered an injury. The contest will be the first five-round non-title co-main event in UFC history.
The current Freetrain product range includes the Freetrain V1 Vest and the Freetrain VR Vest, which offers an innovative alternative to phone holder armbands.
29-year-old Edwards, based in Birmingham, is the number-three ranked fighter in the UFC 170lbs Welterweight division and is currently riding an eight-fight win streak.
Edwards will be seeking a high-profile win to add to his record after being forced out of action for over a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. He was then due to fight Khamzat Chimaev on three different occasions, but the fight was then cancelled due to Chimaev’s COVID-19 issues.
Edwards ended up facing Belal Muhammad as a late-notice replacement in March at UFC Fight Night: Edwards vs Muhammad but an accidental eye poke to Muhammad in the second round ended the fight. The bout was ruled a no contest.
Now Leon “Rocky” Edwards moves on from that fight looking to build on an eight-fight win streak (excluding the no contest), and a win over the 36-year-old American Nate Diaz, who hasn’t fought inside the Octagon in almost 18 months, will put him within touching distance of a shot at the 170lbs title.
James Wren, a co-founder of Freetrain, said: “Being based in Birmingham, we’ve followed Leon’s journey closely over the last few years, and we are extremely excited to be partnering with him and helping him as he prepares for the biggest fight of his career.”
He added: “He is one of the most recognisable names in British MMA and is now within touching distance of a title shot and becoming a UFC champion.”
Edwards said: I’ve been a fan of Freetrain for some time now and have been using the V1 for a while, it’s a pretty simple product, but it does the job for me. Teaming up with the guys seemed like a no brainer, both based in Birmingham, so it was as simple as it gets.”
Last month, Freetrain announced their first athlete partnership with British boxer Conor Benn.
The Birmingham based fitness company set up by former Aston Villa youth player Jack Dyer and former Walsall FC goalkeeper James Wren. The pair has created an innovative alternative to phone holder armbands to allow fitness enthusiasts to train smart and train free. Since 2015 when the business launched, they have experienced significant growth, increased their product range, and sold over 150,000 units worldwide in 12 different countries. The product range currently includes the Freetrain V1 Vest and the Freetrain VR Vest, along with other running accessories such as rechargeable illuminate LEDs, water-resistant gloves, reflective gloves and therma hats. To find out more about Freetrain, visit: http://www.freetrain.co.uk/
Bellator MMA announce new broadcast deal ahead of Bellator Paris on Saturday, October 10th, 2020.
LONDON – Bellator MMA have today announced a new broadcast deal that will see live MMA broadcast on the BBC for the very first time.
Eleven fights from Bellator’s upcoming Paris show, which takes place on Saturday 10th October at the Accor Arena, will be available live on BBC iPlayer to viewers across the UK. In another first for Bellator, the Paris event will also make history by being the first major MMA event ever hosted in France.
Fights featuring on the BBC will include the highly anticipated welterweight bout between England’s Michael “Venom” Page (17-1), better known to fans as “MVP,” and the undefeated Scotsman Ross Houston (8-0,1 NC). MVP is one of the biggest names in MMA, known for his exciting fighting style and highlights reel of knockouts. Houston, a former MMA world champion, will be looking to make his mark on his Bellator debut.
David Green, Head of Bellator Europe, said; “We are thrilled that we will be bringing live action from our first ever show in France to fans across the UK on BBC iPlayer. The BBC is unparalleled in its reach with millions of people tuning in to its sports content every week. We therefore look forward to servicing our existing fans better than ever before as well as hoping to attracting new fans who will be able to tune in to this historic event. The card is stacked from top to bottom so those watching are in for a real treat come Saturday night.”
Scott Coker, President of Bellator MMA, said; “This is a really exciting broadcast deal for Bellator MMA as our presence in the European market goes from strength to strength. Having just put on three events in Milan and now heading to Paris to make history there, we are committed to providing fight fans across Europe with regular events, featuring the world’s best fighters, which are easily accessible to them via our first-class broadcast partners. We have signed more big names to our roster this week and are looking forward to an action packed 2021.”
The live broadcast starts on BBC iPlayer at 4.30pm BST on Saturday and will run through until 10pm BST.
A limited number of fans will be allowed in attendance at this history-making show. The event got the go ahead after the government granted permission for it to take place under the supervision of the French Boxing Federation. Bellator Paris will be the fourth event hosted by the promotion in Europe in the space of two weeks, following three shows held behind closed doors at Allianz Cloud in Milan, Italy.
Saturday, March, 14th 2020 RAGED UK MMA will be hosting their 12th event at the Oasis Leisure Centre, in Swindon.
With the success of the last event, you can live stream the action, free, on Facebook page ‘Craziest Sports Fights’ if you cannot make the event in person.
Firmly putting Swindon on the map as a ‘fight town for mixed martial arts’ the promotion has gone from strength to strength with athletes competing from all over the UK.
Not only content with being one of the South West’s most prominent MMA events. Striving to make sure fighter safety comes first, the promotion has added in some new weight categories to bridge the gap between divisions, ensuring that all competitors compete at a weight more suitable for them.
“Adding new weight divisions opens up a more extensive range of fights for matchmaking; however, more importantly, is fighter safety.
“I’ve seen a few injuries along with fighters becoming dehydrated after cutting a lot of weight so as a promotion we are trying to make things safer,” said Gary Turland.
With a card of 13 fights, including five professional bouts and 4 title fights the event is stacked from top to bottom.
Limited tickets are still available from www.raged.uk or at the venue itself which will incur a surcharge of £5 each for paying on the door. (cash accepted on the door).
Ticket prices: Standard £25 (£5 extra on the door)
Cageside £40 (£5 extra on the door)
Doors open 5.45pm first fight 6.00pm
Oasis Leisure Centre, North Star Avenue, Swindon, SN2 1EP
Under 18’s must be accompanied by a guardian and only allowed in the balcony area
The 14th December 2013 is a date that will be forever ingrained in Johnny Walker’s brain. It was that day that Johnny had his first-ever professional mixed martial arts contest at the age of 22, in the heavyweight division. Having had no previous amateur fights, the fight only lasted :49 seconds in round one and Johnny won via TKO, something that he would be doing later throughout his career thus far.
Johnny fought another ten times at heavyweight in Brazil with a combined record of 8-3 before moving down to Light Heavyweight in March 2017, where he had another two fights before relocating to Aberdeen in Scotland in December 2017 for a year.
Johnny had grown up in Brazil all his life, until at the age of 25, he moved across the world to Aberdeen, for an exciting opportunity to help further his MMA career on a global scale.
It was, in fact, Johnny’s coach Leo Gosling who got a proposal/job offer from a businessman in Aberdeen, to go and teach classes in mixed martial arts. Leo stated he would only accept the invite if it included bringing Johnny over too. When Leo and Johnny arrived, they soon realised that it was all a big lie and that the gym owner was broke, which resulted in Leo and Johnny receiving no payment.
These were tough times for Leo and Johnny having travelled from Brazil to Scotland, and now, having no money to live on, their only option was to sleep on gym floors. However, both Leo and Johnny stayed positive and focused on the bigger picture, and Leo managed to get Johnny 3 fights in a month, which not only started to make a name for Johnny on the UK MMA scene (Johnny won the UCMMA light heavyweight title, Feb 2018) but also gave them the much-needed money to survive and progress in the MMA scene.
It wasn’t long after Johnny won his next three fights that he decided to try out for season 2 of ‘Dana White’s contender series in Brazil’ which was held on August 11th, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
This was Johnny’s chance to prove to Dana White that after all the hard work he had put in since 2013, he belonged in the world’s number one promotion. The ‘UFC’.
On Fight Night, Johnny was scheduled to meet Henrique da Silva and was looking forward to showcasing his skills. However, during his warm-up Johnny was physically sick and had a fever. He also got tired within three minutes of warming up, so he chose to stop and conserve his energy for the bout against Henrique.
Johnny went the whole three rounds with Henrique, in which he won every round on the scorecards. This was the only fight thus far that Johnny had left it in the hands of the judges. He won via unanimous decision. “It was a great experience even though I was sick, and I couldn’t make it my best performance,” Johnny said afterwards. “It was the first time that any of my fights have gone to the judges’ scorecards”.
That performance impressed Dana White so much that he rewarded Johnny with a UFC contract.
After that victory, Johnny moved to Southampton, England to train with his coach Leo Gosling, where he met female UK fighter and mum of two Bryony Tyrell. At the time, Bryony part-owned Exile MMA Central, Southampton, and later went on to train with Leo and Johnny in Thailand at Johnny’s gym called ‘Walker MMA’, while preparing for her Bellator debut on 22nd June 2019. They formed a great bond with each other that still exists today.
Born Walker Johnny Barra Silva de Souza on March 30th, 1992 in Tingua, Rio de Janeiro, Johnny, his brother Valter and his parents, relocated to Rio das Ostras when he was a teenager, where he lived until he was 25 years old.
Rio das Ostras was a cool place to grow up. The city used to be very safe back then. Johnny would frequently go play out in the street or visit the beach a lot. Unfortunately, as with many children today, some of the kids at school were mean, and for a while, Johnny got bullied for being so tall and skinny.
At 15 years old, Johnny took up one of his first loves, dancing, RIP rop, and Lamaerobica, (which is a Brazilian style of dance), — gradually moving onto lifting weights. Then he moved onto Muay Thai, which he fell in love with after his first lesson.
After leaving school, Johnny started studying Chemistry Engineering but decided that he wanted to follow his dream of becoming a world champion mixed martial arts athlete. After being introduced to Leo Gosling at Leo’s gym, Johnny was offered a scholarship to train in Brazilian Jiujitsu, and Leo invited Johnny to train in MMA as well.
With the mentorship of Leo fully formed, and an incredible bond, even when Leo went to London for a year, Johnny trained at Team Evolucao in the South of Brazil. They then reunited to carry on with their close coach/manager bond that they established.
Starting his MMA career off in the heavyweight division, Johnny knew that weight class was not for him. So, he dropped down to light heavyweight, where the 6ft 5 Brazilian has found great success in the 205lb weight class.
Since being signed to the UFC in 2018, Johnny has had three fights with all of them ending with a first-round win, and a total combined time of 2 minutes 48 seconds in the octagon, gaining three “fight of the night” bonuses while in the process. “Starting my career in the heavyweight division and now in the light heavyweight division, I’m going to win the light heavyweight belt. Then, I will move up and win the heavyweight belt” stated Johnny while we were on the subject on whether he will make a return to the heavyweight division.
If you’re familiar with Johnny Walker, then you will know that after every win in the octagon, Johnny, celebrates by doing a version of what he calls ‘the worm’. However, the last time Johnny did his celebratory ‘worm’, he dislocated his shoulder just before having his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan. He then had to have surgery, and this kept him out of competitive action for four months while his shoulder was healing.
“My shoulder is 100% recovered now. I had surgery and have been rehabbing it, and I’m good to go. I will have to look for a new celebration to do when I win as my mum won’t let me do ‘The Worm’ anymore lol,” Johnny says laughing.
Having had six months out of the octagon to rehab his shoulder injury, it has given Johnny plenty of time to spend time with his two dog’s – Pitbull’s named ‘Yoga’, who is the female, and ‘Tanus’, the male. This has given them plenty of time to go down to the beach to chill as well as playing video games. Which at the moment is ‘Call of Duty 4’ online. “I haven’t had time to play the new Call of Duty Modern Warfare yet!”. As well as visiting other gyms to get some more experience, as you can never have enough skills, Johnny has recently come back from spending three weeks at SBG Ireland.
Johnny (17-3), ranked #11 will be facing Corey Anderson (12-4), ranked #7, (according to UFC rankings) on Saturday, November 2nd at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY, at UFC 244.
Looking at these two athletes on paper the only similarities (which are small) is that Johnny is 6ft 5 inches and has an 82-inch reach, whereas Anderson is 6ft 3 inches and has a 79-inch reach.
Anderson is on a three-fight winning streak, all coming by way of decision. In fact, all his fights bar 4 have come by leaving it in the hands of the judges. On the other hand, Johnny is on a nine-fight winning streak, with only one of those wins coming by way of decision back in 2016. That is the only one so far on his overall career record. The rest of his wins have come by way of T/KO and two submissions, with all of those T/KO’s happened in the first round one and one coming in the second round.
With a win over Corey Anderson on Saturday, November 2nd, it should put him in the top #6 of the light heavyweight division. The question everyone will be asking is, who is next for him? Will he be in title contention to fight the current champion Jon Jones?, Or will it be someone in the top 5? “I’m not bothered by who my next opponent is, I want to fight as soon as possible, within three weeks would be ideal, in Washington, DC, on 7th December. If not then, then UFC 245 in Vegas on 14th December.”
UFC 244 takes place on Saturday, November 2nd, live from Madison Square Garden, New York, NY.
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.
Born and raised in Southampton, England, Tom Watson first started in combat sports at the age of 16, when he took up boxing. A three-time ABA Southern Counties Champion and being awarded ‘Amateur boxing standout of the year’ in 2006 was his introduction into mixed martial arts.
Watson made his professional mixed martial arts debut on 19th February 2006 for a local show at the Copthorne Hotel and Resort in London. On ‘ZT Fight Night 1’ where he won via Guillotine choke in 71 seconds, he returned on the show’s second instalment on June 25th the same year where he won via decision.
In 2007, Watson competed in five fights for UK promotion Cage Rage gaining a record of two wins and three losses. From 2008 – 2012 Watson fought a further twelve times for promotions Cage Rage, AFC, UCMMA (formerly Cage Rage), MFC and BAMMA. With his sole loss to Jesse Taylor at MFC 26, Watson picked up the inaugural UCMMA middleweight title along with the BAMMA middleweight title when he fought Jack Marshman at BAMMA 9.
With news that Watson has signed to elite European promotion Cage Warriors and will be facing Aaron ‘King’ Khalid at Cage Warriors 104 on April 27th, 2019 in Cardiff, it was only fitting that I should re-introduce ‘Kong’ to the world.
You’d be forgiven if you are not familiar with Tom ‘Kong’ Watson as of late, with his last competitive fight being on August 8th, 2015 for the UFC. Spending three years with the world’s number one promotion in the UFC, Watson had two wins and five losses (with those losses coming by way of decisions) for the UFC taking his overall record to 17-9.
Watson was not done with competing and was still actively seeking opportunities to fight in the UFC. Having no success, Watson was released by the UFC and continued to explore roles outside of the UFC, doing some commentary jobs here and there. It was at this point that promotion BAMMA contacted Watson regarding doing some presenting and commentary jobs for them. They also wanted Watson (who had been with BAMMA since their first event up until he signed to the UFC) to compete again for them. This news was music to Watson’s ears as he had not hung up his gloves and retired as many people thought due to his 3-year absence from the sport.
Unfortunately, due to issues out of Watson’s control, BAMMA was no longer a viable option as a promotion to make his long-awaited come back on. Instead, elite European promotion Cage Warriors signed Watson in the welterweight division (Watson previously competed in the middleweight division) in January of 2019.
Watson trains predominately at his state of the art gym called ‘Analysis’ which is located right next to him in Southampton, and with the occasional odd trip back to California to train. Watson is already preparing hard for his upcoming bout for his Cage Warriors debut.
Deciding to cut down to welterweight was an easy decision for Watson. He stated that “quite a few people had told me that I should have been a welterweight when I competed in the UFC as I never really cut any weight. When I look back on my career I do wonder if 170lb was the weight, I should have been competing at, so this is an attempt to test out that theory.”
Not content with winning a UCMMA (formally known as Cage Rage) and BAMMA title, Watson has made it very clear that the aim is to win the Cage Warriors welterweight title stating “I’m not coming here to have a bit of fun or have a couple of fights. I’m coming here to pick up another title to add to the two other titles I have held. I don’t know if there is anybody that has all of those titles, so that is my goal.”
With his first love being boxing Watson is in the middle of applying of getting his trainers license as he has a few guys who are looking to make their pro boxing debut so he can be in their corner.
/With the legalisation of Bare Knuckle Boxing, Watson has a couple of guys that he trains. Watson stated “it is not something that interests me, I do like the idea of fighting without gloves more than with gloves, I think gloves are probably less safe, and bare-knuckle is safer. It’s a big misconception that people think Bare Knuckle Boxing is more dangerous. I’d say it is a lot safer as you can’t do much damage as you break your hands more and you don’t have this protection and mould on your fist to keep punching the shots away. I will say though on bare-knuckle when they wear the wraps; I think it’s like wearing gloves and its worse, so to me, bare-knuckle boxing should be basically without wraps or anything.”
Going back to his time with the UFC, Watson stated “ I competed against the best in the world, and I have never got finished by any of them, only losing by decisions. Quite a few were controversial decisions at best for me. Fighting is fighting and if you are losing a decision sport contest– well I’ve said it before, in the UFC I don’t really see that as losing, just the system and the setup. For instance, if we changed the UFC fight to a no time limit would of I lost any of those fights? I doubt it. It is what it is, that’s the rules you play by. Strategy wise I probably didn’t fight too smart. If you look at the earnings of the people in the UFC, I’m still relatively high up there, and I didn’t win many fights, so, on that basis, well it was smart – possibly.”
For those of you that have followed Watson’s career from the beginning, you will recall Watson enters the cage wearing a gorilla mask, hence why he has the nickname ‘Kong’. As Watson made his last appearance for the UFC in 2015, a new British fighter in the name of Darren ‘The Gorilla’ Till was making his debut for the promotion. “I’m not bothered by Darren Till” Watson states, “I believe Dan Hardy gave him the nickname ‘Gorilla’, it is what it is. I think everyone knows ‘Kong’ more than Darren Till’s ‘The Gorilla’.
“Darren Till is a great fighter, but I don’t think he is synonymous with a Gorilla.”
“Cage Warriors is the show where I’m going to make my comeback and win the welterweight title.”
With his debut for his Cage Warriors bout being dubbed ‘King’ vs ‘Kong’, there will only one way to find out if this is the start of a resurgence for Tom ‘Kong’ Watson by tuning into Cage Warriors 104 on April 27th live on UFC Fight Pass.
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!”