The rise of the ‘Killa Bee’ 2.0 – Bryony Tyrell


Bryony Tyrell  - BELLATOR weigh-in - Credit: Bellator
Bryony Tyrell – Bellator weigh-In Credit: Bellator

 First released 21st June 2019

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!”

“It will be a quick 1st round finish, or it will be a long drawn out back and forth battle” Helen’Hellraiser’Harper


British MMA athlete Helen Harper [3-0] today faces American, Cortney Casey at PXC 47 in Guam for her fourth Pro MMA fight.

The forever professional Harper, has flown thousands of miles across the world, from her home in the UK on her own, just so she can still keep on competing at top-level.

Here I get to speak with Helen (today, on the day of her fight), about her last victory, competing for PXC, up and coming female MMA athlete’s and that ONE contract she turned down!!

Helen Harper PXC 47 Profile Picture
Helen Harper PXC 47 Profile Picture

It’s been awhile since I’ve caught up with you, last time we spoke you were due to fight Simona Soukupova, which, unfortunately got cancelled due to Simona sustaining an injury, but I do believe you did manage to get another fight scheduled for a few weeks later.  Can you talk me through what that event was and how that went for you?

I did indeed get another fight, which was actually my last fight back in October. The fight was at ‘Say Uncle Fight Night’ in Sheffield, and I fought a girl from Gran Caneria called Nayra Acosta.

How did it feel to win in such a spectacular style in another TKO victory, in 4 minutes 37 seconds of the first round in that event on the evening of October 11th 2014?

I was pretty pleased with the win, obviously.  I was completely relaxed going into the cage which I think helped a lot. 

I’ve heard that in between your fights, you took part in some grappling competitions and that you had also been doing some training with Bryony Tyrell and Molly McCann.  Can you talk me through the grappling events and training with other like-minded female MMA athletes.

I have done a few grappling comps, although not as many as I would have liked as they are generally a little out my price range sadly. Training with Molly and the other girls was awesome, Molly is the next big thing in WMMA!  

Helen Harper Jiu Jitsu on the Beach Win via Armbar 2013
Helen Harper Jiu Jitsu on the Beach Win via Armbar 2013

You’re now 3-0 in your professional MMA career thus far and are set to face American Cortney ‘Cast Iron’ Casey (3-1) on Friday 13th March for your debut at Pacific Xtreme Combat (PXC) 47 in Guam.  How are you feeling about this new exciting challenge?

To be honest it’s all been a bit of a dream. Ever since I accepted the fight I’ve been telling people where and when it is but I don’t think I ever quite believed it would be happening. Now I’m sitting in my hotel room on fight morning and it really is!!

You’ve recently signed to PXC, can you talk me through how this came about?  Was it due to you being well-known through the Asian community, having spent 2 years at Phuket Top Team Training and living there before moving back to the UK?

I have been in contact with the guys from PXC for a while, and I would have loved to have fought for them back when I was in Phuket (it would have been a lot easier to get to then!).  I was struggling for fights so Ken (matchmaker) messaged me and offered me this fight with Courtney. I accepted the fight before knowing the opponent, although I knew who she was as soon as he said her name.

Helen Harper Weigh In PXC 47
Helen Harper Weigh In PXC 47

I also read somewhere, that you were offered a contract with Asian MMA promotion ONE? Firstly is this correct, secondly if so can you talk me through your reasoning as to why you felt it was not the right time to sign with ONE.

I was indeed offered a contract with ONE. My main problem was the lack of girls on their roster. It was an exclusive contract (meaning I could only fight for them) and at the time they only had 2 girls at 115 lbs (Ann Osman, who has now moved up to 125 lbs and Sherylin Lim who refused to make-weight and now doesn’t fight for anyone). On that basis I didn’t want to sign an exclusive 3 fight deal as I felt it would inhibit the progression of my career.

Looking back at that decision, is it something that you still stick by to this day for those reasons or is their just a tiny bit of you thinking ‘ I wonder where my career would be now, if I took that option’? 

To be honest, if the deal was the same (exclusive, 3 fight) I still wouldn’t sign. I believe unless there is a significant amount of fighters at your weight, signing an exclusive contract would not be productive. If it was non exclusive or a 1 fight deal then I would consider it.

On Friday 13th March, its fair to say that you will face your toughest challenge to date in that of  American Cortney ‘Cast Iron’ Casey at PXC 47 in Guam.  Have you managed to study any tape on Cortney, if so, have you and your team seen any holes in her overall game that you can exploit to your advantage? 

I’ve watched quite a few of Courtney’s tapes, she has a lot on YouTube. She’s very quick, and has some amazing submission transitions. Obviously I can’t give anything away on my part, but I will just say I’m more than ready for this.

Where do you feel that you will be stronger in this fight and where do you feel it may end up?

I have a feeling Courtney wants to take it to the ground, but who knows where it will end up!

Cortney has only seen the third round once and that was her second pro fight which resulted in a submission (Armbar) loss, back in October 2013, you yourself have only been to the third round once which was in your first pro MMA fight back in May 2013 for which you won.  You both have very similar styles.  Do you see this fight going all three rounds in an all out war or are we going to see a quick finish?

I can see it going one of two ways. Either it will be a quick first round finish, or it will be a long drawn out backwards and forwards battle. I’m happy with either, as long as I get my hand raised at the end of it!

Helen Harper vs Sammy Donnely at UIC
Helen Harper vs Sammy Donnelly at UIC 11

When you came back from Phuket, you made a new home at ‘ Andy Roberts BJJ’.  Can you talk me through how it feels to come back to the UK and to be accepted at a top UK Gym and also be treated like family?

Andy’s is amazing, I’ve made some friends for life there. I’ve also been training at Shinkick for Muay Thai and Urban Kings for some extra grappling. All three gyms have been nothing but supportive, kind and pushed me in the right direction. I’m very lucky to be able to train with such wonderful people.

I have to ask, your nickname ‘Hellraiser’ how did it come about?

The name Hellraiser actually started out as a bit of a joke. A friend of mine in Phuket used to shout ‘Hellraiser’ at me every time he saw me, and I didn’t even realise he was talking to me to start with. After a few weeks I started responding to it so it just stuck. When my first fight came around it made sense for it to be my nickname.

Since fight day is Friday 13th, are you superstitious at all, if so by what and what superstitions do you believe in?

I’m not really superstitious, I believe life is what you make it. Everything that seems ‘bad’ at the time usually happens for a reason (you just might not know the reason at the time). I’m all for walking under ladders with black cats, you only live once! 

Lastly, is their any sponsors or anyone you would like to Thank?

Absolutely! Firstly my sponsors: Xbrain (supplements), Battle Balm (herbal muscle relief), Str8 Cheer (sports bras) and Pony Club Grappling Gear (fight wear). Secondly the gyms I’m lucky enough to train at: Andy Roberts BJJ (Farnborough), Shinkick (Woking), Urban Kings (Kings Cross, London) and Mad Hatters (Chichester). Also, I’d like to thank each and every person that has sparred with me; gone over a bit of technique with me; pointed out a mistake of mine. Collectively you have all pointed me in the right direction! Finally, I couldn’t do any of this without the support of my insanely awesome family and my gorgeous boyfriend.  

Thank you for your time Helen, I really appreciate it.

You can watch Helen Harper take on Cortney Casey at PXC 47 today from 11.50 am UK time here.

 

Fight Order for PXC 47

Fight Order for PXC 47

You can keep up to date with Helen on her Fan page Faceback here.

Helen’s Twitter account here.

Helen’s personal webpage here.

Photo Credits: Helen Harper via her  Personal Facebook (Pics 1,2,3)

Photo Credits: Seth Bates – Ulitmate Impact 11 (Pic 4)