After twelve years of competing in mixed martial arts, Michelle Waterson’s career is reaching its greatest height. When Waterson enters the octagon this Saturday at UFC Tampa, she faces her biggest test in former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk (15-3, 9-3 UFC). Her career has prepared her for the moment.
Few female fighters come as seasoned in the cage as Waterson. Beginning her professional career in 2007, the UFC strawweight known as the “Karate Hottie” has more years of experience than each of the last three strawweight champions. She nearly doubles both Jedrzejczyk and Rose Namajunas in total number of competitive fights.
“Fighting for the UFC has definitely been something of a surreal journey,” Waterson told UFC cameras on Making of the Mom Champ. “Because when I first started fighting, Dana White was still talking about how there’s no way that women see the light of day in the octagon. So we’ve come a very long way, and I’m very fortunate to be able to say that I’ve been through it all.”
Waterson’s greatest test came in 2010 when she became pregnant with her daughter, Araya. Waterson’s husband, Joshua Gomez, agreed to end his pursuit of a professional boxing career so that Waterson could continue to chase her dreams.
“There were so many times that I just wanted to give it all up, and he (Gomez) is actually the one that would sit me down and say, ‘You’re not quitting. I’ll take care of it, I’ll go to work, and you’re going to continue to train because I know that you are going to be a world champion one day.’”
Waterson has continued on her path towards UFC gold with the support of her husband and her daughter at each fight. Injuries, weight class changes, and motherhood have only raised the former Invicta champion’s level of motivation.
“Anytime I feel like giving up, I tell myself that all of the greats have been through this point. And the only difference between them and someone that is not known is the fact that they pushed through.”
Over a decade of fighting has prepared her this stage. In a recent interview with ESPN’S E:60, Waterson gave an insight into her fight night mentality. “Walking out to the arena, getting ready to fight, my mind is strictly on finding my prey and bringing it home to eat.”
Michelle Waterson is ready to fight.
Update: At the time of this report, the main event fight between Waterson and Jedrzejczyk is still happening as scheduled. Despite reports stating Jedrzejczyk has informed the UFC she will not make the agreed upon weight, recent sources indicate that Jedrzejczyk will do all within reason to make the weight and fight on Saturday.