One of the best fights of 2013 featured Jessica Penne and Michelle Waterson fighting for Penne’s Invicta FC Atomweight title, if you missed it go watch it now (available at the bottom of this interview)! Late in that fight, Waterson locked in a armbar in the 4th round for the submission victory and becoming the new Invicta FC Atomweight Champion! The “Karate Hottie” has been a name in MMA for over 6 years while being featured on shows like Fight Girls and Jason “Mayhem” Miller’s Bully Beatdown on MTV.
Back in February of 2007, when you made your debut versus Andrea Miller (winning via decision) the sport of women’s mixed martial arts was just a blip on the radar. What made you want to go from karate to mma and was there any moment that really stands out to you as to why you made that decision?
Waterson: I always knew that I wanted Martial Arts to be apart of my career. I dreamt of owning a school and being an instructor, and thought that it was important to understand all aspects of Martial Arts. I was good at the artistic side of Martial Arts and wanted to be just as good in the combative side so I decided to pursue a fight career. The biggest moment that stands out to me was the rush I got walking out the the ring for the first time! The excitement and fear all mushed in one. It’s like no other feeling in the world. Ever since then I was hooked.
What’s it like training with a top tier team like Jackson’s MMA when almost everyone in there is not just happy to be there but training for a championship? Does that really drive you for motivation or is it almost intimidating? Also, since I consider Denver a second home I would be remiss if I didn’t ask that being raised in that area if you feel like there is any better place to start your MMA career with so many fighters coming out of the area in the last decade plus?
Waterson: Moving to New Mexico was a choice I made for my MMA career. I feel like Jackson’s MMA is the best place to be for a fighter. The stable is huge, and there is never a shortage of training partners, male or female. It keeps me grounded knowing that I am training along side future legends of the sport. I feel truly blessed to be here. It’s like my second family. As a fighter it’s important to feel comfortable and accepted by their team. I have grown and flourished as a fighter but more importantly as a person. I feel like I have found myself here at Jackson’s.
A lot of people knew you early on from your time on Fight Girls as well as Jason “Mayhem” Miller’s MTV show Bully Beatdown. Was that exposure good for your career early on? What was the experience of doing those two reality based TV shows like?
Waterson: Of course the exposure was good! It got my name out there. Being on Fight Girls taught me a lot about myself. I had to grow up and learn how to not be so naive and trusting in certain situations. Bully Beatdown was tons of fun. It’s always nice to give a Bully a taste of their own medicine.
Some women in the MMA world shy away from the sex symbol topic. However, as the “Karate Hottie” you’ve seemed to embrace it. Being in music videos, modelling and doing calendars. Showing that you can be sexy and still be respected as a fighter. What are some of your thoughts on the subject and how as a fighter do you keep the two worlds separate or do you?
Waterson: It’s just that way the world works. If the fight nickname “Karate Hottie” is going to catch peoples attention, good or bad, then I believe it’s serving it’s purpose. I don’t think there is a problem with being attractive. The human body is beautiful, especially an athletic one and I think more young women need to see and be drawn towards understanding that a healthy body is sexy! My ability to fight is showcased in the cage. No one can say I can’t fight… I’m ranked number one in my division.
Your fight with Jessica Penne at Invicta FC 5 back in April was one of the best women’s fights of the year. Ending with you scoring the late submission in the 4 the round of the championship fight. Did you feel like you finally did it and what were some of your thoughts on that fight and the emotions afterwards? Was that your toughest fight to date?
Waterson: I was a very emotional fight for me. A challenge that I faced head on. I feel like I overcame many doubts that lingered in my mind. We all have doubts and fears, it’s what you do with those emotions that determine what kind of person you are. There are moments in life that can change the course of your future, and at that moment in the third round I choose to not quit and it won me the fight. That fight was not my toughest physical battle, but mentally I have to overcome many hurdles.
It’s not talked about much with male fighters because the role of child care-taking has long since been traditionally the role of a mother. How has becoming a mother in 2011 with the birth of your daughter Araya changed you as a fighter and even more so with your training and life outside of the cage?
Waterson: Being a mother has giving me a new motivation. Baby gotta eat!!! I feel like the protective mama Bear looking after her cubs. She is my world and I want to provide for her, and that person across the cage is trying to take that away from me.
As a fighter, what was your most memorable fight and as a fan what is the one fight that either made you love this sport or really stands out as your favorite of all time. If you had your pick, anyone throughout the history of MMA, who would be your dream opponent?
Waterson: My most memorable fight would have to be my pro debut because of all the new emotions I experienced. The nerves, the crowd, the anticipation, the victory!!! It was all very surreal. As a fan I loved watching the fight between Julie Kedzie and Gina Carrano. It gave me chills seeing those two women making history and seeing the sportsmanship they displayed reminded me that MMA is a Martial Art, a life style we choose to live. As for dream opponent… the truth is I don’t care. I just want to better myself each time I step into the cage.
Now that the UFC is adding another women’s division, any plans on attempting to crossover? And what are your future plans for defending your Invicta FC’s Atomweight title? Who are some of the women you are looking forward to getting into the cage with?
Waterson: I should be defending my belt soon!!!! I love fight for Invicta FC. They treat their athletes so well. I still feel like I have much to prove ing the 105lbs division. As far as moving up to 115lbs… that is something for me to think about in the future. My coaches know whats best for me, so most of the time I leave those decisions in their hands. I would be lying if I said its never been a dream of mine to fight for the UFC, but at the moment I a happy 105lbs champ for Invicta FC!!!