Women's MMA is still picking up steam at this point, but there are tons of talented women all around the world. This is the case in Australia, where there are some very good female fighters, but these women aren't as famous as the ladies throwing down in the United States.
Christina Tatnell is young, hungry and talented. She fights out of Australia and is one of the women from that country who is fighting for recognition and a busier fight schedule.
Like most people in MMA, Tatnell has an interesting story of how she got into MMA. Unsurprisingly, her roots of fighting stem from a childhood where she was not necessarily the most popular girl in the crowd.
"I'm from a really small country town on the island of Tasmania in Australia," Tatnell told Bleacher Report in an exclusive interview. "As a child, I was bullied at school, and I've always had confidence issues. I'm very shy by nature, but MMA has helped me break out of my shell a lot. My first ever taste of live MMA was when I watched my current trainer Dan Hyatt and his wife Bec Hyatt on a fight card back in 2011. I instantly became hooked and wanted to begin training and learning, but many of my friends and family didn't believe in me."
Tatnell started training Brazilian jiu-jitsu in 2012 with only the intent of training. Now that she has moved completely to MMA, she has taken to striking wholeheartedly.
Of course, getting into MMA required some sort of role model. Tatnell has been carefully put under the wing of Dan Hyatt, a renowned veteran and trainer in Austalia.
"When I first began my training, both Dan Hyatt and Bec Hyatt were definitely role models for me, fighters who I looked up to, Tatnell said. "They're the most successful male and female fighters to come out of my home state, and in some ways, they're both minor celebrities in Tasmania. Bec certainly is no role model of mine anymore, but Dan is my current trainer and manager, so I've learned a lot from him and I continue to do so."
Being a young, 20-year-old female with just five fights in her pro career, Tatnell has emulated some of the more experienced veterans of the sport.
"I don't particularly model my style after anybody else, but there are elements to Joanne Calderwood's game that I would like to emulate, especially being we're both lean and long. Both of the Diaz brothers and their high rate of output with their hands is something that catches my eye, too. I think their style suits my length well."
Tatnell's foray into the sport came as an 18-year-old girl who hadn't even had a fight yet. In fact, she wasn't planning on fighting, nonetheless, against a now world-ranked fighter, but she had to jump at the opportunity.
"One of the most surreal moments of my life, that's for sure!" she said in regards to making her debut opposite Bec Hyatt. "I'd been training six months of BJJ at the time, absolutely no striking, and I was only 18 years old. I was sitting around home, reading Facebook and everyone was scrambling to find Bec Hyatt an opponent because her Egyptian opponent had been detained at the airport. This was literally the day of the weigh-ins and the next minute, Bec's husband and manager at the time, Dan, was on my caller ID phoning me to see if I wanted the fight. I was nowhere near ready, but apparently, I was the last option. The next thing I knew, my flights and hotel were booked, and I was on a plane for the first time in my life. I remember sitting backstage, shaking uncontrollably and looking for somewhere to hide because of the lights, cameras and crowd noise. It was a big eye opener for a small-town girl like me! The fight went as everyone expected, and I was finished quickly, but I don't regret taking the fight. It was an amazing learning experience and has helped build me into the fighter that I am today. I'm not scared to fight anyone else, I can tell you that!"
As stated, Tatnell is still just 20 years old, but despite that, is one of the top fighters in Australia. Her opening loss to Bec Rawlings has not hurt her stock much, especially considering she has since rattled off four straight wins against tough opposition since then.
"This is a career for me now, I train full time, and I'm looking to position myself not only as a fighter but eventually an instructor and businesswoman," Tatnell said. "I'm only 20 years of age and have less than two years of training experience in this sport; I started from scratch, and I don't expect to hit my peak for another six or seven years yet! My trainers would have forgotten more about MMA than I have even learned thus far, so I'm very excited about the future, and my main focus right now is continuing my development and evolution as a fighter."
It's hard to ignore the fact Tatnell is a young lady with a contagious personality and a beautiful look to her. With that being said, she has not over-exploited the fact she is a good-looking woman in a sport that male fans salivate over the beauty of female combatants.
"I think so, definitely. I'm not stupid, I get attention from men every now and again, so I would be foolish to not use it to my advantage," Tatnell said in regards to using sex appeal as a marketing tool. "This is the world we live in, and my male fan base will always be bigger than my female fan base because of it. A lot of female fighters refuse to acknowledge that, but I do. My main objective, though, is to be seen as a fighter first and foremost, and to be respected because of my abilities not my appearance. I think some female fighters go overboard when utilizing their sex appeal, but that's their prerogative. I understand that MMA is sports entertainment, and as much as I wish it was just about the results and talents, it's not. Whatever pays the bills though, right?"
Since dropping her debut bout on late notice to Rawlings, Tatnell has gone on a four-fight win streak that she currently still holds. In that time, the young Tatnell has defeated Australian vets Shauna Carew, Amy Adam and Helen Malone, all of whom she has finished. That is the type of resume that earns a female fighter some greater notoriety.
"I don't think there's such a thing as 'enough recognition,'" Tatnell said. "I believe I've beaten better quality opponents than a lot of people have who are on bigger deals or who are being given bigger opportunities, but I'm prepared to be patient. I'm on a four-fight winning streak; three of my four wins are against girls much, much more experienced than I am. Three of my wins have been against heavier opponents. I have three finishes and my four wins include a knockout, a technical knockout, a submission and a decision. I'm a well-rounded fighter, but I'm still learning, and I don't care for the spotlight just yet, I'm just looking for competition. I don't want to be one of these young fighters who gets too big, too soon and burns out!
"It's not really for me to say how good I am, but my trainer believes I'm the best Flyweight in Australia, and considering his experience, if he is saying that, I will believe him."
All those things considered, Tatnell remains patient for the right opportunities. In women's MMA, the best opportunities come in the form of the UFC, Invicta and World Series of Fighting. Before a fighter can get to those big shows, he or she must cut his or her teeth in smaller promotions. That's exactly what Tatnell has done and will continue to do until she snags one of those big-fight contracts.
"Invicta Fighting Championships is on my radar, you can be sure," Tatnell said. "I'm told both Shannon Knapp and Julie Kedzie know exactly who I am and have been following me for some time. Unfortunately, I've also been told that a certain someone has been doing her best to hinder any signing of me to a bigger organization because of my affiliation and loyalty to my trainer," Tatnell said, likely hinting at Bec Rawlings, the former wife of Dan Hyatt.
"I won't be training under anyone else, and right now, Invicta FC no longer has a marketable Australian on their roster. Plus their flyweight division is at its shallowest, in my opinion. I want to fly the Australian flag and mix it up with whoever they see fit. UFC doesn't even have my division yet, so Invicta Fighting Championships is where I believe I belong right now."
Right now, Tatnell does not have a fight scheduled, but one has to believe there aren't all sorts of women chomping at the bit to fight this hot prospect. However, Tatnell waits patiently while things come to her so she can continue her climb to the top of the 125-pound division.
"At the moment I'm just sitting around and waiting," Tatnell said. "I've recently changed gyms to Riot Vale Tudo in Brisbane, and my main sparring partner now is multiple-time Australian amateur boxing champion Tammy Taylor, who is also crossing over to MMA. My focus at the moment is just improving on my skills and knowledge of MMA, as well as continuing to evolve as a fighter. I now train full time, and already, I've noticed many improvements in my game. I will fight anyone on the Invicta Fighting Championships flyweight roster, I'm just waiting for my shot!"
With that, Tatnell will continue to be one of the top 125-pounders not in Invicta currently. She is a well-rounded fighter with good potential and tremendous upside. It's her type of attitude that makes champions, which is something she will obviously be gunning for in the future.
Keep an eye on Tatnell. With her young age, developing talent and infectious personality, she could become a mainstream commodity sooner than you think.
*Christina would like to give a shoutout to her trainer and manager Dan Enson Hyatt for getting her to where she is today. She'd also like to thank all her friends, family and training partners who have believed in her. She'd like to thank her tattoo sponsor Of Kings & Gods for hooking her up with free ink and piercings. Lastly, please follow her on Twitter @DaCreepyOne and look her up on Facebook. She's still using her old nickname Christina "Ratatat" Tatnell, but hopes to have that changed soon!