Remember that quiet, reserved girl in high school? She sat in the front of class, did her work and never caused a fuss. What did she become, a doctor, a lawyer or a business woman?
Nope, she became a professional fighter, and that girl was DeAnna Bennett.
Undefeated as a pro at 4-0, Bennett has been making waves in the world of WMMA. But, how did she get here? What led her on the path to Friday's Invicta FC 8 event?
"I wrestled in high school for a couple years," Bennett told Bleacher Report in an exclusive interview. "I played water polo and one of the assistant coaches was one of the coaches on the wrestling team and kind of recruited me over there. In college, I took a kickboxing class and liked that, so I did it for a few years. Before you know it, I put it all together and was doing MMA."
That wrestling base is definitely a huge part of Bennett's arsenal. In fact, it has been the base for her two pro submission wins. However, she's not just a one-trick pony.
"Even though I wrestled in high school and like it, I have done muay thai and kickboxing for longer, so I wouldn't say it's my strength."
Bennett's pro career has been spent jumping between weight classes. At 5'4", she has spent her time as both a normal-sized flyweight and somewhat undersized bantamweight.
"My natural weight class is 125, I'm a little short for the 135-pound class," Bennett explained. "I'm kind of a fat kid at heart, but 125 is definitely the best place for me. However, the UFC is a goal for me in the future. That said, I am just taking this one step at a time, especially because I have a multi-fight contract with Invicta."
In her four pro outings, Bennett has had a solid strength schedule. She hasn't taken any easy fights, and even holds wins over two TUF 18 veterans, including the winner.
"I think my best performance was my most recent outing against Colleen Schneider," Bennett asserted. "I put everything together well, especially against a tough, respected opponent.
"The Julianna Pena fight was the biggest overall win for me, though, especially considering where she is now," Bennett continued. "That said, I think that was my worst performance because I was coming off a knee injury and had a tough weight cut. Even through all that, I was able to win. But, I'd definitely fight her again to kind of redeem that subpar performance."
Bennett's training camp is The Pit Elevated in Utah, where she works out up in the mountains well above sea level. There, she works with the likes of Rad Martinez, Court McGee and a slew of other top-level fighters who have helped prepare her get to where she is now.
"Training at altitude definitely helps," Bennett explained. "Where I train, there aren't many places you can train that are higher. When I go for a jog or workout anywhere else, I feel like I can go forever. Then I go back to elevation, it's back to working harder because of that elevation. It's definitely a positive."
Invicta 8 is set to make its premiere on UFC Fight Pass, a digital network that is sure to give the company a wider audience. It's a deal that may be a huge benefit to each female fighting on the card.
"The Fight Pass deal is huge. There will be a lot more exposure and awareness of the female athletes in Invicta. It's a huge deal. Not only that, it's been easier to get sponsors for this bout."
Bennett takes on Michelle Ould, a respected veteran who has not competed in nearly two years. The layoff could either be beneficial or cause ring rust, though Bennett has her own theories on how Ould will react.
"If it were me taking two years off, I would definitely be hungry looking to make an impact," Bennett stated. "I have had trouble finding fights since I turned pro, so I know the feeling. I was anxious and ready to get things done. So I can only imagine she's been training hard and will be looking to make a lasting impression.
"Michelle is really well-rounded," Bennett pointed out. "From what I've heard, she's good at ground-and-pound and getting on top. I just need to be ready for anything she throws at me. So, I have worked on being the most well-rounded fighter as possible and being prepared for anything."
This Ould fight is easily the biggest fight of Bennett's career. Add to that the fact it's on Fight Pass, and the pressure is on. However, win or lose, Bennett wants to get more than just an addition to her pro record out of this fight.
"I want to get more experience and exposure out of this fight. I've been doing this for a few years and not a lot of people know who I am. This is what I love and this is what I want to do. I hope to get even more opportunities out of this."
*DeAnna would like to thank all of her coaches and teammates at the Pit Elevated, Warrior Fuel, Fight Chix, Bas Rutten MMA, Dynamic Fastener, Vivint Home Security, Showdown Fights, her chiropractor Dustin Drussel and her boyfriend Trevor. Follow her @DeAnnaDBennett.
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