Beckie Lobb is a grandmother, a leukemia researcher, certified counselor and a devout Christian. On April 9 at the Hard Rock Café in Albuquerque, NM, she plans to add “cage fighter” to her resume. In a recent interview the 40 year-old mother of two laughed at the novelty of it all. “How fun is that? You know, hopefully it will encourage other people to continue to reach out for new goals and continue to try new things.”
Her fight is part of the fourth card put on by the Jackson’s MMA Series, a local promotion tied to a gym you may have heard of. Four of the seven bouts on the card are between women, including the headliner, Jackson’s-trained Julie Kedzie taking on Kaitlin Young of Minnesota MMA.
This love for the ladies is no accident. The purchase of Strikeforce by the UFC has put the future of women’s MMA up in the air, as UFC president Dana White has made it clear he has no interest in promoting girl fights. This comes as more women than ever are showing interest in MMA, a sport that, ironically, is often mislabeled “Ultimate Fighting.” The Jackson's Series is positioning itself to take advantage of a glut of female fighters that may soon be in need of work.
“Jackson's MMA Series will be stepping up to take advantage of the talented women out there needing a place to fight,” explains Ricky Kottenstette, general manager of the gym and the fight promotion. “We have the opportunity to bring some of the best females in the world to match up against the top female fighters at Jackson's.”
Another twist on the April 9 card is it will feature the final matches of the Jackson’s/Edge Challenge, a radio-driven star search aimed at finding talented local fighters.
A local radio station, 104.1 The Edge, began wooing aspiring fighters on its morning show, inviting them to try out for the opportunity to train like pro fighters for several weeks. Candidates sent in a physique-revealing photo accompanied with answers to some questions about their athletic backgrounds (to ensure no pro fighters entered).
Out of 250 applicants, 60 prospects were invited to Jackson’s MMA for tryouts. Eventually, two teams of four women and six men each were chosen: Team Renegades and The Arnold Schwarzenegger Project. After weeks of training, a male and female finalist was chosen from each team. They’ll be fighting alongside the pros at the Jackson’s MMA Series on April 9.
Women’s finalist Beckie Lobb will be squaring off against Katrina Branchal, who at 25 is barely half her age. Though Branchal only weighs 127 lbs, she's taking the fight at 135. Lobb, meanwhile, entered the competition at 159; at 144 two weeks before fight time, she's confident she can make weight. Let's hope she does, because the fight will be cancelled if Lobb doesn't make weight.
While Lobb has a year of jiu-jitsu experience under her belt, Branchal had no previous training in any martial art prior to entering the Jackson’s/Edge Challenge. In fact, she says she’s never competed in any kind of sport.
But her coach, Chad LeMoine, sees the warrior in her.
“She has an X-factor about her, a toughness that I’ve seen in other fighters," LeMoine told Bleacher Report. "She doesn’t weigh as much [as Lobb], or have the experience, but she has athletic ability, and a lot of heart. She’s been dedicated to the workouts and she doesn’t give up.”
Will it be the young fireball or the seasoned grappler? Check Bleacher Report on fight night for exclusive coverage from the event.