Women's MMA has hit a boom period, as it seems ladies are coming out of the woodwork to participate in MMA. This boom has been evident in more recent times, as the UFC, Bellator, WSOF and all-women's organization Invicta FC are signing more and more athletes.
Trying to make a name for herself amongst the fray is a "killer," known simply as Kelly McGill. A California native, she has taken to one of the unofficial hotspots for MMA in an attempt at superstardom in the sport.
McGill has not always been a fighter. In fact, she doesn't have the typical story you hear from so many fighters we talk to. One could say she has a very unique background and start in the sport.
"I got started in MMA as a fun way to prove my dad wrong," McGill revealed in an exclusive interview with Bleacher Report. "I was about 14 years old when I saw my dad watching a WEC event. At the time, I was the biggest girly girl possible, and I jokingly said I could do that. My dad said, "Yeah right," and it all took off from there."
It could have ended at that. McGill could have made the claim and then done nothing about it, neither proving her assertion to be right or wrong. However, she talked the talk and walked the walk.
"I am a very competitive person, so I took him saying that as a challenge and wanted to show him that I could do MMA. After about a year of begging my parents daily, they signed me up for my first jiu-jitsu class. After about two years of jiu-jitsu, I transferred over to kickboxing and MMA.
This was a big changeup for McGill. Previous to her encounter with her father watching the WEC event and taking up combat sports, she did what most girls her age did. She was a competitive dancer when younger and eventually became a cheerleader. Obviously, this "girly girl" was taking her athleticism to a new activity that is now where she hangs her metaphorical hat.
McGill got to work quickly, starting off at a jiu-jitsu gym before heading to Oakdale MMA in California, where she would continue to mold her all-around game. This was the foundation to her now-flourishing career, where she would take three amateur bouts, all of which she was successful in.
"My first amateur was a quick win which lasted seven seconds. My second fight I won by TKO in 55 seconds and my last amateur fight I won by decision," McGill pointed out, as fight databases do not cover her entire amateur record. "I wanted to get at least one more amateur fight in but because there was a lack of available opponents, my coach and I made the decision to turn professional, as well as a move up in weight class. I feel like it was the right decision."
The lack of opponents at the time may have been frustrating for McGill, who had to sit out almost a year before she returned to action, but it may have been a blessing in disguise. Making the leap to pro is not an exact science, as one may not be ready, but the year on the sideline may have actually bettered the Californian.
"I think my last fight (pro debut) was my best yet because I think having a year off really gave me time to grow and mature in the sport," McGill admitted. "My first three bouts I remember bits and pieces, but my last fight I remember the entire thing, and I was way more focused and conscious of what I was doing. I also feel like I was more composed, I didn't just throw wild like I did my last fights. I really thought about what to throw and when to throw.
"That performance is what got my foot into the door for Invicta FC. After that fight, Shannon Knapp tweeted me congratulations and said I was one to look out for. My last fight really got me the exposure I needed to get into Invicta FC, and I am completely grateful for that."
And get her signed to Invicta FC her pro debut did. The sub-two-minute drubbing of Leslie Rodriguez was a dominant performance that gave the bantamweight division a new prospect to look out for. She showed she was a violent finisher that could be depended on for a bout at a high level, and an exciting one at that.
Come Saturday night in Iowa, McGill now has a girl in the position she was just in as an opponent: a debuting pro. She takes on Meagan Goodwin, who—like McGill—is undefeated as an amateur at 3-0 and has finished two of her three opponents. The difference is that McGill put her opponents away with strikes, while Goodwin used submissions.
"I don't know too much about Maegan," McGill stated. "I know she has three submission wins, and she claims to be a striker, so she is definitely well-rounded. It's hard for me to describe her strengths and weaknesses because I've only seen two of her fights. I know she is going to be a tough girl, and that is exactly what makes a good fight, so I'm very excited to fight her."
Of course being an up-and-coming fighter, especially in women's MMA, fights alone aren't exactly paying the bills for McGill. In fact, McGill stays very busy, as she is currently attending college and has a job on the side as well.
"The awesome thing about college is picking your own schedule, so my schedules have never interfered with any of my training camps thus far," McGill pointed out. "My boss at my job is so insanely amazing and works around my schedule for school and training. If I have a fight coming up, I only work the weekends, so I am not overwhelmed with school, training and work. In fact, my boss actually went to my last fight and brought a lot of her friends with her. My boss is so amazing and supportive. I truly am blessed."
Juggling time between class, work and the cage has obviously not hindered McGill at this point. In fact, she looks to stay perfect this weekend in Iowa, which could be an early make-or-break fight for the devastating bantamweight.
*Kelly would like to thank everybody at Oakdale, Sonora, Merced MMA for helping her get ready. She would also like to thank Full Force Personal Training in Modesto for helping her every fight camp. More thanks to Dragon Do Fight Gear and Modules Technology Inc. Furthermore, she would like to thank her parents and her boyfriend, Rolando Velasco, Shannon Knapp, Julie Kedzie, and Invicta FC for this opportunity. Follow Kelly on Twitter @KillerKellyMMA