Felice and Heather showcase their dislike for one another right off the bat, and who would expect anything else? Is this the fight that everyone is waiting for? Lets not get too caught up in the drama too early, I promise there will be plenty more to come ;-) Lets backtrack a minute here.
After arriving at the TUF house, we were quickly swept back into the vans and shuttled to the much anticipated UFC gym! Back at the gym, all 16 of us women had our own form of tryouts for the teams. I dare say I speak for everyone when I tell you how amped I was to be standing in this gym where history has been made over and over for the past 9 years. It was an exhilarating experience. I could have let it overwhelm me, but it was time to focus. Time to meet the coaches. Team Pettis seemed to want to get into our heads to find out “what we are made of”, and put us through a fitness-focused test. In contrast, Team Melendez had a more casual, laid-back approach, interviewing us and watching our movements from a comfortably seated position on the cage floor. My desire to be on Team Melendez was now confirmed. Gilbert’s attitude said, “you know who you are and what you can do. I’m not here to babysit or bark orders. You want to work and get better, then I’m here for you. Let’s do this.”
Though Team Pettis’ #2 pick and #2 seed, Joanne Calderwood, defaulted me to Team Melendez, I was no less thankful for my team. While I was ranked at #15, I was grateful that I was set to fight Joanne – a sure way to show my team what I am made of. But with our team’s choice to send Tecia Torres out to fight first, I knew I would have to wait – but maybe not that long. I had a strong hunch that if the first fight did not go our way, giving Melendez the next fight pick, I would be up next. Whether it was a sense of urgency to get the first fight out of the way, or the edginess of a tough weight cut, I could see the hunger to fight in Joanne’s face. I believed that Pettis would give her that fight. So I turned to my coaches and asked them to get me ready. Not everyone was convinced, but I was, and that was enough for me. Thankfully my coaches, Gilbert and Num, honored my request and started working with me in a short time. They had seen my fights, and they had seen Joanne’s, and they knew what i needed to do in order to beat her. Num had me working my Muay Thai defense, and Gilbert coached me through changing my attitude and approach to better handle Joanne’s attacks, and to better set up my own. At first it felt awkward, but I had full faith in my coaches, and that belief allowed me to quickly make the necessary changes. I started to feel the new rhythm and I loved it. I was excited!!!
Sure enough, and with little time to spare, Tecia’s fight was over with a decision loss to Randa, and Team Pettis called me out to fight Joanne. It was on! I was so glad that I had been aware enough to start preparing, and even more thankful that I had known my opponent in advance- even if the announcement was only days prior. Though I had always felt I would like Joanne as a person, and while I approached her as a friend in the beginning, my warmth toward her would not interfere with our business. With a belt on the line, and my fight career exposed to the world, it was time to put niceties aside and get to work. Another day in the office, but this day, I’d be looking for a promotion :-)