It was a Tuesday night, the 10th of December 2013, and I was just shuffling around my home waiting to hear from Shannon Knapp, the president of Invicta FC. I was looking forward to chatting with her about my future with Invicta, when the phone rang. A Vegas number? I was pretty sure that her number was from Kansas.

During the few weeks prior, after Dana White announced he’d be introducing a women’s strawweight division to the UFC, I dared to dream a little bigger. Remembering that I still had one fight left on my Invicta contract, I planned for a victory and hoped for a new contract that would be my path to a title shot with Invicta, and increase my appeal to the UFC. At my age of 32, I considered that my fight career may not be as long as the 20 year-olds getting started, and so I decided to let my future be determined by whether or not I got a shot at a title or the UFC.

When I answered the phone call from the Vegas number, and Dana White (president of the UFC) introduced himself on the line, I lost my breath for a second. Uncertain at first how to respond, or whether or not this was real, I asked a few light-hearted questions until I couldn’t deny it was indeed the unmistakable voice of Dana White. He had called me personally to inform me that he acquired my Invicta contract and that my life was about to change! Dana shared his plans to introduce the women’s strawweight division of the UFC with the first-ever all-female Ultimate Fighter season – TUF20! With that, he made it clear that, at present, I am now an official UFC fighter, and am guaranteed a spot on TUF20. To add to the excitement, Dana decided that the winner of the show would be awarded the women’s UFC strawweight belt and championship title!

With that, the future of my MMA career was set. Not only did I gain the status of UFC fighter and be guaranteed a spot on TUF, which normally requires stressful tryouts, but I ALSO get a shot at a title – UFC strawweight champion!

Until February 2013, when the UFC hosted their first female MMA bout with Ronda Rousey, women could only fantasize about building a career in the UFC. Today, we can stop fantasizing and start dreaming big, working hard alongside the men with the same goal to make our mark in the octagon for the UFC.

14 years ago, and after 18 years of stifling my passion for martial arts, I finally began my martial arts training with no idea where it would lead me. But I followed my passion, trained hard and studied all aspects of the modern and traditional arts. My love for the art and the sport only grew deeper, as it improved, strengthened and molded my character over the years. Many people couldn’t understand my passion as a woman, and my answer to them included the positive life changes I made as a result of my commitment. Today, I am proud to represent the value in following your dreams and passions- especially in the face of social criticism and adversity. Fortunately, I was blessed with close friends and family, and quality coaches that encouraged and supported me, even though they couldn’t fully understand why I had wanted this. Today they understand. Today they see the result of big dreams, dedication, sacrifice and hard work. Today, they deserve to be proud and share in my success because they were all a big part of it