Three months ago, the 5’2," blue-eyed beauty Natasha Wicks was just another casual mixed martial arts fan.
That was until she was crowned the winner of the Maxim-sponsored UFC octagon girl search that was finalized at the UFC 100 fan expo back in July.
The 24-year-old Wicks did not have to travel far for a shot at an opportunity of a lifetime. She is a Las Vegas native having grown up on a farm on the outskirts of town.
It was quite crowded growing up at the Wicks’ residence with her seven siblings and the family stable of animals including horses, pigs, and chickens.
Growing up in a religious family she was home schooled until attending high school at Cimmaron Memorial in Las Vegas, where she was a three-time state qualifier in track and cross county (TUF 10 competitor Roy "Big Country" Nelson is also a graduate of CMHS).
Wicks’ athletic prowess earned her a scholarship to run for the Lumberjacks of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona.
After graduation she moved to Hawaii and was approached to model. She ended up moving back to Las Vegas and began her modeling career along with a host of other odd jobs.
Once octagon girl Edith Labelle left the UFC to pursue other opportunities a spot opened up and the aforementioned contest would find her replacement.
Wicks took full advantage of the opportunity using a combination of good looks, her bubbly personality, and a bit of luck to fend off the 2,000-plus applicants and 39 other finalists to eventually win. Her life has been transformed ever since.
Ms. Wicks took some time out of her schedule to discuss what it’s like being an octagon girl, her often criticized texting habit, Jared Leto, and what she looks for in a man.
Take a look:
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): You win the Maxim Octagon girl search a few months ago at UFC 100. How did you hear about the contest and what was that whole process like for you?
Natasha Wicks: I heard about it through a friend. He gave me a call and said, "you should sign up for this. I think you’d be really great for it." Plus, I had been out of work for a while because I had broken my foot. Then I went online and sent in my pictures and my bio. They picked me. I didn’t know how many girls had been picked. When I showed up to the expo for the actual competition there were forty of us. That was kind of surprising. I thought there was going to be less. I was pretty shocked that I won.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Do you care to share the somewhat embarrassing story about how you broke your foot?
Natasha Wicks: Yeah, it was really lame. I wish it was a lot cooler. I had competed in a go-go competition. My boyfriend at the time was using my car. He had come to meet some friends there at the Hard Rock Hotel. They were going to give me a ride home after the competition. When I was leaving I met up with them and we were leaving the center bar there. I wasn’t drunk or anything. I was just walking down the two little steps and I missed the first step. My foot went sideways and my body went with it and I broke three metatarsals. I am very outdoorsy and very athletic and never broken anything and then I miss a step and break three bones.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Were you a fan of mixed martial arts before you entered the contest?
Natasha Wicks: Definitely. I’m an all-around sports fan. Fighting is definitely one of the more interesting sports to watch. I was never like a dedicated watch-every-fight fan. I’ve never had cable or anything and I’ve never really had a lot of time to watch TV. My favorite shows I never get to see and I have to always rent them. I definitely love watching them and kept up on the fights and stuff.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Who are some of your favorite fighters to watch right now?
Natasha Wicks: That’s such a hard question because there are so many great fighters. I am definitely a Forrest (Griffin) fan. It’s good to support the local Vegas guys. I love watching Randy Couture fight. GSP is always a good fighter to watch. (Anderson) Silva was awesome. That was an amazing fight watching him and Forrest. I was disappointed a little bit. It was a little bit sad watching it but they are both amazing fighters.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): What would your nickname be if you were a fighter?
Natasha Wicks: That’s a good question. I’ve never thought about that.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Do you have a nickname your friends call you?
Natasha Wicks: My nickname is Tashy (pronounced ‘Tosh-e’). It’s nothing crazy but that was my nickname from a very young age.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): What is the best part about being an Octagon girl? The notoriety? The travel? What is it for you?
Natasha Wicks: It’s a combination of everything. No one thing makes it better than the other. They are all connected. Definitely getting to travel and go to all these places. Having front row seats for the fights and meeting the different fighters and the different people. Having fans and having the opportunity to be in magazines and having people desire you. It’s flattering and fun.
Along with that comes negative stuff but you have to take it with a grain of salt. Not everyone is going to like you. Not everyone is going to be happy with the choice that you were picked, but there will be other people that are. I am just enjoying every single minute of it, every aspect of it.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): I asked people on Twitter for a few questions to ask you. Most of them were inappropriate but there were a couple decent ones. What advice would you give to girls out there who wish to one day become octagon girls?
Natasha Wicks: Stay true to yourself. Don’t alter yourself to look like any of the octagon girls that they’ve had. Take care of yourself. Be healthy and be happy. Be aware of when the competitions come up so you can compete. (laughs) I definitely think they like girls that are already athletic. I think that was a good reason why I was picked. My whole look on it when I competed was just stay true to myself and not try to look like someone else. I wore my hair curly. I didn’t wear a lot of makeup. I don’t have the fake boobs. A lot of girls tend to think that’s what they want.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Do you and your two fellow Octagon girls Arianny (Celeste) and Logan (Stanton) get along off camera as well?
Natasha Wicks: We all definitely get along on and off camera. Arianny was just on a local radio station the other morning and I was texting her the whole time making fun of her. When we’re all getting ready in the back we’re just being goofy and having a good time. If someone is dealing with some kind of life drama or girl drama it’s like, "alright, give me a hug." It was instant friendship. I came in and they accepted me. I think it has to do with the fact that we don’t have big egos. We’re all very chill girls. We’re secure in ourselves. I think that is a huge part of it.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): I hear you are quite the athlete. I know you received a scholarship to run for UNA. What is it about running that you love so much and do you still run a lot to this day?
Natasha Wicks: Yes, definitely. I was actually supposed to be racing today. I ended up getting tendinitis in the foot I broke. There have been little complications with getting myself back in racing shape after breaking my foot but that doesn’t stop me. I just switch it up and get on the bike or get in the pool and do workouts. When it comes to running I don’t know what it is. Most people hate it. I’m one of those people that I love running and I have to be outdoors when I run. I can’t be on a treadmill.
It’s something I think I was born with because my mom and my real dad were both runners. My mom was actually the very first female state champion in Nevada in cross country. It’s been in my family and I have a natural talent for it. After I broke my foot the shortest run I would do was three miles and then I went straight up to six miles. I could go out for hours and run. I’m also one of those people that loves to run by myself. I don’t need someone else running with me.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Besides having the Octagon girl gig and modeling what else are you currently involved in?
Natasha Wicks: I go-go dance here locally in Vegas. I work at XS (at the Wynn). I haven’t danced there for a few weeks now because I’ve been so busy and I’ve been out of town doing a lot of stuff with the UFC. I’m a BSN spokesmodel too. I do events with them.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Do you still do the golf caddying?
Natasha Wicks: That’s so funny. That’s a huge topic. I’ve done it a few times. It was never a huge thing I did. It’s not really one of my favorite things just because it’s so hot in Vegas. It’s torture in the summer. The first few times you deal with people that don’t really know what we’re hired for and they have a different idea of what we’re hired for. That gets old and I’m not that kind of person at all. I know how to have fun and enjoy myself but some people are just inappropriate.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): You mentioned your dancing. Could you be the next UFC employee on Dancing with the Stars?
Natasha Wicks: You know what I don’t think I have that fame title. I think Chuck Liddell definitely has a star title so he can definitely do it. Hey, I wouldn’t mind. If I was asked I would love to. I already know how to slow dance and salsa and ballroom dance and stuff. That would be fun. I would enjoy it but I’m not sitting around hoping they ask me to do it, but if they do, why not.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): They have plenty of people that nobody has ever heard of on there, trust me.
Natasha Wicks: (laughs) I know. Those are the people where everyone is like, "why are they on there?" and I don’t want to be one of those people. (laughs) Let’s wait a little while. Let’s wait until I have a star status.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): I know you have been in a few magazines recently. Would you like to talk briefly about where people can see you at right now?
Natasha Wicks: Yes, I’m in the October edition of Maxim in the front of the magazine. Like in the contents area where it talks about what’s online. It’s basically a shout out but there’s a little picture of me on there, which I’m honored to have a picture in Maxim. I’m also in the October edition of Fight! Magazine which is sold in Borders and Barnes and Noble. I actually have a spread in there. It’s an article on me. It’s very fun. I have a bad girl biker look. That was a lot of fun doing that.
Then in November/December I’m going to be in the next edition of Ultimate MMA magazine and in the next UFC magazine. I’ve got spreads in both of those with some articles and things about me. I’m super excited about those. Those are very fun, very classy pictures. I love doing photo shoots. I have fun. I’m not insecure. I’m all about it.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Now that your name is out there a lot more do you find yourself reading the stuff that is said about you online?
Natasha Wicks: I try not to. People will call me and say, "oh, I miss her" or "oh, you look dirty." (laughs) The only thing I really hear is what other people tell me. If it was all positive then I’d just be happy people were reading it. I’m not a big fan of reading the negative stuff. Not that it affects me. It really doesn’t matter. People are going to hate. There’s no reason why I should read all that stuff. I just want to focus on positive stuff.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Have you seen the talk about your texting during live UFC events?
Natasha Wicks: Oh my gosh, yes. That one is so frustrating! Even Logan and Arianny were all laughing at me so hard. I’m seriously the one person in that group that does NOT text. I’m never on my phone. Of course, like the one time, maybe once or twice, but that was it out of all these fights. Of course one of the times I get caught on national TV in the background. Then it’s this huge thing like, "she doesn’t even care" and I’m like "but I DO care." (laughs) I’m the one that doesn’t text and doesn’t call. I don’t even know how to use Twitter. It’s very frustrating because I definitely, definitely watch the fights.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): You’re not up to speed on the Twittering yet?
Natasha Wicks: I have an account. The computer stuff I’m not into like I should be. Once I learn then I’m good. The whole Twitter thing I can’t figure out. People are like, "there’s these applications you have to go fill out and you have to put in your Twit-pics." Eventually people will know because I’ll be like, "yeah, I’ve got this!" Not that I’ll be writing everything I do because it’s not really that interesting like, "I just went for another run. Now we’re eating pizza!"
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): People seem to always be talking about your hair too, for whatever reason. You went with the straight hair for UFC 101 and you’ve been rocking the curly hair ever since. Can we expect this trend to continue at UFC 104 and beyond?
Natasha Wicks: You know what; I’m slowly bringing it in. When I first started they said, "you’re in HD so your hair is going to be extra big so we need you to tone it down not so crazy. We need just a clean, professional look." I kind of took it to the extreme and was like, "I gotta keep it straight." I love my curly hair but I’m aware of looking professional for your job. But then I’m like, "you can wear it curly but you just have to tone it down."
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Yes, keep the afro to a minimum.
Natasha Wicks: Eventually I’ll get to wear it in full force like in my RawVegas video. That’s the natural curly look, just wild and crazy, like an animal in a cage. I’ll get to wear it like that. I’m sure they’ll be fine with that. The feedback I’ve gotten from fans is that everyone really likes my curly hair.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): I have to get to the important questions that some of our readers will probably want to hear. Otherwise I’ll probably get hate mail. Are you single and, if so, what do you look for in a guy?
Natasha Wicks: Yes, I am single. Let’s see. I’m not a picky person at all. I don’t have a type. I like real down to earth people that know themselves, who are uninhibited, and know how to just have fun and not be worried about other people and their opinions.
I love a guy that can just go out with me and be goofy and dance and not be worried about it. Everyone can dance. It may not look the best, but it’s fun. (laughs) I try to lean more towards goofball guys. I like funny guys. I don’t like when people take themselves too seriously or think too highly of themselves.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): The perfect first date for you would go how?
Natasha Wicks: Definitely something where you can get to know the person. I don’t want to do a movie or something like that where you’re sitting side by side like, "I don’t even know you, but let’s watch the movie!" Let’s go ride a roller coaster. Let’s go longboarding.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): You’re all about the active stuff. It’s 24/7 with you.
Natasha Wicks: I’m definitely all about the active stuff, but you know, there are those guys that love video games and stuff like that. I am a wicked sweet Guitar Hero and Rock Band player! I am all about that. I’m not a huge video game player but when it comes to Rock Band, whew, that is fun! Those are always fun when you get a group of people together.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): You sound pretty cocky about your guitar skills.
Natasha Wicks: (laughs) This thing I am cocky about. I hit those crazy rocker high voices. I’m not afraid to do it.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Now that people are recognizing you more and more you’re probably due for a stalker. Do you have one yet?
Natasha Wicks: Define stalker. Someone that writes to you every day?
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Well then, what is the weirdest or creepiest thing a fan has said or done to you up to this point?
Natasha Wicks: I’m lucky that I haven’t had anything yet. Maybe I have and I’m just not aware of it yet. I think of it like, they are fans and they make you who you are. I do get the people that are like "I love you" or "I want to marry you" and things like that but it’s funny. I’m sure I do that with Jared Leto, so it’s all good. I could be considered a stalker.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): (laughs) You’re really into Jared Leto and 30 Seconds to Mars and his whole deal?
Natasha Wicks: Yeah, definitely.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Full blown groupie or enthusiastic fan?
Natasha Wicks: No, I’m not a groupie. If I ever met him I would be like, "oh my gosh. I love your music. I want to hang out. Let’s have some fun." I’m not at all like a girl that’s like, "HEY, I think you’re hot. I want to sleep with you." I’m not like that at all. Yes, he’s a very good looking guy but I love the music. Everybody is like, "he’s so weird. I saw him in LA. He looked like he didn’t take a shower." I think it’s funny. I think it’s real. Very simple.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): I can’t image you in your fifties holding up the round cards at like UFC 357 so what do you eventually want to do for a living? What are your future goals?
Natasha Wicks: I would like to pursue more with modeling for sure. I would love to get a contract with any beach/surf wear/sports wear kind of company. I’d love to do modeling for those companies. I think I have a great look for it. That’s what I’m passionate about, the ocean and the outdoors.
I definitely would like to pursue acting too. That’s something I wanted to do even before all this. I’ve gone out to LA a few times for acting classes. I just love it. I love dressing up. I love being a character. I love the idea of convincing people of an emotion that goes along with the storyline. It goes really well with my personality, very spontaneous and very creative. I always like to change things up. I get bored if I do the same thing all the time. I’m not really into the whole "being famous" thing though. Along with the good there is a lot of bad too and you lose that whole privacy of life. It’s definitely something I want to pursue and try. It doesn’t hurt to try.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): In your dreams you’re modeling for Pacific Sunwear and starring opposite Jared Leto in a featured film?
Natasha Wicks: (laughs) Yeah, why not, and if they need a video girl I’ll be the video girl. You know what, at the end of all this, once I’ve tried acting and I’m in a few movies and all else fails I’ll probably end up being a dolphin trainer at Sea World. I think that would be fun to work with dolphins and otters.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Are you serious?
Natasha Wicks: (laughs) Yes! I love, love, love the ocean. I don’t know if I’d step in the Shamu tank because that’s a little creepy, but the little guys would be fun.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Before we go would you like to pass along a message to your fans out there?
Natasha Wicks: That I am very grateful and very appreciative of all the support that I’ve gotten already. I try to answer every message that I get and write back to the fans.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Unless they’re Twitter messages and then people probably won’t hear back from you, right?
Natasha Wicks: (laughs) Probably not because once I figure it out I’ll be like, "wow, I have a lot of messages I didn’t know existed." I didn’t know there was a way for people to message on Twitter. See, that’s a problem. I need to figure this out. I need to get on this TONIGHT! (laughs)
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Alright Natasha, thank you again for the time. You were a very good sport. Hopefully we can do it again soon.
Natasha Wicks: Yes, totally. Thank you Derek.
Derek Bolender is an MMA contributor to MMAmania.com, CBSSports.com, BleacherReport.com, and InsideFights.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/DerekMMAwriter and Facebook.com/Derek.Bolender.