Michelle Waterson has incredible belief in herself.
It was that very belief which gave her the courage to go backstage following Jessica Penne's dominant victory over number one ranked atomweight Naho Sugiyama where she asked for an opportunity to fight for the title.
Her wish was granted.
"The Karate Hottie" will be testing her skills in the main event of Invicta FC 5 this Friday night (April 5, 2013) when she battled Penne for the Invicta 105 pound title in Kansas City, Kansas.
Waterson spoke to MMAmania.com about the talented team of female fighters at Jackson's MMA, why she's so confident she can hang with Penne wherever the fight goes and her potential UFC ambition in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Jackson's MMA has put together a really great team of not just male fighters but female fighters as well. They've got Sarah Kaufman and Julie Kedzie who are already signed to UFC, Holly Holm one of the best female boxers who's 3-0 in MMA and then yourself, who's fighting for an Invicta title in the main event. It seems like they've done a fantastic job of acquiring female talent. How does it feel to work with so many talented women fighters day in and day out?
Michelle Waterson: I definitely feel we have the best female team MMA-wise. It's great. It gives me more motivation. I was talking to one of my teammates and we were saying it's the best place in the world to be right now for women fighters. We just feed off each other and get better and get our teammates better. It's a chain reaction and we're always competing against each other and making each other better. I love it and that's one of the main reason's I'm down here.
Michelle Waterson: (laughs) I think coach has some pretty snazzy moves. I had no idea how big of a thing the Harlem shake was until it went up. Then I saw all the other ones and I realized I could have done something way more crazy.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I heard something pretty interesting about how you got this title shot, telling an Invicta executive that you'd be willing to take on Jessica Penne for the title the night she won the belt. What made you decide now was the time to ask for that shot?
Michelle Waterson: Well I wouldn't have asked for the fight if I didn't think I could beat her. We've been fighting the same length of time. I just had a bit of time off because I happened to have my daughter. I definitely felt I was ready and I wouldn't have said anything if I didn't feel that way. I went backstage and I told them I'd love to fight for the belt one day. That's what I told them. Anybody should have those types of goals if they're trying to move forward in their careers, right?
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's talk about Jessica Penne. She has looked extremely seasoned on the ground in all of her recent wins. What do you make of her grappling skills after watching her performances against Lisa Ellis and Sugiyama?
Michelle Waterson: I think she's pretty slick on the ground and a lot of that has to do with her length. She really understands how to use her length really well. I've won a majority of my fights on the ground as well so I'm not intimidated at all. I know how handle myself in those situations and here at Jackson's, I grapple and I wrestle and I spar with girls that are bigger than me. Especially when you spar with girls and guys, it's a completely different world.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): In your last fight against Lacey Schuckmann, you were at an advantage when you were standing and you really got to showcase your striking skills. That's actually the only way Jessica Penne has lost a fight, when she was outstruck on the feet by Zoila Gurgel. Do you see that as a potential method to victory, that you could beat her on the feet?
Michelle Waterson: Yeah, definitely. It's MMA because we can take the fight wherever it goes. I feel confident in all my abilities. Standing, I'm not called "The Karate Hottie" for nothing. (laughs)
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You had the great victory when you first came back from the pregnancy and then the hard fought win over Lacey Schuckman. Do you think that last victory was what really stamped that you were back in the MMA groove after the long layoff?
Michelle Waterson: I think so. I hadn't gotten out of the first round since my very first fight. Knowing that I could go all three rounds again was a huge accomplishment for myself and I learned a lot in that fight. I learned I can get out of a bad situation and still make it a good situation. I almost lost in that first round and I was able to tell myself, "Get off your butt and start fighting!"
So that, and being able to push through and come out on top really helped launch me forward with my confidence in my abilities as a fighter. I really hadn't been able to showcase my stand-up in prior fights and I got to showcase a little bit more in the fight against Lacey. I'm so excited for this title fight and I think I'll continue to be able to showcase all of that.
Michelle Waterson: (laughs)
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Also with the three rounds in your last fight, do you think that was good preparation for a potential five round fight, now that you know how much gas you can have left in the tank after 15 minutes?
Michelle Waterson: Oh yeah, it was definitely good. We train six rounds every day here in the gym so I know I'm more than ready for a five round war.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I know UFC currently only has a women's 135 pound division, but do you ever foresee them adding a women's atomweight division someday?
Michelle Waterson: You know what? If they did, that would be awesome and yes, I do. It's an evolution. They just added the 125 pounders for the males in the UFC so it'll just take time. In the meantime, Invicta is treating me amazingly so I have no complaints there. This card we'll be fighting on is stacked. I don't know who wouldn't want to watch this card. Cyborg, Zoila Gurgel, Sarah Kaufman, it's crazy!
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): When you picture victory against Jessica Penne, what do you see?
Michelle Waterson: Beating Jessica Penne and winning that title would be fulfilling a dream of mine. That dream is to be a champion. I want to be a champion and I want to show my daughter that you can do it. If you think you can, you will and I will win that belt. It's just about how much you can believe in yourself. Belief is a powerful thing.
Michelle would like to thank coach Jackson, coach Winkeljohn, her teammates, the fans, her sponsors Onnit supplement and MMA Sporting Goods. You can follow her on twitter @KarateHottieMMA.