Photo: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC / Contributor (Getty Images)
Michelle Waterson wants to keep her name in play within the Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s strawweight division. In her way stands an opponent in much the same position.
Waterson will face Felice Herrig in a three-round feature at UFC 229 on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. With power players like Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Jessica Andrade, and Claudia Gadelha jockeying for position behind women’s strawweight champion Rose Namajunas, the stakes are undeniably high for both competitors. Waterson snapped the first two-fight losing streak of her career at UFC on Fox 29 in April, when she eked out a split decision over Cortney Casey-Sanchez. Operating out of the star-studded Jackson-Wink MMA camp in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the “Karate Hottie” has compiled a 3-2 record since joining the UFC roster in 2015.
With Waterson making final preparations for her clash with Herrig, here are five things you should know about her:
1. She prefers to go out on her shield.
Four of Waterson’s six professional defeats have resulted in finishes, with a June 2007 decision loss to Alicia Gumm and a December 2017 decision defeat to Tecia Torres as the outliers.
2. While she holds the rank of black belt in American freestyle karate, she has proven to be a predatory grappler in mixed martial arts.
Waterson has delivered nine wins by submission, five by armbar, and four by rear-naked choke. They account for 60 percent of her career total. Paige VanZant, Angela Magana, and Jessica Penne were among the victims.
Strength Is Sexy: 7 Hottest Female MMA Fighters In The UFC
3. Reality shows have been a fruitful outlet.
An Aurora, Colorado native, Waterson has appeared on “Fight Girls,” “Bully Beatdown,” and “American Ninja Warrior.” She also competed on MTV’s “The Challenge: Champs vs. Stars.” The eight-episode series pitted 10 “Challenge” alumni against 10 athletes and entertainers in various competitions. In addition to Waterson, the cast included two Olympic medalists — gymnast Shawn Johnson and volleyball player Kim Glass — and former NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens.
4. She entered the UFC with a championship pedigree.
Waterson is one of five women who have held the Invicta Fighting Championships atomweight title. Penne, Herica Tiburcio, Ayaka Hamasaki, and Jinh Yu Frey are the others. Waterson was champion for 609 days, from April 5, 2013 to Dec. 5, 2014.
5. She balances family life with the demands of being a professional athlete.
Waterson married former U.S. Armed Forces amateur boxing champion Joshua Gomez in 2012. They have a 7-year-old daughter, Araya.