Results From My First TWO Pro Fights

Standard

Just a little over a week ago my Gracie Barra teammate, Anna Symonds, and I fought on the May 16th Intense Championship Fighting (ICF) 13 all-female MMA card.

Squaring off with Lynnell House

Squaring off with Lynnell House. Photo: Ryan Hall.

After driving over 12 hours from Portland, Oregon to Great Falls, Montana on Wednesday of that week, Anna and I weighed-in on Thursday, fought on Friday night, and made the long return trip home on Saturday. It was a whirlwind!

When the ICF originally approached my team, they were trying to put together an all-female MMA card that included a four-woman Pro Flyweight Tournament. Though a number of other excellent match-ups were secured for the card– including potential fights for some of my teammates– there weren’t enough takers on the Flyweight Tournament and I was matched with Lynnell House for a standard pro fight.

Just as we were heading to the rules meeting on Friday night, my coach got a call offering us the possibility to fight a second time that same night if I won my first fight. Of course, we jumped at this rare (and probably soon to be illegal) opportunity.

Walking into the cage with the best people in the biz: Coaches Nick and Tobias and teammate Anna. Photo: Ryan Hall.

Walking into the cage with the best people in the biz: Coaches Nick and Tobias and teammate Anna. Photo: Ryan Hall.

My debut professional fight was against Canadian pro Lynnell House (now 2-2), a heavy-hitting striker who made it three minutes into the first round before being submitted via armbar. We were the first fight on the card, so after that match I had about an hour to game plan for my second opponent.

Giving Ariel Beck a jiu jitsu hug! Photo: Ryan Hall.

Giving Ariel Beck a jiu jitsu hug. Photo: Ryan Hall.

My second fight of the night was against another strong standup fighter, Golden Gloves title holder Ariel Beck (now 0-1). Ariel is very high-caliber boxer from Butte, MT who agreed to turn pro that night on just a few hours notice. The fight quickly went to the ground, and in the second minute of the first round she tapped to a rear naked choke.

ICF 13 Beck v. Corso

Getting the hand raise. Photo: Ryan Hall.

Even though I had two separate matches on the card, I spent the least time in the cage of any fighter (save my opponents). Every other bout went to decision that evening, including my teammate Anna Symonds who lost a close split decision to her more-experienced opponent Heather Wilson. Anna trained and continues to train very hard, I have no doubts that she’ll use this as fuel to leap back into the cage.

Anna attempts to sink in the armbar against the cage. Photo: Ryan Hall.

Anna attempts to sink in the armbar against the cage. Photo: Ryan Hall.

At the end of the day, I was able to participate in a very rare all-female fight card, rack up two wins on my pro debut, meet excellent fighters and WMMA promoters, and work with the best fight team in the business. I’m grateful for the opportunity to train and compete with so many talented people and look forward to the next event!

A Reason to Run

Standard

I went for a run last week. It was the first time in almost two years and one of only a handful of times I have ever tried to undertake this form of exercise. I liked that run so much that only a few hours later I was already looking for an excuse to do it again.

So I did.

That’s not normal for me. Usually, I hate running.

STREET CLOSED: just go home

This about sums it up.

I detested it so much that I was fond of claiming I had learned MMA just so I’d never have a reason to run. Before I started working out in college I literally would not have run a block to catch a bus. Several years in, I would run for the bus, if need be. But that was it.

I went out of my way to avoid running as a form of cardiovascular exercise. I cycled. I rowed. I did sled pulls. I worked the heavy bag. I used an elliptical machine. (Let’s chalk that last one up to youthful indiscretion and try to forget about it, ok?)

I absolutely flat out refused to run because it gave me side splints, made it hard to breath, and made me hyperventilate every single time. I couldn’t sustain a good pace for more than a few blocks without having to stop, red-faced and frustrated, and walk.

I loathed it.

Then running showed up on my training program.

I assured my trainer that it wasn’t going to go well. If I didn’t flat-out say, “I can’t do it,” I certainly thought it.

Just before my run, I was telling a friend (and fellow MMA fighter) about how much I was dreading it. I told him that when I run, I feel like I’m having a panic attack. He got really excited and told me that was going to be great for me.

His reasoning went that, after all, a lot of fighting is mental. So much of the game is about what it does to your head, how you handle the nerves, and how well you can function when your system is dumping adrenaline into your body like there’s no tomorrow. So, by my friend’s logic, I could use running as an opportunity to practice confronting the uniquely frantic headspace of MMA.

It was a great idea. But I didn’t get to actually try it out as intended, because when I laced up my sneakers and hit the pavements I found out that running no longer sucked.

It was straight-up fun.

It turns out that after all that time spent dreading and avoiding it, the simplest exercise possible was also enjoyable. I got home from my run feeling like I had slain a dragon.

This is pretty much how it all went down.

photo credit: Rafael Peñaloza via photopin cc

I had a similar experience with re-learning to drive. I had a license as a teenager, but I let it expire when I moved to Portland eight years ago. I waited almost a decade to try to get licensed again because I was deeply afraid of driving. I had always hated it, even back in my hometown Sitka (a tiny island town with just 19 miles of road, two stop lights, and nowhere you could go over 45 mph), and Portland’s (admittedly moderate) traffic was far more intimidating.

When I finally got behind the wheel again a few months ago, it was scary at first. But a few days’ practice had me driving on major streets, and within a month I was on the highway for the first time in my life. When I found I could pass a semi and merge back into the flow of traffic, I once again had that dragon-slayer feeling.

It was a beautiful night for a run...

Nice night for a run.

I’d been acting like a child that insists she hates broccoli, only to discover when she finally tries it that it’s pretty damn tasty.

These recent experiences not only expanded my potential modes of transit, but they also blew my notions of what’s impossible out of the water.

Now I can’t help but wonder, what other supposed impossibilities might I unknowingly be rearranging my life to avoid? Are there holes in my MMA game that I had assumed were unassailable? Are there other sports I could try, foods I might like, bigger projects to undertake?

Suddenly I wanted to dash out and scour all of the unexamined caverns of my mind. I had found a good reason to run– not away from something that scares me, but towards it.

I want more of that dragon-slayer feeling, so I’ve made peace with running. After all, there are plenty more impossible dragons I want to chase down and dispatch with.

My First Pro Fight

Standard

Let me start with the good news first: This month I signed a contract for my first pro fight!

This is very exciting, as I’ve been trying to find a fight for several months. The Intense Cage Fighting’s (ICF) May 16th card is comprised of all female fighters, with both professional and amateur bouts. I will have at least one match that night (possibly two) as part of a four woman pro flyweight tournament to find the ICF’s first female champion. Of course, I am now in hard training mode to prepare for this stellar opportunity.

But it actually gets even better.

I had to take my 4oz gloves off to hold the pen...

I had to take my 4oz gloves off to hold the pen…

I found out that I’d been offered a spot on this card the day after I quit my day job. (Yes, I did exactly the thing that one, proverbially, should never do.) And I didn’t leave my job with the idea in mind to immerse myself in an intense fight camp– at the time, I had no idea how long it would be until I could fight again. Rather, I quit so that I could invest more of my time in doing the things that bring me the most joy: fighting and writing. I made up my mind to quit and thought, well, here’s to hoping that if I shift my efforts towards the things that really matter the money will follow.

…That part still remains to be seen.

But a number of other great and completely unrelated things happened in quick succession when I quit my job. I was offered a part-time bartending gig out of nowhere. I received another stripe in jiu jtsu. Someone I greatly admire invited me to contribute to their blog. I lost several pounds and hit a new low for body fat percentage. I had the honor to roll with a female jits black belt who is almost exactly my size while she was visiting my gym. I made an Impossible List. There has even been more than a week of sun in Portland-freaking-Oregon!

(Also, lest I seem to be bragging, please take a moment to go back and read my previous post if you have not done so already– it’s practically a laundry list of my failures.)

So this is what I do now. Paleo plantain pancakes for breakfast on my first day of (partial) unemployment? Don't mind if I do!

So this is what I do now. Paleo plantain pancakes for breakfast on my first day of (partial) unemployment? Don’t mind if I do!

I don’t mention any of this to boast, but instead to point out that several of these are undertakings I couldn’t have even entertained if I had not left my primary employment.

Now, I don’t mean to get all hippy-dippy “manifesting positivity” on you. I can’t just manifest submissions in an MMA match, and I didn’t make most of these things happen either. Rather, just like in a fight, I’ve been making an effort to recognize openings and jump on them as they appear.

This is the skill that black belts in jiu jitsu, business, politics, and every field have that sets them apart: the ability to identify and capitalize on a moment of opportunity.

Honing that skill is just one of many things I plan to spend my new-found freedom (and pro fight camp) working on.

Advice to My 16-year-old Self

Standard

We should probably start with this, because I just want you to see what we’re dealing with:

Oh boy

Yeah, I was very pouty back in high school.

When I was 16 years old I wanted so badly to be a punk rock star. I could just see my 20-something self as a neon-haired drummer in a crazy-loud punk band. With time the dream faded and I regretfully moved on to other pursuits.

It recently occurred to me that if I had enjoyed practicing the drums as much as I now enjoy training to fight, I would have been so much better at it. And if I had stayed with it, by now I would’ve been an excellent musician.

Of course, I might never have found what I now consider to be my true passion if I hadn’t quit the drums… or if I had persisted and actually put in the time to practice, music might have become my “true passion.” This got me thinking: what would I do differently with the knowledge of hindsight and the personal growth achieved in the preceding 10 years?

I considered what advice I would give to a younger me, and it was very tempting to condescend to myself. I thought:

Brush your teeth more.

Being “goth” is just a phase.

Be nicer to your parents.

Show respect for everyone.

Pick a more useful college major. The list goes on and on.

Ultimately, there were only two categories of advice to consider, both resulting from what I’ve observed in the intervening years since my 16th birthday. The first is the advice based on the changes I have already made. And the second set of prescriptions stems from the habits my present incarnation is still working to overcome.

I want to present just one key piece from each.

Advice to my 16-year-old-self: Learn to let go of mistakes, failures, and upsets.

Get good at this one, because you’re going to have to do it a lot.

Lots of things in life aren’t going to work out for you, 16-year-old Emily. Jobs, friends, relationships, assignments, hobbies, performances, trips… many of these things will fail in some way.

You will quit jobs. You will end relationships. You’re going to move. You’re going to stay. You’re going to try really hard and still not always get what you want or think you deserve.

Some colleges you apply to will wait list you. At times, people you care about will treat you badly. You will miss deadlines. You will misspeak, and sorely regret it.

…You will quit playing the drums.

Things that seem like the be-all-end-all purpose of your life right now will end forever and you may not even notice.

Get over it. When a door closes, a window opens, right? Holding on to the past does not protect you in the future, it only robs you of enjoying the present. Holding grudges does nothing to the person who harmed you, but it will indisputably steal your joy.

Failure is utterly inevitable, so you’d better get used to moving on from it. This is especially important because failure is an opportunity to grow. So while you’re practicing letting go of mistakes, you might as well get good at learning from them too.

Advice to my 26-year-old self: Start earlier.

I cannot stress this one enough. Start now.

This applies to tasks (and timelines) both large and small. Don’t hit snooze 3+ times before waking—there is no cognitive value in sleeping an extra 5, 10, or 15 minutes. Even worse, this fails to help “train” your willpower for more important situations.

Starting nearly every paper assigned in college on the night before it was due heavily undercut your potential for success—and now finishing speeches the night before they’re due does the  same.

Don’t wait months to see a doctor, to deal with your taxes, to throw out that junk mail pile.

Don’t spend too much time procrastinating the start of your “real life.” Even if you seem to be flubbing and flailing for ages while trying to get a handle on things, you won’t regret the experience gained by at least starting that process immediately.

In the words of author Karen Lamb: “A year from now you will wish you had started today.” So take the advice I’m offering you and don’t put things off. It’s a mistake we’ve made in the past, so learn from those unpleasant outcomes, and don’t repeat it in the future.

After all, how much better would you be at MMA if you had begun training even just a bit before you started at Reed? What nuance would that skill have now if you have started earlier down the road of failing at– and perfecting– it?

It’s easy to delay beginning projects because change feels slow and tomorrow’s progress might not seem to be an obvious benefit of today’s discipline. But over time, what felt so painfully slow turns out to have flown by so maddeningly fast. Adulthood is a quiet apocalypse. It’s not an atom bomb that detonates on your 18th birthday. Rather, the changes can be ever so subtly catastrophic, like the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers those around you will morph ever so delicately, imperceptibly, until some day no one is as you once knew them.

I’m not who I used to be and someday I’ll become someone else too. Identity isn’t static, and that’s okay.

Sure, there are more mistakes to be made, and learned from. But let’s not spend the next ten years on the same tired blunders when we could be trying out new ones! Let’s not give my 36-year-old self any reason to look back and say, “I told you so.”

Let’s start today.

——————————————————————————————–

(This piece was inspired by the book Advice to My 18-Year-Old Self, recently put out by Asymmetrical Press. Get yourself a copy!)

Hello World

Standard

Hi there, welcome to my WordPress site!

Putting this together was just one of those things I had been intending to do for a long while. Intending, as usual, is code for procrastinating like crazy. I don’t know about you, but I spend a little too much time intending to do things and then ending up checking my email or Facebook, again, instead.

And lately I’ve heard that all the kids are doing this blogging thing. I’m not getting anywhere fast having to limit my ideas to short updates on social media (or even those brief, but exciting, interactions with people in real life). So I’ve decided to branch out into the blogosphere. Wish me luck?

(Actually, I finally took the leap and built my own site because I saw this post over at Impossible HQ and thought, hey, I could do that. Go take a look… and then start your own blog. Send me the link when you do. After all, what have you got to lose?)

I created this site as a space to share information about my mixed martial arts career, training, and upcoming fights. In addition to that, I’ll also be posting on a variety of other topics: motivation, fitness and sports culture, productivity, and how to be just generally awesome. Not that I’ve figured out the answer to that last one yet, but I have a few ideas…

I’ll be updating this blog regularly (famous last words), so feel free to drop me a comment below or head on over to the Contact tab and let me know what you’d like to hear about.

In the meantime… stay golden.