From NFL Cheerleader to MMA Fighter
This time last year, Rachel Wray was spending her Sundays on the sidelines of Arrowhead Stadium as an NFL cheerleader for the Kansas City Chiefs. She stumbled onto an MMA gym looking for a way to change up her workouts and before long she preferred the feel of the canvas to the stadium turf. Now she’s left the NFL for the fighter’s life. These days when her lips are red at work, it’s not lipstick—it’s blood. Wray talked to us about leaving cheerleading and how she’s prepping for her upcoming fight at the Voodoo Lounge in Kansas City later this month.
FIGHTLAND: Is there any similarity between fight training and cheerleader training?
Rachel Wray: [Laughs] There is nothing similar between fight training and cheerleader training. To be a professional cheerleader you need dance practice, swimsuit modeling, football knowledge, public speaking, and have perfect hair, nails, and makeup at all times. I always laugh when I get out of a fight practice because I always look so disgusting —drenched in sweat, no makeup, hair a huge mess. As a cheerleader if your lipstick isn’t perfect at practice, you get in trouble. They are polar-opposite worlds.
Why did you leave cheerleading to become an MMA fighter?
The reason I chose to leave cheerleading to fight was simple: I enjoyed it more. Just when I was really getting into the MMA training, Chiefs cheerleader auditions were approaching. I had to make a decision. It was impossible to do both. I knew it was right because on nights when I had cheer practice, all I could think about was being at High-Davis Mixed Martial Arts gym. Fighting made me happier than cheerleading. I enjoyed it so much more, I made the switch.
Read the rest over at FIGHTLAND.
A Man of Letters Learns to Fight with an MMA Team
A few months ago, in a rash moment, I took up with an MMA team. I wanted to learn how to spar, and they seemed the likeliest teachers. The team—which includes a professional MMA fighter, several younger guys preparing for their first fights, a boxer or two, and a bunch of jiu-jitsu players—is generous with me, a permanent amateur late to the game, with more heart than skill. They welcomed me into their fraternity, sensing, I guess, that I wouldn’t (couldn’t) cause any trouble and might even prove useful as a moving punching bag.
I move pretty well, too. Setting aside my rounds with Matt, the one pro in the bunch (rounds that consist of him peppering my face from great distances with quick double-jabs and short hooks that scramble my brain and make me apoplectic with annoyance). Jameson, who has a few boxing matches under his belt, is too fast for me, but if I cover up and concentrate on movement and counterpunching, I can usually deflect most of his hardest punches and get a couple of licks of my own in. The other week, however, he caught me clean with a right cross that brought tears to my eyes. He apologized but I waved him off — my hands were down, not his fault. For my troubles I now have a Roman swell on the bridge of my nose, probably temporary, and I would be lying if I said it upset me.
Read the rest at FIGHTLAND.
The Snowman Vs. the Cops
Photo by Danny Ghitis
There’s a rumor on the internet that this photo of longtime MMA heavyweight and avowed anarchist Jeff “The Snowman” Monson squaring off with members of the St. Paul Police Department is actually a picture of Monson conducting a grappling clinic for members of the St. Paul Police Department. To Monson, the rumor is ridiculous, not only because he was there, outside the Target Center during the 2008 Republican National Convention, when the picture was taken but also because police don’t show up for grappling lessons in full riot gear. Also, if you look closely, you can see the cop in the middle has his hand on his Taser, another thing police in seminars don’t do. Monson says the cop was ready to use it, too.
“We were basically blockading the street,” Monson remembers. “And when the busloads of Republican delegates were being unloaded we just wanted to prevent them from going in the Target Center, basically making a human wall. The riot police swept us up and pushed us into a park and then arrested us for a) trespassing, which was strange because we were on a public street, and b) inciting a riot, which was strange because there wasn’t any riot. They had arrested the group of us and I was coming up to the front saying, ‘I’m coming through; you can arrest me.’ I was confronted by the cops saying, ‘No, you’re not coming through.’ I was saying, ‘What right do you have? There’s nobody here rioting. It’s peaceful. Nobody’s throwing rocks, nobody’s doing anything.’ They said, ‘You’re threatening us,’ and I said, ‘How am I threatening you? I’m unarmed. I’m in a tank top. We don’t have any weapons. We’re not doing anything.’ And I said, ‘How can we be trespassing? These delegates have no more right—it’s a public street. How can they walk on the street and we can’t walk on the street?’ That’s when the one police officer put his hand on his Taser and said he was going to Tase me if I tried to go through. I said, ‘It’s not going to look very good if I’m just talking to you and you just Taser me because there are a lot of people with cameras filming everything.’ Literally at that moment, one of the guys got a call on his cell phone saying everyone’s released. Basically, they arrested us long enough for the delegates to get off the bus and get into the Target Center, and then they said, ‘We’re dropping the charges. You guys can go.’”
In the spirit of ideological accuracy, it needs to be mentioned that Monson is really more of an anarchist/socialist than a pure anarchist. Don’t be fooled by the criminal mischief charge he picked up in 2009 for spray-painting an anarchy symbol on the Washington State Capitol in Olympia. He’s a card-carrying member of the International Workers of the World, otherwise known as the Wobblies. Following his loss last November to Fedor Emelianenko, Monson met with anti-fascist groups in Russia and Poland that were made up of anarchists, socialists, and anyone else uncomfortable with the rise of racist nationalism in those countries. One of the dozens of tattoos he has is the hammer and sickle. Unlike most people in the anarchy movement, he sees some value in the state.
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We went to Providence, Rhode Island, and a bunch of suburbs south of Boston that all sound the same to hang out with UFC middleweight fighter Tom Lawlor. The experience was a mix of hamburgers, philosophical musings, and some other stuff that you’ll just have to watch to find out.