Bantamweight Megan Cawley will make her second pro appearance at Invicta FC 37 against Hope Chase (1-1), the Floridian was raised by her single Puerto Rican mother in Winter Springs, secluded and wrestled her way through high school.
“I was expected after school to have my homework done, have the dishes done, have the house swept and moped, also the dogs had to be taken care of,” Cawley said. “My mom put a lot of responsibility on me. It taught me discipline.
I had very few friends. Basically growing up, I was all about Taekwondo and reading books. In high school, I was never the kid that partied. Actually, I was never invited to parties.”
Cawley attended Winter Spring High School, where she played softball and wrestled for about a year-and-a-half. She discovered about wrestling tryouts during class.
“A classmate sitting next to me said he was going to tryout for the wrestling team, and I was like ‘oh yeah?’ I asked when are tryouts, and he told me ‘they start today,'” Cawley said. “I was like ‘hmm.. I can do that.'”
She went up to the wrestling coach Scott Gomrad and said, “hey, I just found out about wrestling tryouts, I’d like to tryout tomorrow,” Cawley said.
“He said ‘yeah sure.’ I went and there was only me and another girl who tried out, because there wasn’t a girl wrestling team. They had to let us wrestle and put us on the boys team.”
Tryouts started with weightlifting and then hitting the mats to do wreslting drills. Many who tried out, got cut the following day, as everyone was required to run three-and-a-half miles, and then have wrestling practice.
“I remember it being very difficult, and me not knowing the right clothes to wear. I wore a v-neck shirt where my sports bra was showing,” Cawley said. It wasn’t suitable for that, but I just remember it being really intense.
A new experience and the boys were not fond of having girls in the wrestling room . There was a couple of the boys that tried to encourage us during tryouts and practices throughout the year, and other guys were just like ‘why are you girls even here.'”
Cawley felt discouraged, because she’s naturally competitive. When the wrestling team would run before practice, she would be way in the back “people were smoking” her. She had a neighbor who wrestled, that would wake up at 5 a.m. to help Cawley improve on her endurance.
It was difficult for her to stay motivated. There was a lot of times where she didn’t want to go to practice, but she made a commitment to the wrestling team.
There wasn’t a whole lot of girls at local wrestling competitions. Seminole County only had five girls actively wrestling at the time, Cawley said. They ran into each other quite often and competed against each other, and sometimes they wrestled against boys – if the boys were willing to accept it.
Cawley stopped wrestling in her junior year, after dealing with a staph infection on her leg.
“I showed my wrestling coach. He said ‘whoa you need to go to the hospital.’ We went and they had to it cut it open and squeeze [all the pus] out of it.
The drain was placed on the back of her leg for about a week. She could “barely walk.” Cawley’s leg was fully healed in two weeks, and that’s when her mother asked her to take a break from wrestling.
Senior year became busy with the festivities of graduation and social events. Sports weren’t a part of Cawley’s life until her sophomore year of college, when coach Gomard recommended her to The Jungle MMA and Fitness gym in Orlando, since she wanted to get back into shape.
“Training took a lot of my time away from my studies. I was very dedicated to school but then I was like ‘oh no, this is so much better than school,” Cawley said. “Sometimes I would skip class and go to train. If I knew class wouldn’t take attendance, I definitely wouldn’t go to that class.
My roommates saw that I really wanted to pursue this ,so they were very supportive. I had lost a lot of weight in college and everything around me was about martial arts.”
In December 2017, the 26-year-old bantamweight graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in Sociology. Initially, she was studying to be a social science teacher, then decided to major in Sociology so she can earn a degree and pursue an MMA career.