It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what is about a fighter that connects us to them to the point where their wins are our wins and their losses are our losses.
I wanted to explore this topic, using Kay Hansen as an example as she has an upcoming fight this against Magdalena Somova this Friday May 3, for Invicta: Phoenix Rising 1.
I remember the first time I saw Kay Hansen fight at Invicta FC 26 against Emiliee Prince. It was one of those stand-up-and-cheer moments; one of those moments where I was thankful to the MMA gods for instant replay because it happened so suddenly I wasn’t sure what I had just seen. But sure enough, this young woman, just a few months after her 18th birthday, made her professional debut in the Invicta FC cage a memorable one by submitting Prince in less than two minutes.
My mind instantly thought: this is the next Rose Namajunas. The first connection I made being that in Rose’s second fight she submitted her opponent in 12 seconds via flying armbar.
The second connection was that I also discovered Namajunas early in her career and I knew there was something special about her, the way I feel there is something special about Kay Hansen.
I suppose there’s a part of us that’s always looking for the next sports legend, the way that basketball is obsessed with finding the next Michael Jordan but I was wrong: Kay Hansen is not the next Rose Namajunas-Kay Hansen is the next Kay Hansen.
I have since watched Kay Hansen’s debut over and over. There is something so majestic in the way she enters the cage. Like a lion ready to fight, zoned in as if this was where she belonged all along.
Another stand up and cheer moment was during her last fight at Invicta FC 33 against Sharon Jacobsen. Jacobsen had Hansen out wrestled through almost the entire match. But Hansen’s face never changed; it was a picture of calm determination. Though Hansen spent much of her time under Jacobsen’s control, Hansen found her way out of every situation. At the very end of the third round, when it seemed Hansen was 13 seconds away from a loss by decision, Hansen pulled off a miracle upside down armbar!
Of course not all memorable moments are happy ones. Kay’s first loss came against Kalyn Schwartz at Invicta FC 26. Hansen was wounded in the second round, cut that she would later describe as “not that bad” but one that was well placed in such a way it bled profusely.
The referee called a stop to the fight. She said to me in an interview later that while she was kneeling in the ring, with her blood flowing from her forehead, all she could think about was how she had let everyone who believed in her down.
I can’t speak for her coaches, but I’m sure fans who have watched their favorite fighters fall can agree with me when I say “There is no way you can disappoint us. When you step into the ring and leave every ounce of sweat and blood on the canvas, you have given us all we can ask for and more.”
During fight week I like to imagine my fighter waking up before dawn, racing the sun on dusky streets, everything in their lives cleared completely from their minds, focused only on the impending fight.
I imagine them entering the gym early in the morning, hitting weights, hitting bags, rolling, wrestling, giving every ounce they can, then coming back to the gym later that night to do it all again. It gives me the strength to make through whatever I am facing that day.
To me a fighter isn’t just victory; it is it’s strength in defeat, a fighter is the ability to keep struggling against all odds and when I find a favorite fighter, they give me the strength to face any adversity.
When I joined WMMA Rankings the first thing I enjoyed was getting to know my fellow co-writers and their favorite fighters; fighters that I thought were just alright were everything to them and as our work relationship progressed, I found out more about what their fighters meant to them.
We’d like to hear from you: who are your favorite fighters and what do they mean to you? Also don’t forget to tune into Invicta FC: Phoenix Rising 1 this Friday May 3rd. Maybe you’ll find a new favorite fighter!