A time before appearing twice on Dana White’s Contender Series, the former King of the Cage strawweight champion Jamie Colleen displayed mental toughness, in the wake of homelessness with her then four-year-old daughter Selena.
Colleen faced hardships while she was in an abusive relationship with her daughter’s father. A gruesome incident became the breaking point. She revealed her experience throughout a talk for The Proof.
After the incident, Colleen and her daughter went to Cincinnati to be closer with family. When she returned to Philadelphia, all of her belongings were thrown away or given away.
The two choices were the dichotomy of survival: live in a shelter or live on the street.
“It was dark and kind of lonely. I tried to hold on through anything positive that I could find,” Colleen said. “I didn’t want to let the negativity from what I was going through, dictate how I would wake up in the morning.”
Listening to her intuitive voice, she contemplated: “should I continue being a victim and stay at the shelter or should I take this opportunity to rebuild my life?”
Colleen rendered accountability by making a list of things that she needed to get done each day. One of her main priorities was to maintain her daughter’s normal schedule. She didn’t want Selena to worry about how things were different. Meanwhile, Colleen dealt with “countless” child custody hearings.
Recovering from physical, emotional and mental abuse – wasn’t just to heal wounds, but also to break the cycle of domestic abuse.
Growing up in West Virginia
Colleen was raised in Huntington and she attended an all-white catholic school without many friends, as she preferred to be by herself.
“I used to love going to a park near our house, and go there sometimes with my siblings. I would go there and walk, play in the creek or dig holes on the side of my house – I had no idea why,” Colleen said, “looking for worms or climbing trees. I was kind of a daredevil.”
Colleen was the only athlete in the family. She competed in gymnastics in her childhood years up to junior high, eventually picking up volleyball, cheer-leading and track.
“I always found solace in sports. I was a competitive gymnast. Gymnastics was my happy place to block everything out,” she said.
Colleen wanted to wrestle but her mother said no. She would sneak her way to wrestling practice, but would only stay and participate for warm-ups.
“I had this mentality that I had to do what the boys were doing, but only better. Maybe it was me trying to fill some type of void. I felt like I always had to shine in whatever I did,” Colleen said. “A part of me really wanted acceptance. It’s kind of like my lonely childhood [and] how I felt about my life, with the absence of my dad.”
Colleen’s mother tried keeping everything as normal as possible, while balancing her marital issues. Growing up, young Colleen didn’t know any better at the time.
A bad marriage of abuse eventually left Colleen, her mother and siblings homeless, after the father evicted them from their home. Young 10-year-old Colleen lived out of a U-Haul truck with her aunt, who had a tiny two-room apartment.
Colleen and her mother moved to South Carolina in 2005 during her junior year of high school.
“It was a really big adjustment for me; it was tough. My mother had gone through a divorce. I was the only sibling left and I didn’t have a choice,” Colleen said. “She wanted to start new and start fresh, which I understand now as being a mother and going through hardships.”
“I grew up with it, my dad was extremely abusive to my mother, an alcoholic who used to beat her all the time. So, that was kind of my norm,” Colleen said. “I feel like I’ve broken that cycle for my daughter and for myself. I’m in a great relationship now and she can see how loving should be.”
Despite not having family in Philadelphia, Colleen’s boyfriend Anthony Fedele has been “immensely” supportive. They’ve been together for three years.
As training intensifies, Fedele tries his best to alleviate tasks that would derail Colleen’s training schedule.
“Sometimes when she has to train, I’ll figure out on my schedule how to take Selena to school, or rather pick her up from school because sometimes Jamie trains in New York,” Fedele said. “Obviously, I do what I can do to help alleviate the things that would normally have her stressed out.”
Chasing the fight game
Before facing life-altering events in Philadelphia, Colleen decided to take the path of a fighter and stay in South Carolina, as her mother and brother moved to Cincinnati and opened up their bakery.
“I had no where to go, so I was living and working at the gym. I had several jobs at different restaurants, bouncing around,”Colleen said. “It was a part of that choice I made, what I have to do in order to pursue what I now love.”
Colleen began her venture to MMA in 2004, as she competed in amateur boxing and Muay Thai under the three-time Light Heavyweight Muay Thai World Champion Maurice Travis.
“It was all good timing and then from there I had to make a choice. Do I want to live aimlessly,” she said, “or do I want to put my heart and soul and dedicate my life to a purpose? It was always my mentality with anything in life, to find that little something that sets the spark off in me.”
Colleen lived for several months next to Travis’ dojo, where she converted the cafe space into a little studio. She moved to Cincinnati a year and a half to be closer to family, and that’s when she transitioned to MMA.
“I made my mark in Ohio. My first amateur fight was at U.S. Bank Arena in downtown Cincinnati. There was a fire in me at that point, and a few months later I found out that I was pregnant.”
Overcoming mental blocks
The strawweight contender had an ACL reconstruction back in February 2017. She re-injured her knee with a partial tear six months later, when Colleen defeated Tiffany Masters via arm in the third round.
The clock marked at 2:22 in the first round.
“I tried to put weight on my knee, and I screamed. At that point, if I could stand, I could at least push through this,” Colleen said. “Part of me believes that my injuries caused these mental blocks.”
Following her injury, she suffered two losses to Maycee Barber on Dana White’s Contender Series and Miranda Granger at CFFC 76 back in December 2018.
“When I lost to Barber, that’s when I knew that my mind was gone. All I remember is when the bell was ringing, and something went off. There was like a white haze over,” Colleen said. “All I felt was anger. Daniel [Gracie] even said in the corner ‘you just aren’t there, you didn’t hear anything, you were just staring off. That’s when we knew something needed to be done.”
Colleen has been training under Gracie at Renzo Gracie Philly for five years.
Colleen’s goal was to reach her mental state that she had in her one-punch knock out against Danielle Taylor, which was her second professional bout and her first fight since transitioning out of the shelter.
“I felt like it was a pivotal moment in my life. Leading up to that fight, I already knew it was mines. I felt like I already won,” Colleen said. “That mindset that I don’t give a sh-t and I’m going to destroy whoever is in front of me, that ‘I don’t care’ mindset.”
The strawweight contender hired a mentalist and hypnotist before her fight against Granger. Colleen was skeptical at first, but then she figured that she has nothing to lose, she added.
“You can just see a mental transformation during that whole sequence. We were on vacation and she was FaceTiming her sports psychologist,” Fedele said. “She looked like a completely different person in her last fight.”
“There was a time where after practice we had a talk and he said, ‘I can see a trance in you, what are you doing?’ Damn, that’s what I needed to hear, but after my fight what made it so emotional for me, was when he said to me ‘we’re back,’” Colleen said. “I needed that from him for really long time, to see that switch in me.”
Gracie saw potential in Colleen when she first walked in. The former Bellator fighter noticed her natural power as a 11-pounder.
“She has the weight on her hands that a man has, sparring my guys that are about her size or a little bigger than her” Gracie said. “I can tell they are really trying to spar with her like they would spar a man. She actually hurts them pretty good.”
“This is what the UFC needs in their division,” he said. “I want her so bad to sign with the UFC and I think she’s a few fights away.”
Gracie observed how quick Colleen caught and learned jiu-jitsu with him. She’s a purple belt but she can keep up with any black belt, he added.
A journey back to an optimal mindset, numbed the taste of defeat to Granger. Validation came simply from Selena’s smile and her joy.
“I couldn’t help myself the way she was looking at me during my walkout, and she reach out to me. I got to hug my girl,” Colleen said. “I feel like there’s always something, especially being a parent.”
Before the fight, Selena was swimming and she came out of the pool and went back down, she hit her face on the side – chipped her teeth. Drama occurred before the fight went down. Knowing how happy her daughter was, Colleen didn’t let that ruin her night, she added.
“So, why should I let a little thing ruin my moment with her?”
Gracie noticed a shift in Colleen’s state of mind. There wasn’t much frustration as in previous camps. She started to have fun again.
The Philadelphia based strawweight defeated Marcela Giantomassi via unanimous decision at CFFC 76 back in June.
Colleen endured all forms of abuse, evictions and was dispossessed of her belongings. The silver lining mirrors the joy Selena brings to her mother – a gasp of hope.
“There were times where I was wishing the life that we are living now. I think about it now and it’s kind of cool, to come full circle,” Colleen said. “It’s been pretty amazing, and just to see how my daughter has grown from those experiences and not letting it change her heart.”