“We have an amazing home for quarantine,” announces Michelle Waterson. “When we bought it, our first project was a home gym, so we have everything we need for a full fight camp.”
That’s good news, of course, considering Waterson’s postponed bout with Carla Esparza was rebooked for Saturday’s UFC 249 event. Still, she never imagined she’d need a home gym for a global pandemic.
“We have everything here at the house that we need for a full fight camp: cardio equipment, weights, mats, bags…. The hardest thing to get were partners, obviously. I’m sure that’s the same across the board. That was the biggest thing missing: just that team camaraderie.”
“We all miss each other,” she continues, thinking of her Jackson-Wink teammates. “We miss being able to push each other, be around each other. It is quite stressful for any gym owner because it’s their livelihood at stake. It’s what they’ve done to make money. Now that’s put on hold, and it’s quite stressful.”
A singular experience, for sure. But not one the strawweight has had to endure alone.
"We have a great support system here at the house. My mom is here with us, so that gives me peace of mind, knowing that she’s safe. My husband Josh has been very, very key to me in this camp; helping me stay on point with my nutrition, with my workouts, with all the stuff outside of fighting, and all my interview obligations and such. Luckily we have an amazing team behind us that are willing to come through and work with us individually when they can.”
Originally slated for April’s nixed UFC Portland event, her matchup against Esparza is a beautifully conceived clash of two of the division’s finest athletes. Given both women’s tenure in the promotion, it’s almost strange that this is the first time they will fight.
“Yeah, it really is,” agrees Waterson. “It’s been a fight that we’ve wanted for a long time, it’s just never happened. Either she was matched up or I was matched up; we just never crossed paths. We knew at one point in time it would happen, so I’m happy that it’s on this card and I’m looking forward to fighting her in the Octagon.”
With that many years to imagine this matchup, “The Karate Hottie” has watched every version of the fight play out in her mind’s eye.
“I visualize everything. I visualize the fight going three rounds. I visualize myself stopping the fight, in the first, the second, the third. Putting her down with my punches. With my kicks. Submitting her. I visualize it going all ways, but in every scenario, I win.”
If spending the better part of the last two months in Albuquerque has dampened her spirits, it’s impossible to detect in the interminably upbeat Waterson.
“I’m always optimistic in scenarios like this. Like I said, we have the perfect scenario for training here at the house. So, 2020 for me is going to be successful. I have high hopes for 2020. I’m very excited to fight this Saturday and I’m very excited to put on a show for everybody and bring some normalcy to the world again.”
Live sports returning to television won’t solve a global crisis, but Waterson is keenly aware of the potential it has to add some familiar comforts to fans everywhere.
“It’s amazing. I keep telling people that I feel like fighting, in general, is very symbolic to the human experience because any time there is a huge challenge that we’re faced with as the human race, we push through. We fight. We get through it. We become stronger from it. We grow. We evolve. And that’s what fighters do when faced with adversity. We push through. We bite down on our mouthpiece. We look fear in the eyes and tell ‘em, ‘Come get it.’”
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