Crossover success like that achieved this past year by female fighter Gina Carano is nothing new. In the early to mid 90’s a handful of women involved in combat sports enjoyed a brief period of mainstream attention, among them Kathy Long.
Long, a five-time world kickboxing champion, parlayed her success in the ring and marketability into a multitude of media opportunities, such as acting in Oliver Stone’s cult favorite Natural Born Killers and performing as Michelle Pfeiffer’s stunt double for the role of Catwoman in Batman Returns.
Kathy was also witness to the creation of what became MMA as a color commentator for the very first UFC event, and in an interesting twist, looks to bring her involvement with the sport full circle by making her MMA fighting debut early in 2009.
“In watching some of the women and the exposure they’re getting, I thought if there’s a chance I could help the women get better purses and recognition, I want to,” said the 44-year-old Long of her decision to come out of retirement to fight MMA.
“I’ve had a lot of exposure in the past when I was kickboxing. I was on Showtime PPV events, ESPN and, in that regard, I just want to be able to help women get better recognition and purses in the sport. I figure now is the time — I’m not going to get any younger — if I’m going to do it I’ve got to do it now.”
Having watched the genesis of American MMA first hand at UFC 1, Kathy is amazed by how what was originally spectacle has become a legitimate sport.
“I wasn’t too wild about it at the time, but since then it’s grown, evolved and become something very different,” she admitted. “It’s incredible the amount of talent and knowledge that goes into each fighter and their abilities now.”
Achieving a level of success and mainstream exposure in the past has allowed Long the experience to be able to give this generation’s crop of breakthrough athletes advice on how to handle themselves in the spotlight.
“I would say this to any fighter who would be in the public eye; know yourself, stay humble and kick ass beautifully,” she said. “Let your actions be your words. You can say whatever you want, but the proof is in the pudding.”