It can be tough when you compete at 105 pounds and are frequently the only female training with a team containing some of the best pound-for-pound mixed martial artists in the region, but atomweight Kirstie Gannaway believes that mixing it up with the men every day at Evolve MMA will help to forge her into a world-class fighter.
The Singaporean will step inside the ONE Championship cage for the second time when she faces late replacement April Osenio in Kuala Lumpur on March 13 and, although her opponent was changed at the last minute, Gannaway believes the preparation she has undergone makes her ready for anything,
“I have confidence in everything I have learned with my team. I am working my striking skills with boxing world champion Yodsanan Sidyodtong and Muay Thai World Champion Dejdamrong Amnuaysirichoke and with BJJ World Champions Herbert Burns and Marcos Ratinho, as well as the rest of the team at Evolve. I am feeling confident and am prepared in all areas.”
Although Gannaway works with some of the most respected coaches and training partners in the business, they are all at least a few pounds heavier than her, but she says that working with bigger, stronger men only helps to expedite her improvement as a fighter.
“There is always that bit of pressure being the only woman that I put on myself, but the guys on the team are so helpful and willing to teach and work with me that it never becomes an issue. I find them all amazing at what they do and each have such an outstanding and unique style, so to be able to work with every single one of them and learn so many different techniques in various ways is great. When you work with the best, you have this great opportunity to learn nothing but the best, so I am really grateful to train alongside them all.”
Gannaway has been involved in martial arts for many years, but it wasn’t until 2014 that she decided to dedicate herself full time to fighting, partly at the instigation of her long-term partner Herbert Burns, who is one of ONE Championship’s top featherweights.
He encouraged her to try out for the Evolve MMA fight team. Gannaway impressed the coaches sufficiently to be offered a spot. She went on to make a successful ONE Championship debut and the Singaporean says she has gone from strength to strength in recent months.
“Since I joined Evolve MMA, I would say my entire MMA game has improved, but if I had to pick out a discipline where I believe I improved most, I would have to say BJJ. The BJJ program at Evolve is well structured and intense and we have fantastic World Champion Black Belt instructors such as Herbert Burns, Leandro Ataides and Marcos Ratinho, who don’t let me get away making any mistakes.”
Despite winning her first MMA fight by submission, Gannaway is a relative newcomer to BJJ, but says her stand-up skills are also getting sharpened.
“Even though I have been striking for a long time, my striking has come a long way since joining Evolve. All the instructors have done a great job helping me adapt my game to work for MMA.”\
ONE Championship is rumored to be looking to crown champions in the weight classes that have not seen a title fight thus far and a second successive win would firmly establish Gannaway as a frontrunner for the inaugural 105-pound belt.
With Osenio coming from the Philippines’ most renowned camp and possessing a background in high level Wushu and submission grappling, this promises to be a tough test for Gannaway, but a fight that will tell us much about her title prospects.
ONE FC: Age of Champions is set for Stadium Putra in Kuala Lumpur on Friday, March 13. Fans from around the world can witness the action online via live streaming and the event will be available for purchase at just US$9.99 from http://www.onefc.com/livestream.
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