Back on August 6th of this year, I attended my first live MMA event. I was excited and even more so as there were Women’s fights on the card. I was interested to see how different it would be watching ladies fight to the men. I wasn’t disappointed watching Karen Ousey fight in her Professional MMA debut. She took the win in a fantastic, gruelling fight and I realised then that women can do the job just as well as the guys.
Although this was Karen’s MMA Pro Debut she has been fighting for years and in her Muay Thai career she is undefeated with an incredible record of 17-0-1. She has fought at 56/58kg but over the years her weight has increased to 58/60kg, she stands 5.9” tall and life begins at 40 which is how old Karen is.
Karen has been training in Muay Thai since 1992. She got into it with a friend who was going travelling and wanted to learn it for the self-defence aspect. As the class consisted of no females, she went along for moral support and it was from here that the following 19 years of training and fighting started.
When Karen isn’t fighting she is a fitness and training coach full time, teaching aerobics, body pump, Muay Thai and MMA. But along with those Karen has also developed her own Muay Thai aerobics system called KBOX and teaches this to large groups of women around the South West and Cornwall. Everyone dreams of doing a job they love and Karen says she feels fortunate because she combines both her career and hobby and thoroughly enjoys it. Pushing herself up levels is a feeling she enjoys and she gets immense satisfaction out of seeing others learn a new skill, get fit and build confidence.
When Karen started training her family and friends had not even heard of Muay Thai but once Karen explained it to them she had a mixed reaction with some saying it was great and others thinking she was totally crazy. But for Karen it didn’t matter, she continued and trained hard from the very beginning. When it came to competing, again there was mixed feedback in both the negative and the positive. But Karen loves Muay Thai and so there was no one who could stop her.
In Karen’s opinion the women’s side of MMA is not as recognised as it should be but she is happy it is now growing and that promoters are starting to recognise that there are some very talented women who will contribute to the growth of the sport. With regards to other fighters, Karen has a lot of respect for many within the Muay Thai and MMA world. There are so many she could name as she admires different people for different reasons such as their fighting skills, achievements or the way they conduct themselves. But naming just a few people Karen takes us back to 1992 and recalls watching a female Thai fighter called Lucia Riker. She says she can clearly remember thinking ‘I want to be like her’ as she was an incredible fighter and a force to be reckoned with. She also has respect for Chris Cyborg who she says is the MMA version of Lucia Riker. Watching her, Karen felt the same admiration and was literally left saying ‘wow’. She says she loves the presence that Chris has about her and would love to meet her and train with her one day. Chris has fantastic MMA skills that Karen would love to learn and in return would love to share some of her own Muay Thai skills that have helped her become the success she is.
I asked Karen her feelings on those who say women shouldn’t be involved in a ‘mans’ sport but as she rightly points out, has there ever been a sport created just for men? Sadly some sports, created by men are automatically stamped as a male sport. She goes on to say with all things in life the male and female will always be divided into their supposed positions and everyone will always have different opinions. As Karen says, the women of Martial Arts have had to prove they are capable of putting themselves through the training and fights both mentally and physically and she believes they have proved that women can be awesome technical fighters. But she wants everyone to carry on giving 100% in commitment to prove all the doubters wrong.
So is MMA a dangerous sport or does it just have a bad name? Karen says that all impact sports are dangerous and it is just part of the job but in contrast sports have an incredible positivity that can change a person’s life. She would love people to concentrate more on the positives instead of the negatives. She says some people cannot understand why a woman would put themselves through such a challenging regime and competing but for Karen it is all about pushing herself to be the best of the best. Some good advice to the doubters from Karen is not to knock something that you don’t understand fully. If it isn’t for you then you should just accept that.
I wondered what it was like for Karen going into her first fight. Although she said there were some initial worries, they were very short lived because she loved the training and the harder she was training the better she felt. Eight to ten weeks before the fight is when it becomes more intense and focused for Karen. She says her determination and willpower builds week by week and her stamina increases with running, skipping, pad work and bag work, sparring, technical work and strategy. She says it is then that it all comes together. Karen does get a few nerves but still stays calm which she feels has really helped her in her career. She has never been beaten and rightly so she is proud of this achievement and believes this success is due to her mental state going into a fight and also her intense training schedule. Different fighters cope with emotions in different ways; some like being left alone, others like to be surrounded by friends and family, others relax listening to music compared to some who pace up and down gearing themselves up. Karen says no matter what she goes through before a fight, when her name is called she is 100% focussed and ready for the action.
So what is next for Karen? At present there is nothing confirmed regarding her next fight but her team are working on it as we speak. Karen is very keen to fight in the USA and go for the highest ranked challenge she can. She also really enjoyed her experience at UCMMA so would love to fight there again. If you want to get behind Karen and keep up to date with what is happening, you can follow her on Twitter by searching ko9mm.
Karen would like to thank numerous people for their support. Firstly her trainer and life-long partner Howard who she says has always believed in her and been the rock she has needed at times when she has had doubts over her potential. She says she is and will always be grateful to him. Mark Tucker for his knowledge, patience and friendship. Her sponsors Power Balance, Xtreme Couture Supplements and SPIKED. And Matt Walton for all his continued support and help in pushing her forward with her MMA career.