By John Fullilove, jacksons.tv
jacksons.tv: Where are you originally from?
Michelle Waterson: Aurora, Colorado. That’s where I grew up.
jacksons.tv: While growing up did you participate in any sports?
Michelle Waterson: I started doing freestyle karate when I was about ten. I did some cheerleading in high school but martial arts were my life. I competed in point and forms competition. I competed locally, nationally and internationally.
jacksons.tv: How did you transition from freestyle to Muay Thai?
Michelle Waterson: My mom is Thai and we took a trip to Thailand. I always wanted to learn Muay Thai and when I was in Thailand I took the opportunity to learn some Muay Thai. I ended up really liking it. So when I came back that’s what I started training in.
jacksons.tv: Was that a difficult transition going from freestyle to Muay Thai?
Michelle Waterson: I think it was just because I was so set in my ways the previous martial arts. I had a lot of habits that weren’t necessarily bad habits but there are different styles of martial arts and they require different techniques. You have to break some habits to go from karate to Muay Thai.
jacksons.tv: While you were in Thailand, did you have an opportunity to go to Lumpini or Rajadamnern Stadiums to watch Muay Thai?
Michelle Waterson: No, I didn’t. But the different teams and camps have their own tiny stadiums where they bring in fighters. I got an opportunity to watch fights at the camp I went to.
jacksons.tv: When you returned from Thailand who did you start working out with?
Michelle Waterson: When I came back from Thailand I just started training with my family at first. I eventually met Donald Cerrone and I started training Muay Thai with him.
jacksons.tv: What was it like when you started training with him?
Michelle Waterson: I think the hardest part was the continuous fighting. In point sparring, it was like tag and with the real fighting you don’t stop. I think the conditioning was the hardest part for me.
jacksons.tv: How long did you do just Muay Thai before getting interested in MMA?
Michelle Waterson: I fought amateur Muay Thai for about a year until Donald was like, “Let’s do MMA”.
jacksons.tv: Did you have any pro fights with your Muay Thai?
Michelle Waterson: I had one pro fight in Muay Thai but that was after I turned pro in MMA.
jacksons.tv: Did you like the pro Muay Thai fight or did you like MMA better?
Michelle Waterson: I think I was already accustomed to MMA by that time. I chalked it up to a good experience. It was lots of fun and I enjoyed it but it was a different fight game.
jacksons.tv: What made you change your focus from Muay Thai to MMA?
Michelle Waterson: I was getting older and I knew I wanted to have martial arts as a career. Donald (Cerrone) told me I could make money fighting professionally as an MMA fighter. There would be more opportunities for me as an MMA fighter than there would be as a Muay Thai fighter. I decided to take on that challenge.
jacksons.tv: Was it a difficult transition going from a stand up game to incorporating a ground game for MMA?
Michelle Waterson: It was difficult because no one wants to work on things that they’re not good at. You’re in the gym and when it’s sparring day you love it but when it’s grappling day it like, “Oooh, I don’t want to be here.” It does make you better and it also made me aware that there is a world of possibilities when you are fighting in MMA. If you don’t want to stand up you can always have a plan B, C or D.
jacksons.tv: Were you still in Colorado at this point?
Michelle Waterson: Well, right after the show (Fight Girls), I flew out here to Albuquerque.
jacksons.tv: There are more women now in the gym here at Jacksons, but were there that many when you first started here?
Michelle Waterson: No when I first came here there was me, Jules, Holly, Nohime and Jodie from what I remember and that was it. There are probably twice as many women now then when I first started. The sport for women is definitely growing.
jacksons.tv: You fight at a very light weight. Going up against guys who are bigger than you, does that help improve your strength and endurance?
Michelle Waterson: Yes but you could say that about any woman who is training in gyms all over the world. They have no choice but to train with guys because there are a limited number of women who are training. Either going with women or men you learn from each person.
jacksons.tv: How would you describe your MMA style?
Michelle Waterson: I want to keep it standing up but every time I fight it ends up on the ground. I’m really comfortable there now. I’ve won 5 out of my 8 fights by submission.
jacksons.tv: You ended last fight quickly and dramatically. Can you describe how that fight ended?
Michelle Waterson: It was a flying armbar. What happened was I went to kick her and she caught my foot. That always happens in my fights. I try to kick and they catch my feet. I knew she was going to try to take me down so I didn’t want that. Instead of letting her take me down and going for a submission, I decided to go for the submission while we were still standing. I did that so I could at least have better position when we landed. I ended up getting a great position and cranking the arm bar.
jacksons.tv: What advice do you have for individuals out there that are interested in MMA?
Michelle Waterson: To understand that it’s a very slow process of learning. It’s not just something you can get right away. You have to have patience and you have to have the will and heart to try every day as hard as you can. Even though you’re sore the next day, you have to do it all over again the next day. When you’re getting beat up, it’s for a reason nd it’s because you’re still learning.
jacksons.tv: What is it like for you being here with Team Jackson/Winkeljohn?
Michelle Waterson: It means so much to me. Coach Jackson and Coach Winkeljohn are like father figures to me. They’re there watching us every step of the way. All my teammates are there to help me improve. No one is here to bring me down. It’s a good support group.
jacksons.tv: You are always here training hard – what keeps you motivated to keep training?
Michelle Waterson: You watch a video from when you first started and you see how much better you have become. You can only imagine how much better you can get. You talk to these other fighters who are veterans and are the originals of the game and they are just now peaking. They have been training 15 or 16 years as a professional. It really inspires you because they are in the gym every day and they are learning new things every day. You just come to an understanding that there are limitless possibilities to learning. You never stop learning. Once you think you know everything, then you better give up the sport because there is so much to learn.
jacksons.tv: How do you balance your MMA training and your conditioning training?
Michelle Waterson: We have boxing, kickboxing, sparring and grappling days. I also train at Kelly Tekins. She helps me with my strength and conditioning. She’s awesome because she’s sports specific and helps me develop my explosive fast twitch muscles. She puts muscle on me the right way.
jacksons.tv: What do you enjoy about MMA?
Michelle Waterson: I enjoy the lifestyle. It’s a healthy lifestyle. It forces me to challenge myself and look inside myself to what parts I can improve both physically and mentally.
jacksons.tv: What do you want to accomplish in MMA?
Michelle Waterson: I want to see women showcased just as much as the men. Hopefully I can be one of the pioneers for women’s MMA. I would like to leave my mark as one of the first women who helped start it all.
jacksons.tv: Would you like to coach in the future?
Michelle Waterson: I would. That’s actually one of the reasons why I started fighting. When I decide to open up a school, I want my students to know that I do have the experience and knowledge to defend myself and to get in the ring and do it properly.
jacksons.tv: What does your mom think of you fighting?
Michelle Waterson: At first she didn’t like it. She’s really supportive. She always tells me, “Take care of yourself so you don’t mess up your face!”
jacksons.tv: What do you do other than MMA?
Michelle Waterson: I do stunt work. I have two dogs that I take care of. It is hard to do other things because MMA does consume your life.
jacksons.tv: Who would you like to acknowledge?
Michelle Waterson: I want to thank all my teammates and Coach Jackson and Coach Winkeljohn. I also want to thank Kelly Tekin. My sponsors are Tapout and Tussle. I also want to thank my boyfriend, Josh, who is always there pushing me to make me run and eat right.