MICHELLE Waterson underwent a stunning body transformation after giving birth, becoming a ripped, cage-fighting mom.
Nicknamed The Karate Hottie, Watterson’s career was put on hold in 2010 when a test unexpectedly revealed she was three months pregnant.
After giving birth, the MMA mom quickly returned to the ring – and even posed nude for the cover of ESPN Body.
Waterson’s Start in MMA
Waterson, now 34, was already showing her fighting talent at the age of 10, winning a black belt in American Freestyle karate.
Born in Colorado Springs and raised in Aurora, Colorodo, she also trained in Wushu, Muay Thai, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, boxing, and wrestling.
“As a kid, I was outgoing, but I also never wanted to make anybody mad. I never spoke out,” she said about her childhood to ESPN.
“But martial arts allowed me to stand up for myself when I felt like something wasn’t right or when I felt like I was being take advantage of,” Waterson added.
In 2007, Waterson started out as a ring girl at a local MMA event and told the promotion team that she wanted to compete.
UFC lightweight Donald Cerrone, who fought for the promotion at the time, encouraged Waterson to get in the gym and start training.
She did go to the gym, and started training religiously.
On February 16, 2007, she made her MMA debut at Ring of Fire 28: Evolution against Andrea Miller.
Without having any prior amateur fighting experience Waterson walked away victorious, picking up the win via a unanimous decision.
She then went toe-to-toe against Lynn Alvarez at Ring of Fire 3, losing the bout when she tapped out to Alvarez in the first round.
In October 2008, Waterson made the jump over to Strikeforce, with her debut against Tyra Parker, which ended in a rear naked choke submission win for Waterson.
After her Strikeforce bout, Waterson bounced around a few MMA promotions and on April 11, 2009, fought for Extreme Beatdown, facing former WIBA and IFBA Flyweight Boxing Champion Elena Reid.
Waterson received her first technical knockout defeat when the referee called the bout in the second round in favor of Reid.
In 2010, after a victory over Masako Yoshida at Crowbar MMA, Waterson – then with an 8-3 record – signed up to for another fight that year, but she noticed something strange during her workouts.
“I was doing all sorts of crazy stuff because I was getting ready for a fight, but the weight just wouldn’t come off,” she told Yahoo Sports.
It was later revealed she was three months pregnant.
Pregnancy midway through her Career
The pregnancy test confirmed it: her fight was cancelled and her career was put on hold.
“A million thoughts were going through my head all at once. ‘What about my fight career?’ Being pregnant for me was probably one of the hardest parts of my career, just because I had so many unknowns,” she told ESPN.
During the first three months of pregnancy, Waterson had done so many things pregnant women are told not to do.
She was lifting heavy weights, taking punches, dieting and event stunt work as Natalie Portman’s double for the first Thor movie.
Her pregnancy also took a toll on her competitive mentality.
“I was watching teammates grow and get better and excel and win fights, and all I can think of is that I’m falling behind,” she told ESPN.
Waterson wondered whether her fight career was over. She didn’t know of any female fighter who returned to the octagon after giving birth.
“There’s this huge stigma of girls that get pregnant while they’re fighting. It’s like ‘Oh, they weren’t serious enough about their fighting career that they get pregnant.’ I think I was afraid of that judgment,” she said.
“On a scale of 1-10, any pain I’ve taken in the ring would rank a 6, and childbirth a 10. Now I know that if I can get through 12 hours of labor, then I can get through a 25-minute fight.”
On March 18, 2011, she and her husband Joshua Gomez welcomed their daughter Araya, who gave the new mom a reason to stay motivated, a reason to fight.
“I was like ‘OK, you’re fighting for a reason now.’ I was hungrier and more motivated because I had somebody to take care of.
“I would start visualizing the fight as me being Mama Bear and someone was trying to take my cub,” Waterson added.
“After having Araya. I feel like if I wanted to continue to purse fighting, it had to be financially beneficial for my family. I just couldn’t do it as a hobby.”
Nine months after giving birth, Waterson resumed her fighting career.
UFC Debut and Nude Photos
Waterson returned to MMA on January 21, 2012, with a brilliant performance against Diana Rael at MMA Series VII: Spring Break.
The cage fighter picked up a victory after applying a rear-naked choke on Rael.
On April 28, 2015, it was reported that Waterson had officially signed with the UFC and was expected to compete in the Women’s Strawweight division.
Three months later, Waterson made her promotional debut against Angela Magana at the UFC 21 Finale and won her 13th professional fight via submission in the third round.
In 2017, Waterson graced the cover of ESPN’s Body edition, when she posed nude for the magazine.
She explained how she learned to embrace her post-pregnancy stretch marks.
“Now I embrace them, because for me it was like this nest that I created to grow this little human in my body, and I’m proud of that. They are like my battle wounds,” she said.
Adding that she learned how to admire her body in the process, “I’m really at peace with who I am.
“That peace came after I had my daughter. I really gained an appreciation for the work that I put in to get my body where I needed it to be.”
When asked about her Karate Hottie nickname, Waterson said she approaches it as a leverage over her opponents: “I think its catchy. I don’t mind saying that I’m hot.
“If you want to underestimate your opponent because of her nickname, for sure, go ahead,” she said.
The bout would become the biggest pay-per-view event in UFC history.
“This fight between Khabib and Conor is such a massive fight. People like Michelle will get more exposure in this one night than they will in their entire career,” UFC president Dana White said.
Waterson would pick up the victory via a unanimous decision and would win her following fight against Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC on ESPN in March 2019.
On Saturday, September 12, 2020, The Karate Hottie, residing now from Albuquerque, New Mexico, will return to the octagon when she takes on Angela Hill at UFC Fight Night.
This will be Waterson’s second fight this year following a split decision loss to Carla Esparza at UFC 249 in May 2020.
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