Women’s MMA (WMMA) has come a long way in the past few years. Female pioneers of the sport such as “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey, Chris “Cyborg” Santos, and other talented stars, have propelled what was once a novelty niche, to prime time. More and more women warriors are headlining big events or featured in key spots of fight cards. While the level of talent on the female side isn’t yet as developed or diverse, stars continue to be established at a rapid pace as WMMA gains popularity and traction among the casual fan. The fights are usually exciting, bloody, and full of action, thus the hype of women's battles, often lives up to the billing.
As the industry develops, so does the talent. New faces are making their mark on the sport and establishing themselves as household names. Paige VanZant of the UFC and Emily Ducote of Bellator MMA, are just two such names gaining popularity with the fans. Another big name to recently make waves is that of Heather “The Heat” Hardy. Hardy, the current WBC International Female Super Bantamweight Champion, found a new passion for MMA and it showed in her first bout with Bellator MMA, a brutal, gritty battle that notched her the victory.
At 35 years old, history shows that she has a limited window to make an impact in an industry which often favors youth, however, with a resume of extensive fighting experience, Hardy believes that she has the ability and perseverance to make a highly successful transition quickly. She fights out Brooklyn, NY and is a true inspiration story. She started boxing in 2010, during a rough time in her life. She struggled with multiple jobs while raising her young daughter and decided to take a chance on boxing. Experiencing quick success, Hardy dedicated to the sport, which culminated with her winning the WBC title and amassing a 20-0 professional record. After her first MMA bout against Alice Yauger, at Bellator 180, the victorious Hardy told reporters, “I think I just fell in love.” With so many doubters, she had a lot of pressure to perform, which she did. “I just worked so hard, and now I can say I did it too. A lot of people said I couldn’t do it or I wouldn’t do it. And I did,” said Hardy. Her second venture in the cage is not going to get any easier, as across from her will be a younger, hungry, and well-rounded opponent who’s yet to face defeat in her career, in any combat sport, at any level.
Kristina “Warhorse” Williams also has an intriguing story, one that seems unlikely to have led her down the path of being a professional MMA fighter. Growing up in the small town of Guthrie, more known for its land run and Wild West history than sports, Williams never imagined she’d be in this position. She is a competitive horse jumper and an equine therapy specialist, who lives on a horse farm. A few years ago, Williams decided to try her hand at Muay Thai and found a passion. Her abilities developed quickly, prompting her to test her ability in boxing, then MMA. The 28 year old fighter became a household name in the Oklahoma combat sports scene and turned a lot of heads her direction with a 12-0 record as an Amateur.
Bellator MMA noticed and came calling as well. Looking to match their signed star Hardy, the organization reached out to multiple potential opponents, but it was Williams who stepped up to the plate first. The matchup was tantalizing and after a few days of watching film and discussing it, the team accepted, citing their confidence in the well-rounded ability of their fighter as being a key to their belief in her winning this fight. A humble and shy personality outside of the cage, one could assume that the often nonchalant Williams, may not be intense enough for a brutal sport like MMA at the top level, however that couldn’t be further from the truth. The calm and collected fighter uses her ability to keep cool under pressure as an advantage in the cage. While she hasn’t faced much adversity up to this point, due to her superior skillset, Williams ran into a stiff challenge in her last bout, losing a round for the first time in her career. At the end of that first round, many were left wondering if “Warhorse” finally met a challenge that was able to keep her at bay, or if she simply made a mistake that led to a lethargic round. The answer was evident when round two began. Williams adjusted between rounds and came out with an intensity that showed her will to win against all odds. Pushing forward at the bell in Terminator like fashion, she precisely laced her opponent with punches, elbows, kicks, and mixed in take downs. At the end of the round, the strategy that worked for her opponent in round one, was no longer efficient and Williams left her foe second guessing herself, bloodied up on the corner stool, in a visibly sunken demeanor. Clearly, Heather Hardy is on a different level and the toughest opponent to date for Williams, yet, Warhorse has shown her ability to make sound decisions mid fight, overcome pressure, and possesses the well-rounded skill that it takes to compete at an elite level. If anything more can be said about this talented fighter, is that come October 20th, she’s sure to be ready for this stage and opportunity.
The fight will be aired live on Spike TV. MMA fans, already excited about the Main Event between Gegard Mousasi and Alexander Shlemenko, will be treated to the type of matchup that has “Fight of the Night” potential written all over it with Hardy vs Williams. Neither Hardy nor Williams have ever backed down from a challenge and both look to cement their name as one of the top prospects at 125 pounds.