You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Truth be told, however, despite a heartbreaking (and controversial) stoppage loss in her professional/Bellator MMA debut at Bellator 172, flyweight Brooke Mayo probably doesn’t need a second chance.
Despite her lack of experience as a pro (Mayo does have a number of amateur fights dating back to 2015), she showed a ton of heart in a loss to Veta Arteaga that ended in a doctor’s stoppage due to a hematoma over the eye. Mayo imploring the officials in the cage that she could see, which ultimately fell on deaf ears, was what many remember from the bout. Which is actually a shame, given the spirited fight that built up to that moment.
At Bellator 183 this Saturday in San Jose, CA, Mayo gets a second chance to compete under the Bellator banner, this time against relative unknown Kaytlin Neil. She spoke with Cageside Press in advance of the fight about her entry into the sport, the Arteaga loss, Bellator 183 and more.
Mayo, who got her start in soccer and picked up jiu-jitsu almost by chance, went all in on MMA almost from the very beginning.
“In high school my dad and I used to watch fighting a lot. We used to watch boxing together, MMA. I was always a fan” she told us. “Once I went and started jiu-jitsu, the first couple days, I was super addicted.”
“I’d watch MMA, and to me, my personal opinion, I thought that jiu-jitsu and grappling were one of the more technical, difficult things to pick up just because there’s so many steps involved” she continued.
“So I was like ‘Maybe if I do well in this, I can move right into MMA.’ After the first two, three months I made a comment ‘Yeah I really want to fight, like a real fight, not just grappling'” Mayo recalled. “Everybody in the gym thought I was crazy, like ‘you’ve been training jiu-jitsu for like three months and you’re a white belt, what do you mean you want a fight?’ It’s funny because I had my first amateur MMA fight before I ever did a grappling tournament.”
“I just went for it and immersed myself fully into the sport right away.”
Jumping into the sport so quick came with a tiny bit of trepidation from her family, though Mayo says they’re “super supportive” today. “At first it was tough on them, they weren’t super excited to hear I was fighting when I first started.”
That probably wasn’t helped by the fact that Mayo didn’t let them know about her new sporting endeavor at first. “I kind of lied about what I was doing, my mom would be like ‘oh are you going to play soccer?’ I would still play casually after my surgery [a fasciotomy, for compartment syndrome] and after I quit playing Division I, I would play casually, so she thought I was still playing pick-up soccer, soccer for fun but really I was at jiu-jitsu practice.”
“So when I finally broke it to her, she was a little bit rattled. ‘How could you do this to me, you’re going to get hit in the face!’ She started kind of worrying, freaking out right away.” Well, no parent wants to watch their kid get hit in the face, right?
“I was like ‘it’s okay, it’s going to be fine!’ It took her about five amateur fights to get used to it. Now she only has to have one or two drinks before my fight, instead of like ten” she said with a laugh.
Now several years into her MMA career, and having moved from amateur MMA to the professional ranks, has Mayo, who has competed in combat jiu-jitsu and Mauy Thai, thought about dabbling in other disciplines?
“Jiu-jitsu is my first love, but honestly I just really like competing in general” she explained. “No matter the rule set or stage, whatever. I just like to test me, test myself, get out there and do things. In a real fight, that’s the true test for yourself.”
“I’m interested in getting into kickboxing and Mauy Thai more, in my professional career, when the time is right. When you can fit it in schedule-wise” she continued. “I really liked combat jiu-jitsu a lot, like when I competed at EBI 12. That was so awesome for me, I really liked that rule set a lot. I think that’s something that can compliment my MMA training, my MMA career a lot.”
Ultimately, “I’m just really down, I’d even be down to do a boxing fight to be honest. I’m just down to fight, whoever whenever, under whatever rule set.”
When it comes to fighting, were there any particular fighters that inspired her?
“There’s a lot of fighters, to be honest. A lot of them I train with now, at the gym I just joined [Team Alpha Male]” she told us. “I really look up to my training partners, like Cynthia Calvillo and Sara McMann, on the woman’s side. Cody Garbrandt, Urijah, all those guys, they’re great role models, they’re great fighters, their work ethic is insane. It’s really nice to be surrounded by people I grew up watching and idolizing, and now I’m training with them.”
“When I was growing up, I really liked watching Chuck Liddell fights” she added. “I love the Iceman. He really inspired me to get into MMA.”
Speaking of Team Alpha Male, Mayo is making that her permanent home. “I want to be the best, I want to win titles, I want to win all my fights, so I feel like the best place for me to be would be there. I’m surrounded by a lot of successful, like-minded individuals that work really hard, that really push each other, help each other out, and support each other.”
“I’m making a permanent move, still transitioning with the living situation currently but hopefully I find something soon so I’m not doing the back-and-forth thing” she added.
Why Alpha Male, and how’d that come to be? “For me, it just came together” Mayo told Cageside Press. After her loss to Veta Arteaga, “I looked at all the holes in my game, I really picked myself apart and asked myself ‘what do I need to do to get to the next level?’ ‘Well, I need to be training this, this, and this every single day.'”
That led to a few more questions. “‘Do I have access to that here? Where would I have access to something like that?’ That gym was the first thing that came to mind. I’m really happy that they opened their doors to me.”
The end result is that “it’s been really positive and good, and I feel like a whole different person since I’ve been training with them.” Though more than a little intimidating. “Cynthia [Calvillo] and I were friends from before, I knew Cynthia for a few years from when we were amateurs, so it was nice to have a familiar face there. I’d seen Urijah and those guys around since I fought in Sacramento quite a bit. Sara at that point wasn’t there yet. But it was definitely surreal and intimidating, going through a team practice, because I’d never done a pro MMA team practice.”
“A lot of my training was, go to jiu-jitsu, and try to get people to do MMA with me. Or go to Mauy Thai, same type of a thing” she continued. “I’d never had an organized, thirty pros on the mat team practice where we’re going through drills and it’s set things that they already know how to do. It was definitely intimidating, I’m not going to lie I was a little frustrated with myself, still now I’m a little frustrated because I want to be perfect at everything. But I really feel like it stepped my game up a whole other level.”
On page two, we discuss Bellator 172, gender bias in MMA, her upcoming bout against Kaytlin Neil, and more!