Cortney Casey is set to face Michelle Waterson this Saturday at UFC on FOX 29 — and knows that with their style, fans are in for a war!
When Cortney Casey takes the cage this Saturday at UFC Glendale (UFC on FOX 29), she’ll be fighting in her own backyard for the first time since her amateur days. Facing former Invicta FC atomweight champion Michelle Waterson, it’s another tough test for Casey. Yet Casey has made a career of those, including the short notice scrap that broke her into the UFC. That came against Joanna Calderwood, who at the time was ranked in the top ten among UFC strawweights.
Scraps against Randa Markos, Claudia Gadelha, Jessica Aguilar, and Felice Herrig followed. And Casey is more than happy to take on tough competition. Just over a week out from her next bout, she spoke to Cageside Press about her run in the promotion, the controversial fight with Herrig, and facing Waterson in Glendale.
“I’ve always been happy with my match-ups, I can go in there and put on a good show and win fights, or grow as a fighter in them.”
Aside from the fight with ‘JoJo’ where she stepped up on short notice, none of her bouts were fights she’s sought out — but she wouldn’t think of turning them down. “They kind of just gave them to me,” she explained, later adding “I think it’s just ’cause of my fighting style, and the fact that I don’t turn down fights. I’ve always been happy with my match-ups, I can go in there and put on a good show and win fights, or grow as a fighter in them.”
The Gadelha fight, arguably her toughest, stands out, “It was just one of those opportunities, to fight the number one ranked girl in the world,” Casey explained, “so I took it. I went in there with a game plan, I tried to execute it as best I could, it didn’t go my way, you know that’s sometimes how a fight goes. I learned a lot from those fights.”
Casey sees herself as a growing fighter, young in terms of her record. The upcoming bout against ‘The Karate Hottie’ being her eighth UFC fight, she’s “happy where I’m at, happy where I fall, happy with the opponents I’ve been given. I’ve been lucky enough to never fight anyone with a smaller record than me, and always fight people that are ranked higher than me. I’m happy.”
Besides which, she’s not asking for easy fights. “I don’t want to have a padded record by any means. I don’t want to be someone that’s just built up by being given guaranteed wins and stuff like that,” she continued. “I’m not saying that any win is a guaranteed win when you’re given that, because anything can happen when you’re in the cage, but there are some really uneven match-ups. I feel like with every fight I’ve been given, I’ve been matched up pretty well, and I’ve fared pretty well under the circumstances.”
Last time out happened to be Cortney Casey’s first fight with her new home, The MMA Lab. She admits it didn’t go their way as far as the judges were concerned, but “other than that, I executed my game plan to a T. My coaches are happy with my performance, I was happy with my performance.” Facing Felice Herrig, Casey noted that “she doesn’t shoot power doubles or snatch singles or anything like that, she just literally just bulldogs you, grabs you and throws you to the ground, so it was something where we were worried about being overly aggressive. But we were happy with our performance, it just didn’t go our way when it went to the judges.”
The good news is that Casey has felt right at home from the outset. “I felt settled in really well as soon as I got there,” she told us. “The team has been super awesome, since the moment I stepped through the door.” She notes the differences from her gym in Maui, where she was both training and coaching full time. Now, she has coaches around her that “are really catering to all my individual needs.” That has taken some adjustment, “but as far as the atmosphere goes and my teammates, that was instant as soon as I got there.”
Casey’s aforementioned scrap with Herrig garnered a little controversy when Herrig accused her of a “booger flick.” Casey has her own version of events when it comes to that particular story. “It wasn’t a booger flick. Yes there was, I guess, bloody snot thrown,” she explained, “but it wasn’t thrown at her. It was more or less, I hit her with a combination. The whole fight, I hit her with four or five shots, she hit me with one. Eyes closed, big overhand, barely hit me kind of thing. And she walked away and stuck her tongue out at me like she was some kind of bada**. I just said ‘come on, lets go,’ like ‘lets fight.’ If you think you’re the s***, you want to stick your tongue out at me, then lets go. That’s when, I kind of wiped my nose, and flung it at the ground, like school yard stuff – you pull up your pants, chuck your shirt on the ground or your jersey or whatnot.”
Casey recalled that she had been sick fight week after arriving in Detroit from Arizona. “I was all congested, and finally once I got hit in the nose a few times all the snot started coming out,” she continued, “so I was able to breathe which I was kind of happy about. So I just wiped my nose, and I guess she thought I was throwing it at her. If I wanted to throw it at her, I would have hit her with it. Then she flipped me off. And then it kind of went from there. I wasn’t going to sit there and get bullied by her.” Casey responded with a middle digit of her own, and the bout continued.
“I didn’t just like flick a booger at her” she said. “She claims I just wiped this booger and flung it at her. She stuck her tongue out at me, she did her little antics or what not, I wasn’t having it. At the end of the day, that’s what happened.”
Getting back in the cage in Arizona — for the first time since an amateur fight against Ashley Yoder years ago — gives Casey the opportunity to put the loss behind her. Plus, it’s nice to be home, without worrying about packing and the lack of necessities.
“I think that three of my fights have been out of country,” she noted of her UFC tenure. As an example, “you never know what you’re going to get in Brazil,” she said. “So you have to pack your food, you have to pack your sweats, everything you would possibly need for weight cut and for the whole fight, because you never know if it’s going to be acceptable where you’re at.”
And while “that’s the comfort of being able to fight at home,” Casey is unsure if she’ll actually stay at her own house. “I kind of want it to feel like fight week” she told us.
“I don’t care how many followers I have. I’m not going to do anything that goes against my own morals, just to get ahead or get fights.”
Fight week will lead her to Michelle Waterson, who recently suffered defeat at the hands of Tecia Torres. Casey is expecting plenty of kicks, and has “been preparing for her head and arm throw and a few takedowns that she has. Other than that, just the pace. Being able to keep that pace.” The point fighting game comes into play also. “She does come from that karate background, so she’s good at getting in and getting out and landing those shots, and not getting hit. She doesn’t take a lot of damage normally,” she continued, noting Torres was the exception to the rule. “Other than that, she’s hard to hit. She’s very mobile. So we’re just trying to dictate the pace, and make her come at us, and then every now and then, push forward.”
Agreeing that she’d like to avoid the judges at all costs given how some of her decisions have gone, Casey told us that she will “always try and go out there and finish fights. I definitely don’t have the greatest rapport with the judges, when it goes to them.” With that having been said, the plan is simple. “Make a statement, and get the job done within three rounds.”
You can’t help but notice that despite having more UFC bouts under her belt, Casey hasn’t been nearly as front and center as a fighter like Waterson. When it comes to who’s getting pushed, Casey told us that “they have their reasoning behind it. I get it, I understand it, they are a business, but my job is to fight.” Which means that “I don’t care how many followers I have. I’m not going to do anything that goes against my own morals, just to get ahead or get fights. I’ve been getting plenty of fights just being me. They know who to call when they have a short notice fight. They know who to call if no one else wants to fight someone. I’m happy with where I fall and where I stand in the UFC.”
Most importantly, “I like that they allow me to be myself,” she said. “They’re not asking anything else other than that. Michelle does her thing, just like every other fighter does their thing, and it is what it is.”
Her “own thing” in MMA started in a roundabout way of sorts. Despite being interested in martial arts since she was a kid, practicing Karate and Taekwondo in after school programs, Casey found herself playing soccer in college. Boxing, and later Pride, she enjoyed as she got older. Then, she “took a pretty bad injury” in her senior year. She was able to finish the season, but afterwards, the future was uncertain. “So I started training jiu-jitsu, and kind of fell in love with that,” she said. “Did my first jiu-jitsu tournament after three months in training, and then took my first fight three months after that.”
Jiu-jitsu tournaments are something she’d like to continue. Sadly, “every time I’ve been signed up for worlds or anything like that, I get a fight. It’s just one of those things. Fights pay the bills, jiu-jitsu tournaments don’t. So I take a step back.” Still, she loves both teaching kids jiu-jitsu, and training, and is hoping to get in a tournament or two this year.
First, however, is UFC Glendale and Michelle Waterson. Where fans can expect an exciting affair. “We both bring it, we’re both great moving forward and backward. So no matter where the fight goes,” Casey concluded, “it’s definitely going to be a war for sure.”
Catch Cortney Casey on the main card of UFC on FOX 29 this Saturday, April 14 at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona. The fight airs free on FOX, kicking off the UFC Glendale main card at 8PM ET.