Mercedes Terrell has been with Bellator for the better part of a decade, and is being recognized for her efforts as ring girl with a nomination at the World MMA Awards this year.
Ring card girls have long been a part of the combat sports scene. The familiar sight of an attractive woman circling the ring (or cage, in MMA), holding up a placard to show which round is pending goes back to the mid-60s or so. Prior to that, young boys would hold up signs indicating rounds. As boxing in particular moved into the 70s, ring girls became more and more common.
They were a staple of the 70s and 80s, and when MMA rose to prominence starting in the 90s, with the UFC at the forefront, ring girls (and in the UFC, octagon girls) rose with it.
Over at Bellator, Mercedes Terrell has served as ring girl for Bellator MMA nearly eight years now. Since she’s had a bird’s eye view of all the growth over the years, we asked her what the most significant change has been.
“Our quality of fighters have grown, our staff has definitely changed,” Terrell told us. “I call this a traveling circus. My family, this is like my second family. A lot of people come and go, a lot of amazing people stayed with me this entire time. So it’s been a pretty cool run.”
On the subject of, shall we say, particularly vocal fans at events, Mercedes said that “I think I have selective hearing, so I just kind of tune it out. But for the most part, the fans, unless they’re a little intoxicated, which happens by the end of the night on fight night, they’re pretty respectful for the most part.”
Being with the promotion as long as she has been, a lot of fans have come to know her, have interacted with her. “So at that point,” she said, “they’re much more respectful. Whereas these keyboard warriors and whatnot, people who don’t actually know you or have had no interaction with you, they feel free to say whatever they want to say, and feel like they’re going to get away with it. I’m not one to respond and heat up that nonsense that comes through online commenting and that type of thing.”
So how does she cope with that lot? “Just take it with a grain of salt, and appreciate the ones who have been respectful and kind all along, and supportive all along.”
Terrell has been nominated at the 2018 World MMA Awards for Ring Card Girl of the Year. Yet she downplayed the honor when asked about the award. “I think it’s cool that I get nominated for that,” she told us. However, “I’m trying not to make it a contest just generally amongst women.” That’s because she’s “all about female empowerment. So making it a contest kind of goes against that in a big way. I guess I see both sides of it, I appreciate both sides of it, and I appreciate them nominating me. I may actually show up to the event next week. We’ll see how it goes.”