Kristina Williams is well-prepared to get back in the cage at Bellator 210, having trained with the likes of Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, Valentina Shevchenko, Jinh Yu Frey and others. But really, riding might be more dangerous than fighting in the end.
When Kristina Williams returns to action at Bellator 210 in Thackerville, Oklahoma this Friday, it will be the fourth fight of her pro career. Now, consider that during that short span of just over a year, she’s fought one of the best names in the flyweight division in Valerie Letourneau, finished a championship-level boxer in Heather Hardy, and trains with some of the best female fighters you can find.
Not a bad first year, right? But perhaps a little overwhelming. Williams, who takes on Bruna Ellen this Friday in Thackerville, admitted as much, speaking to Cageside Press ahead of the fight. “It was definitely overwhelming at first, especially the first couple of fights,” she recalled. “I kind of got better at handling it, and got accustomed to it a little more. It’s still pretty crazy to me, but it was definitely overwhelming at first.”
All that media exposure was no doubt an eye-opener for the ‘Warhorse.’ Yet after her finish of Hardy in her first fight, there was no going back. In fact, after her first bout, “coming up to the next one, it put a little more pressure on me, as far as like in camp, doing interviews and stuff. I wasn’t used to doing any of that.”
The good news is, it doesn’t stress her out nearly as much as before. Some might have had expectations of more bloody, exciting finishes. Others may have thought her a fluke. Listening to Williams speak, however, she’s a lot more confident these days.
No wonder. After picking up wins in her first two bouts, her third fight came against the woman who is about the challenge for the Bellator flyweight championship. That would be Valerie Letourneau. “One of the biggest things, fighting Valerie, I felt like I did a really good job, she just was the smarter fighter,” Williams told us.
She takes a lot of validation from the fight. “Because I felt like I hung with her, I had a great fight other than, I’ve got to work on my takedown defense and getting up off the ground.” Building from that, Williams has spent the subsequent months “working to make myself more complete as a mixed martial artist.”
Helping her along that path have been Valentina Shevchenko, Jinh Yu Frey, and Ilima-Lei Macfarlane among others. Without question, all three are championship caliber fighters.
Shevchenko and and Williams got together ahead of ‘Bullet’s’ previously scheduled fight against Nicco Montano. Meanwhile, “Jinh Yu Frey [Invicta FC’s atomweight champion] and Montana De La Rosa, I go down to Dallas to train with them probably almost every week for a day or so.” And then there’s Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, who holds the title in Williams’ own division, as Bellator’s women’s flyweight champion.
“Ilima, she came up to my gym this last weekend. She was up for Invicta, and we did a little training together. She came and strength trained with me,” said Williams. “Super cool, she’s such an awesome person.” The two share a similar approach to opponents. “It’s pretty crazy because it’s possible we’ll fight some day, but I love how she can just come in be comfortable training with me. She keeps it very impersonal as far as her having to fight someone. I just love that about her, because I like that mentality too.”
So you can rest assured that at Bellator 210, there’s nothing personal against Bruna Ellen, who was a budding star in the organization, like Williams herself, before battling injury. It was Ellen, in fact, who was originally booked against Letourneau.
Ellen’s time away, however, isn’t something Williams is counting on in terms of an advantage. “I think some people have ring rust, and I think some people come out stronger. I’m expecting her to come out better than her last fight, and that’s what I’m prepared for,” she said.
In preparation, Williams has been “making myself more complete.” She also recognizes that while Ellen likes to strike, she does so with the aim of getting the fight to the ground. Hence working on “a lot of takedown defense, and then control on the ground.”
“I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better on the ground too,” said Williams. That’s something she has worked hard on. “I feel like I’ve just been dialing in everything I was learning before the Valerie fight. I just takes so much repetition to make it natural in you, I definitely feel more prepared for this fight.”
That’s good to hear, because once Letourneau and Macfarlane collide, the division is wide open. Lots of young talent, lots of opportunity to move up the ladder.
Speaking of that upcoming title fight, Williams gave her take. “That’s going to be a really tough fight. If Valerie can keep it standing up, I think she could win. And she’s a very smart fighter obviously and she has a lot of experience, so that could come into play,” Williams suggested. “But if it gets to the ground, Ilima-Lei, I think she’s going to win for sure.”
Asked if anyone stood out in her division outside of the players in that title fight, Williams had one name in mind. “Down the line, I’m not sure for my next fight or anything, but Veta Arteaga has been standing out. She’s been doing really well,” Williams said. “That’s probably a fight I would love to have eventually, she’s been really on fire with her wins recently.”
‘Warhose’ is an apt nickname for Williams, who came into fighting after growing up riding and training horses. While it’s not something she can do as often these days, especially when in camp, it remains a passion for her. “I’ve been riding since I was four years old, and I did a lot of showing and training horses. Jumping competitions, and thoroughbreds off the track, I would take and train them to jump and resell them.”
The two are about as far apart as worlds can get on the surface. But both bring about a certain amount of tranquility. “I feel so very at peace doing that,” she said, “but I also feel very at peace training. They’re both kind of the things I love doing the most.”
If you’ve never ridden, you probably don’t realize how dangerous horseback riding can be. So it might surprise you that, asked which she’s taken more injuries from, fighting or riding, Williams admitted that it’s “probably my horses. Horses make you pretty tough. I’ve ridden a lot of crazy, off-the-track horses, and fallen off more times than I can count. I’ve had horses flip over and roll over on me, I’ve been kicked multiple times, I’ve fallen off hundreds of times, so that’s made me pretty tough.”
“People can’t do near as much to you as horses can.”
Bruna Ellen is going to try to prove otherwise at Bellator 210, mind you. The fight takes place on the main card, which goes down Friday, November 30. Catch it on the Paramount Network starting at 9PM EST.