Before her upcoming fight with Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC Philadelphia, strawweight contender Michelle Waterson attended UFC 235 and spoke to media backstage.
Las Vegas, NV – Attending UFC 235, Michelle Waterson is back on the upswing after losses to Rose Namajunas and Tecia Torres by defeating Cortney Casey and Felice Herrig consecutively. The wins have earned Waterson a fight with former top contender Karolina Kowalkiewicz, who is looking to recover from a brutal KO loss to Jessica Andrade. “The Karate Hottie” is well aware of the challenge ahead:
“My camp has been really good. We’ve been wanting to fight Karolina Kowalkiewicz for a while. She’s fought the best of the best and a fight against her would get me to where I need to be, to fight for the belt which is my ultimate goal. I’m very excited. I know I have a lot on my hands. She’s just as well-rounded and creative as me so I’m really looking forward to the fight.”
While her fight will take place on ESPN, Waterson is looking to get involved with more than just fighting on the network, as she did on FOX Sports.
“I would love to get behind the desk. It’s very beneficial to me as a fighter because I’m forced to break down fighters outside of my weight class and I think that helps. Analyzing other fighters and breaking their skills down helps you break your own skills down and reevaluate the things you do.”
Waterson’s daughter Araya became a beloved figure following the release of the Waterson-based documentary Fight Mom. But unfortunately, she couldn’t make it out to the fights this time around.
“My daughter is a huge part of our camp. She knows my goals, and I guess to her I’m already a champion, so anything extra is just extra credit. She’s always with us. She’d be here right now if she could but she has school and she has to sell Girl Scout cookies at home so she has her hands full right now.”
The former Invicta FC atomweight champion moved on from the division in order to sign with the UFC, but if the promotion adopted the weight class, it would be an enticing opportunity for Waterson.
“I would never close any doors to an opportunity. But I feel that being able to fight at 115 gives me the opportunity to spend more time on technique, more time on my gameplan, rather than my diet, cutting weight, adding extra miles to my training camp. I’d rather spend more time training technique and sparring rather than roadwork. But, if the opportunity presented itself and I couldn’t turn it down, I wouldn’t say no.”
Waterson added an anecdote to reaffirm how hard it would be to convince her to cut down to atomweight again:
“The last time I cut to atomweight, the doctor that was checking for my pulse couldn’t find it for an hour. It’s dangerous. Your fight career is short-lived anyway, you might as well do it in a healthy way. It would have to be worth my while to go back to 105. They can make it worth my while,” Waterson laughed.
On the topic of weight-cutting, Waterson’s teammate, Diego Sanchez, has moved up to welterweight and won on Saturday against Mickey Gall, which has been enjoyable to watch for the strawweight contender.
“Diego [Sanchez] is just special. He has hit a point in his life where he is doing it again because he loves it. By him not having to cut the weight, he’s able to just enjoy the process of it. I think that’s why he’s having such great success.”
It hasn’t been all good times at Jackson-Wink though, as there was a well-publicized feud between one of the star pupils, Donald Cerrone, and the coaches. While Cerrone has fluorished in the cage in spite of this, it has been hard on the camp.
“It’s hard because we’re all friends. We’ve built friendships throughout the years. I’ve known Donald [Cerrone] forever. He’s the one who brought me into Jackson’s before I even moved out to Albuquerque. The truth is, I’m still friends with him. And the coaches are father-figures to me, they’re mentors to me. So I stay neutral, I’m friends with everybody and I wish everybody the best. But it hasn’t affected me. The gym is still running and there’s good camaraderie amongst me and my teammates and my coaches. We’re having a good camp.”
The strawweight title will be fought for at UFC 237 between champion Rose Namajunas and Jessica Andrade. Having fought Namajunas in the past, Waterson gave her thoughts on the bout.
“It’s pretty interesting. Rose is just in a different place mentally when she does decide to fight. She has a very strong mental game. She has the reach, she has the creativity to pick her shots and keep Andrade away. I think the determining factor is if Andrade will be able to break that initial barrier, get in close and get the body clinch and do those amazing wrestling takedowns that she’s so good at. I think that’s the determining factor. And if Rose can keep her off for five rounds. It’s a five-round fight. That’s exhausting, keeping someone off for five rounds but Joanna [Jedrzejczyk] did it.”