Michelle Waterson is thrilled to have an opponent like Karolina Kowalkiewicz for UFC Philadelphia, feels strawweights should already have headlined a PPV card.
Wilmington, DE — Currently riding a two-fight win streak, Michelle Waterson enters one of the biggest fights of her career at UFC Philadelphia this weekend. The event — UFC on ESPN 2 for those counting — will be Waterson’s first bow on the UFC’s new broadcast home. Beyond that, however, she’s facing a former title challenger in a fight that could put Waterson herself within striking distance of a shot at gold.
Waterson, who has been a media darling for the UFC, would be an excellent option for a title fight, if she comes out of Philly with a dominant showing. She belongs to a top gym in Jackson-Wink, is well-spoken, and offers the sort of feel-good, positive role model persona the UFC at times can be lacking.
She was also gracious in discussing opponent Karlolina Kowalkiewicz, who earlier on at the UFC Philadelphia media day referred to Waterson as her “idol.” In response, Waterson said that “it’s really cool to see it all come full circle. I remember watching her do her debut at Invicta when I was atomweight champion. And thinking then, ‘this girl’s going to be something awesome.’ So it’s really cool to be able to be here and say we’re going to give each other a part of ourselves inside the octagon.”
Kowalkiewicz spoke earlier of struggling with the idea of having to punch Waterson. For her part, ‘The Karate Hottie’ understands the feeling, but pointed out that “if I don’t go in there and give a hundred percent, then I’m doing not only myself a disservice, but also my opponent.”
She also acknowedlged that Karolina’s reluctance to engage could work in her favor.
“Any advantage that you can get, you want to take. If that plays into it, cool, if not, we’re prepared for the best Karolina that steps into the octagon Saturday.” The best Karlolina is no easy out. Waterson considers Kowalkiewicz one of the “more well-rounded” fighters in the division, with an overlooked ground game.
But it’s hard to get away from that sweetness. Kowalkiewicz told reporters that she’d tried to buy some girl scout cookies, online, from Waterson’s daughter. The youngster and her mom saw the cookie story explode ahead of UFC Philadelphia after UFC President Dana White announced he was buying 1,000 boxes of girl scout cookies to help ‘The Karate Cutie’ reach her goal. Kowalkiewicz tried to pitch in, but the order form didn’t work for her at the time, possibly as she was outside the U.S.
“Did she? Oh man, I wish I would have known that I would have brought some cookies for her. What a sweetheart,” Waterson said with a laugh. They hugged it out at weigh ins as well. It’s a fun sight, to see that much love ahead of a cage fight. But someone is going to have to get hit on Saturday.
And with that in mind, a win over Kowalkiewicz could do big things for ‘The Karate Hottie.’ Including positioning her within striking distance of the title. Waterson agreed with Cageside Press on that front, saying “a hundred percent. This is what I’m here for. I’m here to fight for the belt. And that’s one of the reasons I want to fight Karolina. Because she’s fought everybody who is anybody at the top. She was a contender, she went all five rounds with Joanna. So I believe winning on Saturday will get me in line for the belt.”
Waterson would love to go to Brazil to be on hand for the next defense of the title, when Rose Namajunas defends against Jessica Andrade in enemy territory at UFC 237. It marks the first time a strawweight fight has topped a PPV card.
That’s something that doesn’t sit well with the normally upbeat Michelle Waterson. “It shouldn’t be the first time. The strawweight division is the most stacked division on the female roster, and I don’t say that lightly,” she said.
Asked if there was any particular reason for that, Waterson responded “I don’t know. [Joanna Jedrzejczyk] should have. Her and Rose should have, definitely, headlined, their fight. The first one and the second one.”
With luck, Waterson might top a UFC card some day in the future as a strawweight. Of course, in the past, she was an atomweight. Perhaps the last weight class for women currently that has a chance of being added to the UFC. 105lbs is a relatively stacked division outside the UFC. Waterson herself held the title in Invicta prior to signing with the UFC in 2015.
As far as whether the division should be brought into the fold, Waterson said that “if there are girls fighting at atomweight, then they should make a division for that in the UFC.” Or, quoting the old line from Field of Dreams, “if you build it, they will come. Give them a place to shine, and they will come and they will perform and they will pour their hearts out just like the rest of the girls have coming into the UFC. Dana White’s seen it, and he’s been able to reap the benefits of the passion that all the females bring to the UFC, to the sport of mixed martial arts, and to martial arts in general.”
Waterson pointed out that, right now, “There are little girls who have trained since they were three, four years old doing karate, jiu-jitsu, and they want a platform when they grow up. So just give it to them. Give it to them.”
Don’t miss the full UFC Philadelphia media day scrum with Michelle Waterson above, as she also recounts how Dana White wound up buying 1,000 boxes of girl scout cookies from her daughter, and her favorite Rocky film.