Justine Kish Credits Perseverance, Cris Cyborg Following Upset Win at Bellator 279

Justine Kish’s win over Ilima-Lei Macfarlane at Bellator 279 was not supposed to happen. At least not according to anyone outside of Kish herself, and her circle.

If you had asked “anyone,” she admitted, she was expected to lose. Following her massive upset of the former champ on Saturday in Honolulu, Hawaii, Kish (8-5) added that she was surprised to even get the match-up.

“I was surprised when they did ask me, but I’m not one to shy away from opportunities or chances. I know I’m a world-class fighter, I won a world title in Muay Thai,” the flyweight told media outlets including Cageside Press, speaking back stage at the Neal S. Blaisdell Arena. “And since my MMA career began, there’s been so many ups and downs.”

Kish has had to contend with the death of her mother, multiple knee surgeries, and a busy travel schedule over the past several years. She cared for her mother during an extended illness. “I did my best to still remain in training camp and to still follow my dream, but obviously my performance suffered a little bit.”

Kish could tell that something wasn’t right, even in some of her wins. “I just kept on going, kept on chugging along. Things happen, things change during hiatuses, so it was up to me to keep finding the right circuit, the right training, the right people.” Kish added that “the best people in the world” subsequently took her in, including Cris Cyborg, who welcomed her into her camp.

“It was what I needed. I finally had a female that was bigger and better and stronger and number one and just a freakin’ Cyborg in the sport. So she took me in with open arms, and finally I started learning things I really needed to learn, not just Muay Thai.”

Even with all that, Kish couldn’t put the work in she wanted to with Cyborg, due to a nagging injury she feels she was over-compensating for. Luckily, that now appears to be in the past. “Finally, my movement is back. Finally, my striking feels balanced. I can’t tell you how many hours a day, how much time was dedicated. So much time, I didn’t even realize.”

In the end, the hard work paid off. And while she’ll reap the usual rewards that come with a high profile win, Kish is mainly looking to push herself.

“I knew beating her would catapult me to the top, to the brackets, to the top, and they’d give me a bigger platform and maybe more attention. And that’s not what I’m really after, I’m just after pushing myself, being the absolute best, and putting on good shows. I’m an athlete at heart, since childhood. I love competing, I love entertaining.”

Watch the full Bellator 279 post-fight press conference with Justine Kish above. More coverage can be found below.