Behind the Hype

Real stories, real fighters

My name is Tina Gerard.

Looking at my Facebook profile picture you’ll see a young, decently attractive (if I do say so myself) 24 year old girl. I attend college. I hope to earn a degree in creative writing and someday I hope to help teenagers through writing edgy young adult novels with topics parents would love to see banned. I have a pet cat, Rose; I drive a small fuel efficient Kia, and I work a couple of part time jobs to make ends meet. This all seems to comply with the common depiction of the stereotypical American white twenty something female, but what if I told you I was also a cage fighter?

For some people, the term cage fighter leaves a bad taste in their mouths. Perhaps they share the same sentiment as Senator John McCain and view the sport as human cock fighting, though as stated in many of my previous posts it’s more of an art form involving punches and kicks, and honestly it’s a matter of opinion. But what’s most displeasing is the treatment of it’s competitors and enthusiastic fans. I have heard from a few people their negative ideas revolving around it’s participants, that cage fighters are nothing but gym rats prone to violence, unintelligent, and one dimensional. It’s more than frustrating. It’s downright sickening.

Let me introduce you to Maricela (Mari) Mata, a 23 year old waitress and amateur WMMA fighter.

This adorable young woman is the sweetest person I have ever met. I have never heard her say an unkind word about anyone, but get that girl in the octagon is she’s dynamite. If you only saw her fighting, she’d make you run scared. If you met her at her waitress job in the casino, she might tell you about her cats and pit bull she has back home, or about her four sisters and two brothers. She might mention her father, a minister, or her hope to someday become a police officer so she “can be help for America by using [her] training.” But she often gets negative feedback when she speaks of her WMMA dreams, “Some people think I’m out of my mind for what I do they don’t think that such a beautiful girl (or so they say) should be fighting so they suggest me to take carriers that are more for women in their eyes.” Yes, the female stereotype is alive and well. Despite those comments, she was happy to say that most of her friends were supportive, albeit worried for her safety. And I am happy to witness her confidence and persistence to achieve her dreams.

Then there’s Patrick Depuydt, a 26 year old MMA amateur fighter.

Speaking truthfully, I was a little intimidated by the six foot tall, lean mean fighting machine when we first met, though that opinion quickly changed. Patrick informed me he started training in MMA because he was insecure, his friends gave him a lot of grief, “I just wasn’t hanging out with the right crowd.” Then when he was 20 he drove by West Cost Fight Club and a new chapter in his life started. One thing interesting about Patrick was how he handles obstacles. Most people would think his immediate choice would be violence, but that is the exact opposite, “I never see violence as the first option. In fact, I’m the type of person who really thinks through problems. I’ve never even been in a street fight!”

Lastly was Yancey Bagby, my 33 year old trainer who went undefeated in the amateur ring.

His tough bearded exterior earned him the nick name “the Yeti” on the mat, but talk to the guy and realize he’s nothing but a big marshmallow. Don’t get me wrong, he trains hard and pushes his students to the best of their abilities and beyond, but his happy go lucky personality is infectious and charming. Yancey was first introduced to fighting through UFC videotapes when he was younger. He competed in wrestling in high school and rugby when he attended Western earning his geography degree. He and his wife, Collette, own a horse ranch complete with horses, chickens, and a few cats. He also enjoys the card game, Magic. When asked about stereotypes he had this to say, “Yeah there is some stigma around cage fighting. When I tell people about it, it usually changes the light they see me in but I’m not shunned or anything. Honestly a lot of the ‘ meat head’ stereotypes are perpetuated by Tapout guys.” Tapout is a retail brand catering to MMA fans and participants and many of those wearing the gear do in fact “perpetuate the stereotype.”

What I’m trying to say with these few interviews is despite our sport choice, we’re people. We have lives, families, hopes and dreams. Like anyone else who has been stereotyped, we merely ask that you get to know us before you judge us.

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