It has been a tougher road for Mae-Lin Leow than most coming into the Brace for War All Female Card this Friday.
Leow was a very successful business woman, personal trainer, and coach until a bout of glandular fever, which messed up her adrenal system, changed her life. That coupled with several injuries sidelined her for several months would have broken most people.
After some life changing decisions and educating herself, she has bounced back and is ready to show the world her stills at Brace for War.
We talked to Leow about her recovery and the opportunity to be a part of this historic card.
Wombat Sports: How did you get started fighting?
Mae-Lin Leow: It sounds like a cliche, but I got into fighting because I lived in a rough area and had problems at school and wanted to learn to fight to protect myself. I’m a naturally competitive person and can’t resist a challenge, so when I saw the boys in the gym getting ready for fights I knew that I wanted to do the same thing.
Wombat: You’ve battled chronic fatigue syndrome and several health problems. Can you tell us how you started to combat them and return to fighting?
Leow: Thanks for bringing up the issue of chronic fatigue syndrome, it’s something I’m proud of myself for over-coming, and that I like to talk about because when I know how important it is when you’re sick to hear about successful recovery stories.
One of my heroes while I was debilitated was Lance Armstrong, and regardless of his current drug scandal I’ll always look up to him for battling cancer and returning to his sport.
I was out of training and normal life for a couple of years with chronic fatigue syndrome and it was honestly the worst time in my life. Medical diagnosis was so vague and unhelpful, that I needed to investigate a whole lot of different angles regarding health, and saw everyone from endocrinologists to homeopaths It took around two years in total, with a lot of trial and error.
Some of the most significant factors in my recovery included ending toxic relationships and strengthening support networks with family and friends; changing my approach to nutrition; taking traditional Chinese medicines; and a whole lot of passive recovery.
W.S.: Being a personal trainer, has it been easier to fit fight training in? What kind of training help do you have?
M.L: Being a personal trainer and training for fights has posed some unique challenges. On the one hand, it’s great to have control over my schedule in that I can choose when to book in my clients, and it’s great to be involved in an industry where my combat sports ambitions are seen positively. However, peak personal training periods are before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m., which unfortunately is also when fight training sessions need to occur, so unfortunately it often means I need to turn some clients away.
My own training makes me a better personal trainer as I am constantly inspired and motivated and love sharing that with clients. In terms of my own training and support, I’ve had a lot of help from personal trainer and nutritionist Dayni Baker at Shape-Up Personal Training and Nutrition. Having a personalized eating plan has helped to keep my energy levels up and improve my recovery, and it’s great having someone available to discuss my body’s needs during a fight camp.
W.S.: Brace MMA is doing a big thing for the women’s MMA scene in Australia. What does it mean for you to be a part of this historic card?
M.L.: What Brace are doing for women’s MMA is amazing. I am so surprised but so happy about the appeal that women’s MMA seems to have. Women have been fighting in pro-boxing and Muay Thai for years and never gained this level of popularity and exposure.
I’m used to being only one of a handful of women on a fight card, or one of the only women in the gym. I’m genuinely looking forward to being surrounded by lots of strong, capable women. I’m excited too about being able to do what the boys I train with take for granted, and that is to check out the rest of the fight card for future opponents!
W.S.: This will stream worldwide in front of a global audience. Are you nervous or excited about it?
M.L.: I’m really excited about having this fight stream to a global audience. I have family overseas who have never seen me fight but who have been so supportive of what I’m doing, and it’s great to know that they’ll have the chance to see me doing what I love. I’m also grateful for the chance to chance to appear on a card which is getting international exposure as it makes it much easier to appeal to sponsors.
W.S.: What do you know about your opponent?
M.L.: I’m fighting Tanya Stevens, who, as well as doing grappling training, has had an amateur boxing career. This will be her first MMA fight, so I’m expecting that she will be relying heavily on her striking, but I’m ready for anything. My team had to negotiate to get the weight down to 62 kg from 65 kg, so I’m assuming she will see her size as an advantage, but I train with bigger, stronger people all the time so it doesn’t phase me.
W.S.: Anyone you’d like to thank?
M.L.: I’d like to thank my coaches, Nick Hughes, Jeremy Keeping and Richard Elliot.
Also all of my sparring and training partners at SABJJ and Rikers Gym, especially Rob Conde, Tom Crosby, Mike Turner and Chris Collet.
Thanks to Dayni at Shape-Up Personal Training and Nutrition, Dave De Conte Chiropractic, and Dave at Planet Max Adelaide.
Lastly, the family and friends who have been supportive and positive about what I’m doing, and understanding about me disappearing from the face of the earth during fight camp!