Kelly Clayton isn’t a name most fans would recognize, but she is looking to change that Saturday night.
Clayton takes on fellow pro debutante Serena DeJesus at Intense Championship Fighting Saturday in Great Falls, Montana, which will stream on Fite.tv. Clayton is coming off three straight wins and looking to continue her winning ways.
We had a chance to talk to Clayton about her upcoming fight and background into how she got into MMA.
Clayton had played basketball and track and rifled in high school before making her way to college. Track in particular has given her a huge weapon in her arsenal.
“Javelin takes a lot of upper body strength,” Clayton expressed. “(With that) I got a powerful right hand.”
Wanting to keep in shape, she took up cardio kickboxing, and when her schedule changed, she was recommended to go to Yakima MMA to train boxing. The gym is know to be one of the first gyms that started Meisha Tate on her MMA path. She did grapple sometimes with the former world champion before taking a short hiatus from training due to work.
Clayton did take a while to come back to the sport.
“I had low confidence when I first started,” Clayton admitted. “I didn’t feel like I had a place in the gym. I always had a passion for it and wanted to do it. I just started to make myself do it. I told myself I need to do a fight just one time. If I don’t like it, fine.”
“I had a lot of fear when I first got into mixed martial arts. It wasn’t the idea of fighting that scared me, but the thought of losing or not being good enough to fight that I feared. But I didn’t want THAT to be the reason I didn’t try. After my first fight though I was hooked and I told myself I would keep fighting as long as it was fun. I just didn’t want to force myself to do anything anymore (out of fear).”
“Flash forward 4 years and I’m still doing it.”
Saturday, Clayton looks to turn some heads and get her name out into the national women’s divisions’s discussion in her pro debut when she faces amateur champ Serena DeJesus. It has been a long journey to get there, but Clayton hopes the match sees a turning point in her career.
“My hopes for this Saturday is to just have fun, not hold back, and give it everything I’ve got in the cage, win or lose. This is a big moment and I’m proud and happy to just be here. As far as predictions for the fight, I’m hoping for a finish in this fight. I’ve let too many go to judge’s decision. I think Serena is a very tough opponent. I have a lot of respect for her and her gym. I know a lot of people are looking at her. This will be a great win for me.”
“I never would have thought I would ever turn pro but here I am. Still fighting. I have to turn pro now. I’m excited to begin the next chapter of my life.”