It is becoming more and more common that girls are coming from the BJJ realm to wrestling and finding success.
In only a few years, Autumn Gordon has become one of the top girls in wrestling, having taken home the 2017 Junior Folkstyle National championship and became a qualifier for the US Senior World Team Trials. Not to mention she has been invited to train at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. This after she won a IBJJF title.
The teenager signed to the University of the Cumberlands wrestling team and a possible run at the 2020 Olympics isn’t out of the question.
Wombat Sports: What got you interested in combat sports?
Autumn Gordon: When I was in 6th grade, I wanted to be a Texas Ranger just like Chuck Norris in the show “Walker Texas Ranger”. I grew up in a family that hunts a lot, so I figured I know how to shoot a gun, but I didn’t know how to fight. I went to my dad one day and told him about my goals and I said I wanted to learn Karate. That was the only form of fighting that came to my little mind at this age. In my town, there was no karate, but there was Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. We did our research and decided to give it a shot. I have never fell in love so quickly. It was love at first roll.
Wombat: What do you enjoy about it?
Gordon: I enjoy the challenge the most. I have always enjoyed competing. I’m a naturally competitive person, which I chose to believe I get from my dad. Other sports that I did were challenging in their own ways, but they never gave me the rush that I get when I spar, wrestle, or roll. I like how it’s all on me when I compete. If I win, I did that. If I lose and make a mistake, I have no one to blame but myself. I can control my outcome by how hard I work and push myself. I believe out of everything combat sports has taught me, that being independent and self-motivated is the most valuable.
W.S.: What comes naturally to you in fighting? What have you found difficult?
A. G.: I think what always came naturally to me is my willingness to keep going, be aggressive, and look for my moves and openings. When I first started, everyone was surprised by my fearlessness to try. I didn’t care if my opponent was twice my size. I still fought my little heart out and held nothing back.
What I have the most trouble with is the opposite. I can be so aggressive that I’m not patient enough for the right moment. Recently I feel as though this has been less of a problem, but it’s always something I have struggled at.
W.S.: How has your friends and classmates reacted to it?
A. G.: Originally, most people judged me. I went to a Catholic School most of my life. It was shameful to them to see a woman in a “male” sport. I was always looked as on outcast before I started fighting, but it got worse.
Luckily, I never seemed to care what others thought about me. If I was happy doing it, then I didn’t bat an eyelash. I did have friends who supported me during my early years. My friend Sydney Frank was always there. She called me Chuck Norris because he was why I started. She thought it was the coolest thing ever that one of her best friends, who was a girl, could fight. To this day, I still don’t think she realizes how much that meant to me and still does.
It wasn’t until middle of my sophomore year of high school, when I switched to a public school to wrestle that I had full support from my classmates. I finally
had a family on the men’s wrestling team at Lancaster High School. Former Coach, Jon Spires, came to me one day after watching my Jiu Jitsu videos and told me the wrestling team could help me win a world title. He brought me to Coach Bentley and I signed up. I could only imagine what was going through his head seeing a girl in a catholic school dress with makeup on asking to join the wrestling team. At first, I know some people didn’t want a tiny girl on their team. I know some tried to beat me up in hopes that I would quit.
After I made the varsity line up during my first year, I gained the respect of the team. Ever since, I have felt nothing but love from my classmates at Lancaster High School and at The University of the Cumberland.
W.S.: How about your family?
A. G.: My family has been supportive from the start. I know my mom was worried. No one in her family had even wrestled and now her little girl wants to do martial arts. As I kept going, she realized I was in safe hands with my amazing coaches. My dad has come to almost every one of my tournaments. I believe he has only missed a total of four events out on hundreds. My mom’s work schedule wasn’t as flexible, but even when she couldn’t make it, she always was on FloGrappling and FloWrestling supporting me.
My brother has always supported me as well. After rough practices or tournaments, he would always be there. He wiped away my tears and boosted me up after everything, including life’s normal teenage dramas. My whole family has been my support group through it all.
W.S.: Who do you look up to in fighting?
A. G.: I have looked up to many great fighters in my life. Of course, like I’ve mentioned, Chuck Norris is why I started. Within a year into competing, I heard the name Ronda Rousey. I thought “Wow! Girls fight too? Not just me?”
I begged my dad to watch her fight against Miesha Tate for the Strikeforce Title. That night I wanted to be just like her. Later I heard of McKenzie Dern. I told my dad, “I’m going to be a world champion in Jiu Jitsu like Dern and a UFC champion like Rousey”. Once I started wrestling, I looked up to Kyle Snyder, Jordan Burroughs, and Helen Maroulis.
W.S.: How do you feel about the future of females in fighting?
A. G.: I feel like the competition in women’s fighting keeps getting tougher and tougher. It grows more each year and will continue to as people start to understand and support it. I’m looking forward to seeing more weight classes added and to have equal opportunities as the men.
W.S.: What are your aspirations in fighting?
A. G.: From the time I have started my journey, I have always wanted to be the best I can be. I believe one day I could be the UFC champion at 105lbs when they add it. I also want to accomplish winning world as a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
W.S.: Anything you want to add/thank?
A. G.: I have had a lot of challenges come my way, especially recently. All I know is that I must trust in God’s plan. I am so thankful of all the support from my coaches Donnie Stephens, Dustin Ware, Tom Good, Dugan Bentley and all others who have coached me. I’m thankful for my teammates, doctors, and athletic trainers.
I’m thankful for my amazing family and friends for pushing me through and helping me accomplish my dreams. I would like to thank my boyfriend for helping me through this past year with the hard transition into college. Lastly, I would like to thank my parents for the endless amount of support that they give me, from paying for all my gear and training, to picking me up through the rough times.