If we are talking about the future of the women’s divisions of MMA, look no further than the IMMAF.
Their youth divisions for athletes under 18 have provided a secure environment to grow and learn. It also gives them an opportunity to prove their skills against others and win championships.
In the coming weeks we are highlighting some of these athletes.
A Gold medalist at the 2021 IMMAF Youth Championship in Bulgaria, Hannah Wagstaff is a second generation martial artist trained by her father Christopher at Kihon MMA in Desert Hot Springs, California. Along with coach Eddie Bates, Hannah made a quick impression on the world stage at flyweight.
Wombat Sport: What got you interested in competing in MMA?
Hannah Wagstaff: Back in 2018, I watched the Conor Mcgregor & Khabib fight and felt an adrenaline rush like no other. This got me thinking about what it would feel like if I actually put myself in that position. So the next day I put a powerpoint together telling my parents about local gyms, cost, and reasons as to why I should be in MMA.
Wombat: What do you enjoy about it?
Wagstaff: This question is a difficult one to answer since I love so many things about MMA, but for now I’ll tell you my top 3. First of all, I love the family you form at your gym. I have friends that I will have for a lifetime now all because of this sport. Second off, I love the adrenaline & serotonin I get from competing and training. Last, I love the respect people have for each other within the sport. Every person I have ever fought, grappled, or competed against I am now friends with.
W.S: How have your friends and classmates reacted to you competing?
H.W.: I’m not one to gloat about what I wanted to do, but I do get a lot of positive and negative attention from it. A lot of my friends are from my gym, so they understand MMA unlike my friends from school. My classmates are always shocked when they end up finding out about what I do. They can be supportive, or negative and tell me that “my face is too pretty to mess it up”, i don’t really like that comment.
W.S: How about your family?
H.W.: Some of my family supports it and others don’t. A lot of my family is very supportive. My three biggest supporters are my mom, dad, and grandfather. Some of my family doesn’t agree with my fighting but they try to support my wishes, which I am very grateful for. They don’t really understand it since the only thing they know about fighting is UFC and what they see in social media.
W.S: Who do you look up to in fighting?
H.W.: I look up to many people. Two girls I look up to the most are Aspen Ladd and Kay Hansen. I love Aspen’s humbleness and fighting style. I know Kay personally and she has helped me as a female fighter.
W.S: How do you feel about the future of females in MMA?
H.W.: I feel like the future of female MMA is going to be like nothing we have ever seen before. The females in this sport are so ambitious and we all have something to prove. We are typically looked down on, told to “go back to the kitchen.” I think the next generation of female fighters is going to leave a mark that can and will never be forgotten. I plan to take part in this.
W.S: What comes naturally to you in MMA?
H.W.: MMA is Mixed Martial Arts. It’s a bunch of different combat arts (wrestling, judo, BJJ, Muay Thai) mixed together to form your own personalized dance. I’d say dissecting each sport and forming an accurate, flowing, aggressive dance, being able to mix all my knowledge of the arts together came naturally to me.
W.S: What have you found difficult?
H.W.: One thing I found difficult when I first started, up until very recently, was staying out of my own head. I never felt like I belonged. I felt like I wasn’t as good as everyone else. I constantly compared myself to everyone else. I overcame this by comparing myself to myself. I told myself that as long as I get a little better than I was yesterday I will always make progress. After this I felt more comfortable in the cage.
W.S: How has it been to compete in the IMMAF?
H.W.: Competing in the IMMAF has been one of the best experiences I have ever had. There is no other way I could describe it other than magical. From the Greenhill gear to the spotlight on you when you fight, to the medal ceremony it was wonderful.
W.S: What are your aspirations in fighting?
H.W.: My aspirations are to go Pro in MMA. On that journey I’d obviously like to continue going to the IMMAF youth world champions for the rest of my years as a youth athlete, then continue with the IMMAF and start an amateur career to soon become the IMMAF world champion. My main goal is to go onto the UFC or One Championship as a main goal. Another goal I’d like to complete is to possibly go to college on a wrestling scholarship.
W.S: Anyone you’d like to thank/add?
H.W.: There are so many people in the world I could thank for helping me get to the point I am at today. I want to give a huge thank you to my coach Eddie Bates though. I have been with him for all 3 years of my MMA career. He has taught me everything I know about MMA and more. He is dedicated to his fighters. He is an outstanding coach and mentor in my life. I’d also like to thank my mom and dad. They are always there for me, win or lose. They support me like no other. They would do anything for me and that shows based on what they have already done for me. Lastly, I’d like to thank my sponsors for helping me get to Bulgaria!!