The figures started falling as soon as 6 a.m. Irishmen, with their lilting brogue bouncing off the cavernous walls beyond the Hakkasan nightclub at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, grappled on the casino floor, unaware to the fact that the sun was starting to go up. Others, with their country’s distinctive green, pink and white flag wrapped across their shoulders, stumbled through the slots, crying at wives and reeking of beer. Through the entire day, diamonds, sheath dresses and slurring Russian squares stuffed nearly every lift. It had been a heady mixture of wealth, alcoholic and alcohol violence, and also rumors of possible brawls circulated from the hours prior to the enormous October fight.
That has been why security had delegated a bodyguard, replete with the standard UFC uniform of bald head and beard, to follow the 7-year-old girl with dark-brown braids because she articulates her way to her chair in T-Mobile Arena. She was easily the youngest and smallest spectator here. But she knew more concerning rear naked choke holds and straight arm bars than almost all of the wannabe brawlers surrounding her in the racks.
Because Araya Gomez has never missed one of her mum’s struggles. None.
If her mother was followed the normal MMA playbook, then Araya would not happen here at all. She wasn’t part of their program. She and her relatives have defied stereotype, allowing Araya to turn into the most potent force behind one of the most successful fighters in the UFC — a fighter that was going to go into the Octagon and establish the biggest night in UFC history.
A couple weeks earlier in the day back home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Araya jumps from her grandmother’s car, ditches her backpack in the kitchen and runs through the garden toward the garage. Her family has been in the new house for only a month or two, and cardboard boxes still line the dining room walls. But her parents did not buy your home for your own pool or your kitchen or the master bedroom. They purchased to get your own enormous stand alone garage.
Since Araya comes flying in, past the sauna and also the punching bags, her mother unleashes a flurry of punches at her daddy before hooking a leg round himthrowing him into the floor and elbowing him a couple times in the mind.
Araya barely takes note of some one of it. Instead, she beelines for the giant rope hanging from the ceiling, then launching her human body at it to swing back and forth through the space prior to her parents wear themselves out.
“I guess you predict that couples therapy.”
Araya tells her it had been great because she flies through the air on her rope. This is Waterson’s fourth work out of this day. She and Gomez started that morning with a very lengthy run by using their neighborhood’s 5,900-foot altitude, two hours at Jackson Wink MMA Academy before a specialized workout with Waterson’s jiujitsu trainer here from the garage.
However, the work out with Gomez, 3-4, was critical. Waterson’s female practice spouses”know what hurts and what doesn’t, which some times doesn’t benefit her simply since they’re attempting to return,” he says. “And sometimes with all the men, if Michelle really starts hitting on them the ego arrives and they become very competitive. That really doesn’t benefit . What I try to do is emulate the competition that is coming up and let her beat me up.”
“Josh volunteered himself as his butt dummy,” Waterson says, giggling after catching her breath. “He puts his head gear on and lets me go to town. It actually gives me confidence because Josh is just a 190-pound increased man and mightn’t knock off me .”
Waterson has just learned she’s going to face Felice Herrig in the opening fight of their undercard to get Conor McGregor-Khabib Nurmagomedov. The October 2018 bout will develop into the greatest payperview event in UFC history. “This battle involving Khabib and Conor is this kind of gigantic fight,” UFC president Dana White says. “People like Michelle are certain to find more exposure in that 1 night than they’re in their whole career.”
The stakes are greater than they have ever been for Waterson and Gomez. However, for now, her job as one of the top UFC straWWEights is over. Waterson, 33, needs to attend her other project, the one she expected could raise her career the way it’s.
Waterson and Gomez fulfilled at Hooters in 2008. Sort of. Gomez’s parents had driven up from El Paso, Texas, to go to him in his Air Force base in Albuquerque and wanted to see that the Dallas Cowboys match. These were seated in a table under a full-length poster of Waterson sporting the restaurant’s trademark uniform. Even though he still hadn’t ever met Waterson, Gomez told his mum,”That’s going to be my spouse, Mom.” The entire family started giggling but immediately stopped when Waterson suddenly did actually take an arrangement.
Gomez was too nervous and too bashful to express a sentence.
Little did he realize that Waterson hadn’t been completely comfortable with her appearances.
She decided in the beginning that when she wasn’t likely to socialize through her appearances,”I’m likely to socialize because I do cool stuff like fighting styles from the assemblies as well as the talent shows.” She dropped out of college to pursue fighting styles full time, despite her 3.8 GPA her first year. “My own life was fighting styles, and that I wanted my faculty to be fighting styles .”
She trained during your day, waited tables at night and required on a couple of simulating projects to pay for the invoices. After she signed up to version to get a bikini web site, the master informed her he gave all his models nicknames. She remembers telling him she did fighting styles. “We’ll call one of the Karate Hottie,” he informed her. “It’s so tricky .” Waterson agreed. “Sure,” she explained,”let’s do it.”
In 2007, she chose a gig as ring girl in a native MMA fight, but she immediately became distracted by what was going on in the cage. She told the promoter,”Hey, I have a martial arts background. I would really like to fight. I believe that would be interesting .” The promoter looked at her and laughed, giving her a sarcastic”Sure.”
Donald Cerrone, who’d eventually chalk up more wins than any UFC fighter, then overheard her tracked her down. “If you are seriously interested in training, get your butt in the gym,” he told me.
After visiting specialist in 2007, Waterson proceeded to Albuquerque to coach in Jackson Wink, that has developed legends like Jon Jones and Holly Holm, one of the very first people Waterson met when she came. “She came in, was very humble, hard worker, sparred with anyone and did not complain,” Holm says. “You can teach a fighter technique, however, you can not really teach a technical man the heart and the flame.
Money was really tight, Waterson slept in the loft in Jackson Wink and functioned at Hooters to cover on her training. “I had been in a very dark spot at the time,” Waterson remembers. “I was all by myself. I was fighting, and that I had been getting beat up every day.”
It had been afterward that Staff Sgt. Joshua Gomez finally discovered the courage to talk for her. He kept running into her at bars and parties after that fortuitous nighttime in Hooters.
She told him trained in Jackson Wink. He told her, eventually, that he had been the No. 5 amateur middleweight boxer in the nation. “I’d come home and he would be watching tape,” Waterson claims of the ancient dating days. “He loved staying at the gym. He loved watching others fight. He loved talking about fights.”
Gomez left the military and went expert in Boxing when helping Waterson train on her behalf professional struggles. She’d gone expert in 2007, but women wouldn’t have the opportunity to fight in the UFC before 2012, so she was still taking on low level, badly paying promotions in an effort to build name recognition. In 2010, the two were preparing for Waterson’s next fight when she realized something just did not feel right. She told Gomez:”I believe I might be pregnant.”
Her physician told the couple that Waterson was already three months pregnant. In that time, she had done many matters expectant mothers are told to not, including lifting heavy burdens, carrying punches, dieting and even stunt work since Natalie Portman’s double for its first Thor film, in which Waterson’s human body was ratcheted through the air at high speed using a crane. Despite it all, the child was thriving.
However, Waterson was fighting, both emotionally and emotionally. “I had been watching teammates get better and shine and win fights, and all I can imagine is that I’m falling behind.” She couldn’t train, was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and would later learn she had blown her out thyroid, meaning she must currently take medication for the rest of her life to retain a wholesome weight.
Waterson wondered whether her fighting career was over. She did not know of some women who had returned into fighting later giving birth. “There’s this huge stigma of girls that get pregnant while they’re fighting,” she says. “It’s like,’Ohthey certainly weren’t serious about their fighting livelihood that they become pregnant.’ I believe I had been afraid of that decision .”
However, if Araya Sage Gomez came on March 18, 2011, she gave Waterson exactly the 1 thing she didn’t even know had been overlooking a reason to fight. Gomez had decidedagainst Waterson’s fantasies, that he had to give up his pro Boxing career in support of the more steady paycheck that comes with being a planner. He thought Waterson needed an improved chance really making it. Waterson claims that forfeit, combined with her instinctual want to offer her child, gave her motivation unlike any other she’d experienced.
“After having ArayaI feel as when I needed to carry on to pursue fighting, it had to be financially beneficial for my family,” Waterson says. “I simply couldn’t get it done as a hobby.”
She had been still breastfeeding when she reentered the cage for her first fight back 10 months later giving birth to Araya. “It hurt really bad initially to get struck in the torso,” she says. “I believe I forgot how it felt to get punched.”
After winning this fight, she combined the all-women’s Invicta Fighting Championships and after beat the 105-pound atomweight winner, Jessica Penne, for its name, despite being a 10-1 underdog. “I knew deep within my heart that I could overcome her,” she says,”on top of training harder than I ever had before, I was also taking care of my child .”
However, as she continued to shine, as Araya got older, Waterson would soon examine your choice she and Gomez chose to allow Araya to see all of her mum’s struggles.
Araya’s bed in Albuquerque is covered with more than just a dozen stuffed animals, and she has a name for every one. She’s closely placed the Hello Kitties, the snowmanthe monkey and the puppy dog around her as she prepares to discuss the time the blood came pouring from her mum’s nose when Rose Namajunas placed her in to a rear naked choke in 20 17.
Araya had just turned 6 when Waterson lost this fight. However, as the blood pouring onto the mat might have bothered an adult, it did not really bother Araya as far as the gigantic black eye her mommy suffered if she was . “I get depressed,” Araya says. “Especially when she’s black eyes and material.”
From the greenroom after Waterson’s defeat, Araya shouted because her mother held her tight. “Hey, baby,” Waterson told her. “I’m OK.” However, Waterson calmly tells Araya,”Mommy simply has to return and focus about what I did not focus on and get much better .”
Waterson says it’s in those moments that she describes Araya,”This is Mommy’s job which is exactly what I opted for. I know very well what I’m getting into when I head within.” You’ve been times, ” she says,”when I informed her Mommy’s hurting and that it sucks to eliminate. And that it makes me depressed, it makes me angry, and it’s OK to have those feelings.”
“She’s part of the journey,” Waterson says of her choice to let Araya see all her struggles. “I have always believed that you learn much more through somebody’s activities, and that I can only tell her much. I would prefer to her encounter. It’s her journey as far because it’s mine.”
Waterson then tackles the issue of how she intends to raise her daughter surrounded with a game that has been criticized because of objectifying women. “I lift her the only method I know the way to be confident in who she actually is. And that I really do that through example.”
She admits that she gets some despair about her name and her past. “I simply need your own eyes watch, and once you observe that I’m a real martial artist, then I’ll change your mind about the best way to view me.”
Waterson then strikes her addictive laugh and asks,”Who doesn’t want to function as the hot mom?”
The mixture of that mentality and Waterson’s fighting style eventually caught the interest of Dana White. “Waterson was a nobrainer,” he says of his choice to sign her in 2015. “She’s an incredibly wellrounded fighter. Her striking, kicking, submissions, she has all of it. And I always search for this’it’ factor in a fighter. If you’ve got that extra little oomph, that’it’ factor, it doesn’t hurt. And she’s got it in truckloads.”
Out of the 585 fighters in the UFC, roughly 90 are women. Just five other mothers have cracked the top 10, according to the UFC: bantamweights Cat Zingano, Sara McMann, Marion Reneau and Yana Kunitskaya, and flyweight Alexis Davis. Waterson may be the sole competitor from the lightest division, the 115-pound straWWEight division, to really create the top ten.
“Becoming a fighter is an entirely greedy game. Being a mother is completely selfless,” Waterson explains. “You can not simply come home after a tough day of practice and just forget about it. The fight still there. After which Araya has assignments, and in those moments I can not be this harsh fighter. I have to be this nurturing mother that she needs.”
Holm marvels at how Waterson does it, particularly during intense training camp sessions leading up to a big fight. “I know how much time it requires, just how much discipline it requires,” she says. “I know just how much I have to put everything else out of my life in order to have a good training camp. I do not know if I could do that when I had a child as well.”
Araya knows life changes when training camp starts. “I have to train,” her mother tells her. “She says that,” Araya describes”‘ I must work hard.’ She says that also.’ I must be messing around.” I must concentrate about what I’m doing.’ Materials like this!”
Waterson says there are days if she simply cannot wake up from the couch after a hard work out session, so that her mother will often fly in for a month to cookclean and help Gomez take care of Araya. It generates Gomez philosophical:”to be able to set your ego aside when it’s crucial with your household, your wife, your own daughter, it’s extremely crucial, right? I have gotten my nails painted, and I have gotten grin, I have gotten a number of craziness, but being a man makes you do things that you would think are feeble and they’re not. It’s tougher .”
It is the the day of UFC 229, and Waterson and Gomez are worried about Araya’s safety. As her training partner, Gomez is likely to soon be with Waterson in the hours prior to this fight. Waterson’s mother and sister will likely soon be seeing Araya, but Gomez worries about their safety too. Now that they’re in vegas and may already feel the strain vibrating across the casinos, so they’re presuming, for the very first time, they might not let Araya sit in the racks.
After the mind of UFC’s security learns of their concerns, he tells Gomez a member of their security team will shadow Araya until she rejoins her parents after Waterson’s fight. Once they realize Araya is listening with their own talk as they talk in the arena, both men shift into the coded language most of parents know because they make plans for what to do with her when her mother is really seriously injured that she wants to visit the hospital. They actually say”hurt” or”hospital,” so Araya remains oblivious to this discussion that is happening over her mind, literally. But all the adults suddenly feel the gravity of what might happen that night.
So there Araya is, yelling her head in the stands, when her mother enters the arena. However, the woman who emerges in the tube is almost a entire stranger. Gone is your addictive laugh and also the contagious smile. Gone would be the woman who told her to brush her lips and wash her room. This female is ferocious, with a locked jaw announcing into the world she’s prepared to demolish anyone who dares get in her way. And now Araya loves every minute of it.
Araya’s recitation of what happens next is frighteningly authentic. “After the fight began, my mommy threw some punches and she then took her down for just a bit and the circular stopped,” Araya says. “And she went into the next round and she shot her down right away. But then, little troubles, and she hopped back up and threw more punches. After which a next round she shot her down first thing and she spent the whole time on a lawn. After which ding, ding, ding, ” she won!”
After Joe Rogan starts interviewing her mommy in the Octagon shortly following the fight, Araya becomes unusually silent. With her eyes on her mommy, Araya listens being an emotional Waterson tells the world something she’d been contemplating for several years but has never said publicly previously:”I want to be the first UFC champ that is a mom.”
Security then whisks the 7-year-old back stage prior to the giant brawl that had been bandied involving your McGregor and also Khabib camps finally erupts into the arena. As subsequent fights spill on the sidewalks outside the arena, Araya remains pleasantly oblivious, eating ice cream in the greenroom because she celebrates her mother’s victory.
Waterson is now ranked No. 9 in the straWWEight division. She knows she has only a number of good years left, and her objective of becoming the first champion mother is a difficult one. White says Waterson has to win against the Kowalkiewicz fight and lots of others if she wants a shot at the name.
What does Araya think? Well, she wants a career . However, the UFC keeps climbing on her behalf ; she says that her mother grew up a fighter”and I think that it could be cool to now feel it is in fact.”
Her mother says Araya can be anything she desires to be. “I want her to be convinced . I would like her to be courageous in frightening scenarios. I would like her to be happy.” In terms of Waterson, she says Araya has made her into the absolute best version of herself. “I really like the fact that I’ve altered my body to a killing machine,” Waterson says. “That I will protect my daughter. That I can nurture her. That I can be all those things.”