'I know that I can be the best' - McKenna on her Cage Warriors title aim, training with icon Faber and making waves in the UFC
PUBLISHED: 16:53 01 May 2019 | UPDATED: 16:53 01 May 2019
Cory McKenna underlined her status as one of the hottest prospects in European MMA at the weekend - and now she's taking aim at a fight in Colchester this month on her path to a world title shot by the end of 2019.
McKenna dominated elite grappler Fannie Redman in their straw-weight clash at Cage Warriors 104 in Cardiff, finishing her with a rear naked choke in the second round to improve her pro record to 3-1.
It was just the statement that the 19-year-old was determined to make after her controversial split decision defeat to Micol de Segni at Cage Warriors 97 in September last year, the first loss of both her pro and amateur careers.
“I'm really pleased to have got the victory the way that I did,” McKenna said. “She's a blackbelt grappler and European champion at the amateur level so she was a very tough opponent.
“I could see that she was tired going into the second round, and in my head I just felt that I could break her in that round.
“It's so nice to be back to my old self – at the amateur level I was finishing fights, so it was just a sense of relief to get the finish here, and it meant a lot.”
Emerging injury free from the fight, the laser-focused McKenna is now hoping to compete at Cage Warriors 105 in Colchester on May 31, the second time that Europe's leading MMA promotion has visited the region.
Though McKenna is now based in Wales, training with elite fighters at Tillery Combat under Richard Shore, she grew up and went to school in Colchester, where she started her martial arts journey at the powerhouse BKK Fighters Gym.
“It's in the works,” she said of a potential Colchester clash. “I don't know how much I'm allowed to say, but they're working on it. I'm a nightmare to match, so we'll see if there are any girls out there who will take it. My friends are in Colchester and I grew up there, so fighting there would be great.”
But regardless of whether she gets matched later this month, McKenna is in no doubt as to her goal for the rest of this year – Cage Warriors gold.
“The last fight (against de Segni) set me back a bit, but by the end of this year I'll have the belt, or be looking at arranging the fight,” she said.
“I want to get a few more in and I'll keep finishing fights until I get there.”
Of a potential rematch with the experienced de Segni, she added: “That fight was a learning experience. In terms of a rematch, I'd take it – nine out of ten times, I think I finish that fight.
“If Cage Warriors want to give it back to me then we'll go out and get the job done this time.”
McKenna is relentless in her pursuit of knowledge and improvement, and travels across the country and beyond to train with the best, be it with Molly McCann, the first English woman to win in the UFC, in Liverpool, at the famed Bad Company Muay Thai gym in Leeds, with former boxing world title challenger Gary Lockett in Cardifff or with her respective teams at Tillery and BKK.
She spent much of her camp for this fight at the world-famous Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California, with legendary fighter Urijah Faber taking her under his wing.
“I'm training with world championship level people in Wales, and with UFC fighters at Alpha Male,” she explained. “I couldn't ask for better team-mates and they're pushing me to the best I can be on a daily basis. In terms of progression, there's not much more I could want.
“Urijah is super down to earth. I don't put people on a pedestal so to me I don't see him as 'UFC Hall of Famer and icon Urijah Faber' – although obviously he is – I just see him as a great coach and a great guy who invests a lot of his time into me.”
McKenna does plan on following in Faber's footsteps to the top of the UFC though – even if she's not quite in as much of a rush as she once was.
“I need to relax a little bit on my goals and schedules,” she laughed. “I like to have everything laid out, and I'm always thinking one step ahead.
“I used to want to get to the UFC by the time I was 19, but to be honest now I don't want to rush. I want to get more wins and experience, get that Cage Warriors belt and defend it, make sure I'm ready.
“I know that I can be the best, so I want to make sure that I don't dive in too early and that I'm at the point where I can go in there and show what I'm truly capable of.”
Of course, the driven teenager is already making mental notes on potential future opponents in the Champions' League of mixed martial arts.
“I always like to pick holes in stuff, both myself and other fighters,” she admitted. “Not in a rude way, just as an analysis.
“I don't see any reason why I couldn't mix it with some of those girls already in the UFC – some of the European girls that I'm fighting are up there with them.
“There are a few UFC fighters I could definitely mix it up with.”