‘I’ll step in with anyone as soon as they let me’ - McKenna eager to get going after winning UFC contract
Cory McKenna last night became the youngest British fighter signed by the world-famous UFC - and promptly insisted she wants to fight again as soon as possible.
The 21-year-old strawweight beat highly-rated LFA champion Vanessa Demopoulos via unanimous points decision on Dana White’s Contender Series in Las Vegas, and was duly handed a UFC contract by White.
McKenna, who grew up and started her MMA training in Colchester, becomes the second fighter from the region signed by the UFC - Arnold Allen, from Trimley in Suffolk, is currently the 10th ranked featherweight on the planet, and boasts a 7-0 record in the famed fight promotion.
And in beating Demopoulos - widely acknowledged as the best strawweight in America not under contract with the UFC – McKenna, now 5-1 in her pro career, revealed that she had also won a bet with Allen, with whom she trained at Colchester’s powerhouse BKK Fighters Gym.
She explained: “I’ve actually got two wins tonight - I made a bet five years ago with Arnold Allen about who gets signed the youngest, and I’ve won by I think three months – I know he’s watching - so there you go!
“I’ve always had the goal, I’m actually a little bit behind schedule - I haven’t fought for 18 months – but I’m happy to have got it done.”
She added: “I’d just like to get in there as soon as possible, and see how far I can take it - and how fast.”
Reaching the UFC is the culmination of a remarkable journey for McKenna, who scored mostly A’s in her GCSE’s as a student at the Thomas Lord Audley School in Colchester, but decided to quit education to pursue her fighting dream.
Coached and managed by UK MMA legend Jack Mason, she now regularly spends time at the renowned Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, where she’s learning from UFC icon Urijah Faber. Indeed, she revealed after the win that she’d be moving out to America full-time.
Of reaching the UFC, McKenna said: “I’m over the moon, really happy to get that contract and very grateful for the opportunity.
“It’s a true testament to all the work that my coaches and team-mates have put into me, so I’m absolutely over the moon.”
She added: “I’ve just turned 21 a few weeks ago and there’s girls my age in there, but it’s not neccessarily about age in there, it’s about experience. I’ve been fighting MMA since I was 15, I’ve been in there with the top girls in Europe and I’ve been fighting for many years and I’m confident I can fight anyone - it’s for Jack and Urijah to decide who I fight, but I’ll step in wuth anyone as soon as they let me.
“I don’t care where it is or who it is, I just want to get going.”
She also paid tribute to her parents for their support - mum Wendy actually got into MMA through her daughter and enjoyed her own successful career, while dad Gareth was always on hand as a driver and support team.
They family, who now live back in their native Wales, even converted two rooms in their house in Colchester to help Cory’s training – a former living room was the home gym, while the garage was matted floor to ceiling for BJJ and sparring purposes.
McKenna said: “The first thing I did was phone my parents - they stayed up to watch it, I think it was half one, two o’clock in the morning back there. They’re obviously very happy.
“This is the first fight that my dad hasn’t been able to come to, my mum comes to most of them – there’s been a couple of times where she was fighting on the same night somewhere else – but it’s the first time I’ve fought without my family there in the crowd.
“They support me massively, I couldn’t be where I am without them - they fund everything, they support everything, my dad used to drive me around and sit in the car whilst I was training all day. They’re amazing.”
Explaining his decision to hand McKenna a contract, UFC president White said: “Cory, the girl she fought, Vanessa, the matchmakers were very high on, and I think she was a big underdog.
“She’s tough, she’s well-rounded, she’s willing to bang, she’s got great groundwork, she’s sweet as can be and has great interviews.
“She’s sweet, but when she gets in there she’s a killer - I love that about her.
“My only reservation with her is that she’s super young. We started looking at the top 15 and people we thought she could fight and how she’d match up, and I’m on the fence with her.
“I think she needs a lot of work and could get more experience in other places, but I just got back from vacation and I’m in a great mood tonight, so I’m going to give her a shot and we’ll see what she’s got!”
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Ipswich Star. Click the link in the orange box above for details.