From Cheerleader to MMA Fighter

Rachel Wray Interview
by Nick Bahash

What’s tougher than MMA fighting? Not much. Well, there was this thermodynamics final I took back in college… Ok, completely different, more pathetic meaning of tough. So back to the topic at hand. Who’s the last person you’d think would be an MMA fighter? What about a former college and NFL cheerleader? Well, Rachel Wray was just that, and is now fighting in the octagon.

Rachel’s fairly new to the sport, but is making quite an impact. We happened to go to college together, and she was awesome enough to answer a few questions. But before that, watch her fight:

NB: Right off the bat, and you obviously get this a lot, but you don’t seem like an MMA fighter. I mean, you were a cheerleader at the University of Arkansas and then for the Kansas City Chiefs. How did you get into MMA from cheerleading?

Wray: When I was a Chiefs cheerleader we all got memberships to Title Boxing Club to stay in shape. After a few months of the boxing workouts I began to fall in love with it. One day I got in the ring with my coach Melvin Wesley and hit mitts. I loved that even more, so after a few more months one day I came in and he said “We are going to spar.” I was scared…but I did it. After that I was hooked. I eventually got a job at Title Boxing Club selling memberships, and I started teaching the classes.

The club I worked at was right next to HD, Jason High and LC Davis’s MMA gym. I wanted to change up my workouts with Melvin so I tried a class at HD and I loved it, so I signed up. After several months of boxing, muay thai, jiu jitsu and wrestling I had developed a love and passion for the sport. On the nights I was at cheer practice all I could think about was that I wanted to be at HD. So when time came for cheer auditions, I had to make a choice. I couldn’t possibly do both. So I chose what I loved more, fighting.

NB: Right off the bat, and you obviously get this a lot, but you don’t seem like an MMA fighter. I mean, you were a cheerleader at the University of Arkansas and then for the Kansas City Chiefs. How did you get into MMA from cheerleading?

Technical Knockout

NB: This was probably a bit of a surprise to your family, how have they reacted to this new passion of yours?

Wray: When my family found out that I wanted to fight, my dad was excited, but my mom was terrified. I had them come watch me spar and grapple a few times at practice so they could get used to seeing me in action. They came to all my fights, but they finally told me they can’t go to any more of them, it’s just too hard for them to watch.

NB: You need to be in crazy good shape to fight, what does a typical day of training look like for you?

Wray: A typical day of training involves 2 hours of practice. Usually two days a week is striking/sparring and two days of jiu jitsu/wrestling. If I feel good sometimes I will add in one more day of bag or mitt work just for cardio. It’s also necessary to run and do sprints at least twice a week to get your cardio up. I lift weights twice a week as well, but I can’t go too heavy because I don’t want to gain too much weight. Light reps. On top of all that, you have to eat clean, high protein, and drink a gallon of water every day.

NB: So, it’s one thing to train to fight, but you do actually have to fight. Tell us about your first fight experience.

Wray: My first fight was the biggest adrenaline rush I’ve ever had in my life. My opponent came out swinging very aggressively, so I had to calm down and think and try to throw good combos. After the first round, which I definitely had won, I felt more confident. Melvin was in my corner and he told me exactly what to do in the second round if I wanted to finish the fight. So I did it. And it worked. She eventually got exhausted from several failed takedown attempts so I ended up getting a TKO in the 2nd round to end the fight. Winning a fight is undoubtedly the greatest feeling in the world.

NB: You’re making waves in the MMA community, what are some goals you’ve set for yourself?

Wray: My goal right now is to win my next fight, and continue to fight amateur until I get more experience. Of course I would like to eventually go pro, but I have to get more experience and get the weight cut down to 115.

This is going to hurt so good.

This is going to hurt so good.

So, fans of MMA and fans of coolness in general, keep your eye on Rachel Wray. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

See more pictures of Rachel in the gallery!

If you could do this in real life, you'd dress however you want, too.

Repulsor rays! This movie really does have everything!

Nick Bahash is incredibly something? He and his life’s work can be found here. He also twitters with the worst of them. He may or may not have dated a cheerleader at some point.


Zombie want love.

Nick previously interviewed director Ben Popik about indie film The Exquisite Corpse Project. He also talked to Isaac Marion about Warm Bodies.

More from Nick Bahash

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