Glory Watson knows the inevitability of mixed martial arts fighters falling from the undefeated ranks, but she’s in no hurry to absorb the first defeat of her promising career.
“I’d like to not lose, of course, but I know that losses are going to happen,” said the 24-year-old Watson, who takes a 4-0 record into Saturday night’s fight for both the New England Fights and Queen MMA amateur flyweight titles as part of NEF 39 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.
“I was a diver in high school and was seeded to take first at states, and I choked and came in 11th, so I’ve done the fall from grace before.”
The former multisport athlete at Brewer High School, where she competed in soccer, swimming, diving, track and tennis, has turned to MMA over the past two years. She started with a year of training at Young’s MMA in Bangor and for the past 12 months has focused on making the sport her career.
“When you start it’s hard to imagine yourself being good at something that you never imagined yourself even doing,” said Watson, who trained in bodybuilding for three years before turning to MMA. “It’s just a strange thing. I had zero mixed martial arts background until I went into Young’s.”
Watson’s busy schedule defies one of her biggest challenges in seeking to advance in the sport, finding quality opponents.
Earlier this year, NEF matchmaker Matt Peterson brought in Rachel Lippert from Wisconsin to challenge Watson at NEF 37 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Watson won by third-round submission.
Her opponent Saturday, Caree Hill, will bring her 4-1 record across the country from Oregon.
“We’re committed to expanding opportunities for women to compete in the sport of MMA, which is why we scour the country looking for talent to bring in to face the fantastic rising female fighters like Glory Watson that we have right here in Maine,” Peterson said.
“Both Glory and her opponent in this upcoming title fight are on the brink of turning pro and making a lot of noise quickly when they do, so it’s likely that this bout is a glimpse at one or two fighters that we could be watching in the UFC some day.”
Watson has no immediate timetable for turning professional, but that is the eventual plan.
“I’m basically looking for experience right now until we eventually take the step to go pro,” Watson said. “We’ve talked about it, but we really don’t have any plans to go pro yet.”
Hill trains at Team Quest, a gym founded by MMA pioneers and UFC legends Randy Couture and Dan Henderson, and may be Watson’s toughest test to date.
But Watson, who has climbed to No. 7 in Tapology.com’s New England pound-for-pound women’s amateur MMA rankings, has prepared for the bout with what she describes as an exhaustive training camp.
“I definitely feel like I’ve been moving forward,” she said. “I train very, very hard. I train more than anyone else in the gym because I’m trying to be good at my craft, and it just takes a lot of time, and the time I’ve been putting in is paying off.”
Watson plans to follow up the Hill bout with another fight this fall, though that won’t mean the start of another training camp.
“People make big jokes that Glory’s never not in camp,” Watson said. “I get like three days to not be in shape, and then I’ve got to get back at it.”
Such drive fuels Watson’s ultimate ambition in the sport.
“I want this to be my career,” she said. “I want to do something with this. I want to make it to the next level. I want to be the best.”
Other NEF 39 title fights
The Watson-Hill bout will be one of four title fights at NEF 39.
Headlining the card will be Josh Harvey (6-0-1) defending his NEF pro featherweight championship against Jordan Downey (5-4) of Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Harvey has scored all six of his victories by first-round stoppage, while Downey has won four of his past five fights and suffered each of his defeats by decision.
Veteran Jesse Erickson (9-7) of Auburn will attempt to capture the NEF pro lightweight title against New Hampshire’s Dylan Lockard (5-1), while Rumford native Nate Boucher (4-3) will face Robert Presley (5-4) of Lancaster, Ohio, for the vacant NEF amateur flyweight crown.
New England Fights’ card on Saturday will feature 16 fights and a wedding. Undefeated NEF amateur bantamweight champion Kam Arnold will marry Ciara Rosario.
The nuptials will be held at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston during NEF 39, with the opening bell set for 7 p.m.
“Getting married during the ‘NEF 39: All-American’ card isn’t the traditional way, but it’s our way,” Rosario said.
Arnold, from Central Maine Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Lewiston, is 5-0 with five knockouts and was named the 2018 NEF Fighter of the Year.
“Kam Arnold is one of the most prolific knockout artists in NEF promotional history,” NEF matchmaker and co-owner Matt Peterson said. “He’s no stranger to creating epic moments inside the hexagon, so how cool is it that he will do it again by joining his beautiful bride, Ciara, in becoming the first couple to ever be married inside the NEF cage?”