“The Karate Hottie” does not exactly sound like the moniker of a dangerous female fighter. Especially when her opponents have carried nicknames like “Dynamite,” “Hurricane” and “Little Evil.”

Well, The Karate Hottie, Michelle Waterson, earned her nickname through the combination of a black belt in American Freestyle Karate and the use of her attractive appearance in her modeling experience. However, this nickname does no justice to the tremendous MMA abilities that this 9-3 professional fighter possesses.

Waterson, at just 26 years of age, has shown in her 12-fight pro career that she has more pop than Diana “Dynamite” Rael, more force than Karina “Hurricane” Taylor, and more bad intentions than Thricia “Little Evil” Poovey. And, those are just three of eight opponents that she handily finished by first- or second-round stoppage.

Considering her early background in karate, Wu Shu and Muay Thai, it could easily be assumed that Waterson has made a career out of finishing her opponents with her amazing stand-up abilities, but that is not quite the case.

Waterson (black top) controls her opponent (Wilson Fox/Sherdog)

Of her nine wins, The Karate Hottie has earned six submissions, two TKO’s and one unanimous decision. This record does not scream “striker,” even though that is where her fighting life began. Waterson is an amazingly well-rounded fighter, and has one main person to chalk that up to.

“Coach Jackson,” Waterson said, in reference to famed MMA trainer Greg Jackson, during her exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “Ever since I came out to Albuquerque, I’ve really been working on my ground and my MMA skills.”

At first, it wasn’t easy for her to open her mind to the other aspects of the sport.

“When I first got here, all I wanted to do is hit mitts and work my Muay Thai,” Waterson confessed. “I used to work with Donald Cerrone in Colorado. When I came out here, I remember getting ready for a fight camp and asking Donald to hold mitts for me. He told me, ‘No, we’re getting ready to work grappling. Why don’t you do that?’ I didn’t know what to say. I was only working at what I was good at, and, as soon as he said that, it clicked to me. I need to work on my weaknesses in order to be a well-rounded MMA fighter.”

Waterson has been training at Jackson’s MMA for about half a decade.

“I’ve worked out here since I was twenty-one,” she said of her time at the Jackson’s camp. However, she did take a slightly less than two-year break from competition while she was pregnant from mid-2010 to early 2011.

Waterson had no reservations about getting back in the ring to face Diana Rael after the birth of her and her husband Joshua’s first child. She really learned a lot about herself.

“I could come back after being gone throughout my pregnancy and having my daughter. I could still come back and be a strong fighter. And, I have to believe in myself, my coaches and my teammates,” explained Waterson.

While her win over Rael proved to her that her time off didn’t affect her game, it also opened up a door for her to Invicta Fighting Championships.

The Karate Hottie will be fighting on the Invicta FC 3 card this Saturday, Oct. 6, at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kan., and she couldn’t be more excited.

“I’m proud to fight for Invicta, being that it is an all-female fight card, and I feel that the females can bring it,” Waterson said. “Not to knock any of those other organizations, but they finally put girls on the platform that they deserve to be on. It’s not that Strikeforce has not, but, you know, you train just as hard, and I think we can do it. We can compete on all-female fight cards and have it be successful.”

Waterson has laser-like focus when it comes to the other girls in the atomweight division and doesn’t really care to know much, unless she’s got one as the next opponent.

“To be honest with you, I don’t pay much attention to people outside of the gym,” Waterson admitted. “It’s not in my personality to worry about other people.”

Well, she may not worry about other people, but she does know a bit about her next opponent and fellow Colorado native, Lacey “The Ladie” Schuckman.

“I know she’s down to fight and she has a lot of heart,” Waterson explained. “She’s a scrapper, she’s from Colorado, and we started fighting around the same time. I’m excited to fight her. I think it will be a good challenge for me.”

Waterson (Isaac Hinds/Sherdog)

Schuckman may only be 7-5 in her professional career, but her record does her no justice. She is a hard-hitting, tough fighter, and Waterson is not taking her lightly.

“I have been doing a lot of strength and conditioning,” Waterson stated. “I have also been doing a lot of wrestling, and also incorporating yoga, which has helped me with my mental state, my flexibility and my relaxation, and things like that. I feel like this camp is a really good all-around camp. Being a fighter, everything is just so important, and sometimes you don’t give your body the chance to heal, and the yoga kind of forces that.”

All of these extra little things will surely help improve Waterson’s game for the upcoming contest. There is one other factor that will also help her out.

The Karate Hottie has traditionally fought at strawweight, but her match against Schuckman, a natural strawweight, will be at atomweight, 10 pounds lighter. Even though, she is fighting a somewhat larger opponent, she’s not too concerned.

“I think I’m a naturally smaller weight class,” Waterson stated. “I used to fight at 115 when I first started fighting, and I didn’t know what it was to cut weight. Then, I started fighting girls that were at 115 that were coming down from 130 or 135, and they were just too big for me. So, I just have to be true to myself, and, at 105, I feel best.

She added, “I have some bigger teammates, so as far as the power difference, it’s not going to be anything I’m not prepared for. Most of my teammates are big and strong, so she’s not going to have anything that I’m not going to be ready for.”

If Waterson is really not concerned about the size difference, there’s not much else to worry about. Although Schuckman is definitely a great fighter, Waterson feels her skills outweigh her opponent’s.

“I think on my feet, I’m better, I think my ground is better, and I feel that I am all-around faster,”
she said.

And when asked if she had any disadvantages, she responded, “Nope.”

Any fan of the sport has to love her confidence, and any fan also must understand that if anyone has the ability to prepare any fighter for any fight, Greg Jackson is the man. He is easily one of the best coaches in the sport, regardless of what happened with the UFC 151 fallout and UFC President Dana White’s subsequent reactions.

Fortunately, for Waterson and other Jackson fighters, that series of events has not appeared to affect their camp one bit.

“Coach Jackson’s a really strong person,” Waterson noted. “And what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. It never affected us whatsoever. We’ve been able to stay strong throughout the whole thing. Quite honestly, it was something that was inevitable to happen, and Coach Jackson is down to take heat for any one of his fighters. That’s what I love about him and his coaching style. He has our back and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters really.”

Waterson’s prediction for the fight?

“I’m hoping that it stays standing and I’ll be able to showcase a little more of my stand-up. And, if I get comfortable enough, I’ll be able to throw some of my wrestling in there and be able to showcase some of my takedowns.”

Pretty much wherever the fight goes, the karate black belt will be ready to pick up the win, one that will move her another step closer to her future aspirations.

“I want to win this fight, and if Invicta has me back, I would love to be back and hopefully fight for a belt,” Waterson firmly stated.

Well, she will certainly know who will be holding the 105-pound strap at the end of Saturday night, as Invicta will be crowning the first-ever atomweight champ in the main event of the evening.

Outside of MMA, Michelle Waterson leads a fairly typical life of a new parent and newlywed.

Waterson (back) looks for a choke (Wilson Fox/Sherdog)

“I spend time with my daughter and my mom and my husband,” she said. “It’s just fun watching her grow up, you know? We color and we go for walks, and we like to just enjoy the little things in life and laugh at the little things that she’s learning.”

One has to wonder, though, if being a mom that fights for a living is a concern at all as a parent.

“She’s with me a lot when I’m hitting mitts and sparring and training and things like that, so I think the martial arts and the fighting will be somewhat second nature,” said Waterson.

“The biggest thing that has changed is that it’s not about me anymore,” she elaborated. “Before I was pregnant, I could fight for me, and it was all about me. I could do whatever I needed to, in order to get where I needed to be. Now that I’m married and I’m a wife and a mother, I have new responsibilities that I have to be accountable for. So, it’s all about time management and making sure that I have enough time with my daughter. I have to be less selfish with the fighting and that makes me even more motivated when I’m training. I have to go hard when I am training, because I don’t have as much time.”

That’s a great statement coming from someone who is only 26 years old. The Karate Hottie is maturing in life and in the ring, and she has a big future ahead of her.

Waterson also wants the fans to know one thing about her perspective on life.

“I want them to know that I’m just a normal person, but that normal people can do great things. As long as you believe in yourself and follow your dreams, you can make those dreams into realities and they can come true.”

Again, wise beyond her years, Waterson is a role model for anybody looking to achieve anything in life.

Michelle Waterson may carry the moniker “The Karate Hottie,” but she is much more than a model with a black belt. She is a top-notch female fighter, a wife and mother, and is potentially in line to get a title shot in the Invicta FC atomweight division.

After Saturday night, the fans will understand why she firmly believes “normal people can do great things.”

Top Photo: Michelle Waterson (Wilson Fox/Sherdog)

About The Author

Dan Kuhl
Interview Coordinator