If Kelsey De Santis looks familiar, or if you think you saw her somewhere, that’s probably because you have. And it wasn’t a mixed martial arts contest either.

De Santis brings an interesting story to her pro debut, not only because of how she grew to love the sport, but also because of how she attracted the attention of many to begin with. Before her service for the U.S. Marines ended, she took to YouTube and called Justin Timberlake out for a date to the Marine Corps Ball in 2011, and “JT” brought sexy back, to nobody’s surprise.

Fast forward to 2013, and De Santis has already accumulated a 3-1 Muay Thai record, as well as a 3-0 record in the amateur circuits of MMA. Despite all of that, do some people still occasionally walk up and ask her about the date with Timberlake?

“Yeah, they definitely recognize me here and there,” De Santis told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview.

However, she may give people an entirely different reason to recognize her after she puts her skill set on display against Allanna Jones at CFA’s second-anniversary show on Saturday night. For De Santis, a win in this first round of the CFA’s 145-pound women’s tournament will represent a multitude of meanings, but most notably, De Santis’ years of hard work, discipline and dedication to her craft will begin to manifest itself into success on a professional level.

Of course, the journey came thanks to a friend who went to school with De Santis and showed enthusiasm one night about going to train in Muay Thai.

“I think we had plans to go out that night,” De Santis said, “and I was like, ‘What do you mean you’re doing Thai Boxing?’ This is somebody who didn’t really do anything but hang out with the group of people we hung out with, and so for him to be all enthusiastic about some type of workout, I was like, ‘I better go check this out’ and I was just hooked.”

From there, things began to snowball for De Santis. She described her early experiences as “getting beat up every night,” but she felt the drive to improve as she did more of it. Before she joined the Armed Forces, she participated in Muay Thai bouts, which helped her out in becoming a martial arts instructor in the Marine Corps.

When she began her fight training, De Santis left behind a chance to play volleyball. As a matter of fact, scouts arrived at her high school to offer her the chance to play for their institutions. However, with how much De Santis enjoyed her training at the time, the offers just did not suffice for the young fighter-in-the-making.

“It’s not that I didn’t get along with the other girls,” De Santis said. “I just felt like they were so competitive, and most of the time, because I was tall and pretty athletic, it was possible that I was going to get a scholarship, and they didn’t really like that.”

As De Santis herself would say, fighting really worked out for her in much better ways than volleyball, cheerleading or anything else that anyone could’ve asked her to do.

How well did it work out for her? Despite never having fought before her first Muay Thai bout and losing that first initial bout, she was afforded the chance to avenge that loss, and avenge it she did. That experience will come into play when she meets the hard-hitting Jones on Saturday. Though Jones represents a tough test, De Santis will come in more than ready for the challenge once the cage door shuts.

“From what I have gathered, I know that she’s a heavy hitter,” De Santis said, “and so basically, my plans are to out-strike her, counter punch what she throws at me. My game plan is the same, to end the fight as soon as possible.

“My opponent for this fight changed three times, so I’m not really counting on who I will fight if I do win this fight, but either way, it doesn’t matter. I feel I have enough preparation and the right training camp to make sure I’m doing the right thing and [I’m] well prepared.”

Kelsey would like to thank God, her sponsors, the CFA and everyone that has remained on board with her from the very beginning. Kelsey’s fans and followers can find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter as well.

Photo: Kelsey De Santis (Rolando de la Fuente Photography/Championship Fighting Alliance)

About The Author

Dale De Souza
Staff Writer

Dale De Souza is a 22-year-old kid straight out of Texas, who grew up around Professional Wrestling but embraced the beauty of Mixed Martial Arts and Combat Sports at a young age. Dale is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA, a writer at The MMA Corner.