A fighter stands alone in the cage, facing an opponent who wants to do bodily harm to her, knowing that one wrong move could mean the difference between winning and losing, between next level or rebuilding. All the training, coaching, prepping and hard work can boil down to one moment of seized or lost opportunity. It’s the same everywhere. Coaches and trainers can only do so much and then send their prodigy off to find her fate.

Some fighters think of themselves as part of a team, like it is in wrestling. They walk into the cage with the strength and the will of their team behind them. Other fighters view themselves as the lone wolf, born in a pack, but fighting and surviving on their own. Delaney Owen, however, sees herself as Frankenstein, created and formed by her coach and the fates and trained to wreak havoc and destruction in the cage.

Owen did not grow up dreaming of stepping in a cage. Her first love was the extreme sport of triathlons. At age 15, her dream was to become a pro triathlete. As a home-schooled teenager, her schedule made it possible to train three times a day. Focused on her goals, she didn’t realize she was pushing her body beyond the limits. By age 17, Owen developed an adrenal issue. She was getting migraines and back spasms. She was feeling weak, almost passing out every time she went for a run. Her body and her doctors demanded that she rest.

Once Owen was ready for physical activity, she went looking for some self-defense classes. Owen tried cardio boxing, but that wasn’t intense enough. Then, she walked into Highlander MMA in Tampa, Fla., and quickly earned her nickname, “Lil Scrappy.” Her coach, Mike Yanez, recalls their first meeting.

“This guy and girl walked into the gym, so I set the dude up with a gi and was just about to show the girl where the seats are when she got this look,” Yanez said. “She was there to roll, too, so I let her. We didn’t take it easy on her. In fact, we wanted to show her how hard it was to discourage her. We didn’t have any girls training at the time, and [I] wasn’t too sure about having one. And so there she was, rolling with guys much bigger. She got frustrated and picked up one of my guys and slammed him, and we just fell out. The guy never really came back, but she did.”

At 18, Owen was hooked on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Two weeks into training, she was already competing in a local tourney, the MMAC. Fearless from the get-go, she even went up against pro fighter Tiffany Collins. Although Owen didn’t win, she did place, and her love of competition took hold again. She competed in seven tournaments within six months. After a year of BJJ, Yanez told her to fight, and so she did.

Owen went on a four-fight streak and was offered a chance to fight in Sweden. Who wouldn’t say yes? But there wasn’t an opponent set, even the day before she was set to travel. Sometimes a fighter just needs to learn to say no. Unfortunately, Owen learned this the hard way. The promoter matched her against a professional Muay Thai fighter who had even managed to knock out a 200-pound man in another exhibition fight. Owen made it to the second round, but found herself out-sized and outgunned. Despite that, she thinks the stoppage came too early—“Lil Scrappy,” indeed.

Lesson learned, Owen came back to the United States and vowed she wouldn’t lose again. Her next fight against Hannah Cifers went the distance, but she was on the wrong side of the decision.

Owen (Maddy Emm Le'Olam Photography)

Owen (Maddy Emm Le’Olam Photography)

“It was a train wreck. I needed to change something drastically, but wasn’t able to,” Owen explained. “The fight was five four-minute rounds, my longest fight so far, and I just didn’t listen to my corner. I got caught in the moment. I got stubborn. Mike was telling me what I needed to do to win. I had her in submissions but just couldn’t finish any of them, so I ended up taking a lot of ground-and-pound abuse.”

Another lesson learned.

“It seems that I only get in trouble when I don’t listen to my coaches or corner, so I have made up my mind to not make that mistake again,” Owen confessed.

Since those two losses, Owen has been on a tear. Three unanimous decision wins and one rear-naked choke submission victory for the WCFL title fight rounded out her amateur career. Her professional debut took place in Hinton, Okla., at Sugar Creek Showdown against Sarah “Too Sweet” Alpar. Owen walks around at 125 pounds and took on Alpar with little notice, knowing she would be out-sized once again.

“I prefer to fight at 115, but it’s been so hard to find enough fights at that weight,” Owen said. “I’ve ended up in a lot of catchweight bouts because of it. I weighed in against Sarah at 121 with all my clothes on. I was surprised that she wasn’t taller, but she was bigger. She was strong—it was a lot like fighting Sarah Payant in the WCFL.

“Alpar hits and kicks really hard—my legs were really sore. I was in deep water in the third round and knew I was going to have to do something to win. I saw the opportunity and took it and was able to get the rear-naked choke and finish her.”

Owen says pre-fight talk is important to her.

“I have to dislike someone before I get in the cage,” she admitted. “I try to find things that I don’t like about my opponent to be able to want to beat them. But Sarah [Alpar] made it difficult. She was all smiley and nice at the weigh-ins, and then she was even smiling right before the bell. Then there was this switch in her eyes. It caught me off guard. I had to find my monster.”

With a victory over Alpar under her belt, Owen knows what she wants next.

“My goal is to fight for Invicta FC,” Owen revealed. “Any decisions I or my coaches make are with that goal in mind. I know I have more work to do. I love to drill, to train a move until I have it. When you get tired and when you are pressured, you need that muscle memory. That’s what helped me in the last fight. I love the rear-naked choke. It’s my favorite submission, and I’ve drilled that move 1000 times, so when I see the opening I am ready for it.”

Owen is bringing that same intensity to her stand-up game, too.

“That last fight really showed holes in my stand-up game, so I am working with two of the best boxers in Tampa Bay, Chevelle Hallback and Noemi Boeques. My hands and feet are really coming along,” she said. “I like to be pushed. At Highlander, there really aren’t any other girls to train with, so sometimes I have to do some things by myself. During fight camp, they will run me through the gauntlet. I love it when it’s so hard you want to die. My teammates don’t like it when I am in fight camp because then they do everything I do.”

Despite her willingness to take risks and dive headfirst into any challenge, Owen shows a strong intellect, not exactly a monster’s typical strong suit.

“If Dana [White, UFC president] called today and asked me to try out for TUF, I would probably say no, not right now,” Owen admitted. “It would ultimately be up to my coach, but I know what he’d say. Too many fighters make rash decisions and put themselves in too early. I want to take the right steps. Fighting is serious to me. I take it seriously and want to do this for a long time. To me, it’s life or death every time I step into the cage.”

When most people hear the name Frankenstein, they think of the 8-foot-tall creature. Yet, in reality, the monster in the story is un-named and referred to simply as “the creature,” “devil,” “fiend” and “it.” Frankenstein is actually the name of the monster’s creator. Could it be, in Owen’s case, that the creator is also the creation and that “Lil Scrappy,” with help from her coaches and trainers, is the one truly responsible for unleashing the monster in women’s MMA?

Delaney would like to thank Brawl and Maul, South Tampa Smiles, Covenant Business Solutions, Anthony Byrd of Byrd and Gonzalez, Nala Dog, icagefight.com and The Press Box for their support. She would also like to send out a big thanks to Noemi Boesques, Chevelle Hallback, Ingrid Medrano and Amy Bybee for their coaching and training and, of course, to Highlander MMA, Mike Yanez and her training partners for everything. Follow her on Twitter: @scrappydl

About The Author

Staff Writer

Amber currently resides in Tampa, Fla., a hotbed of MMA. She was introduced to the sport Memorial Day weekend in 2006 and quickly became addicted. Amber loves the fact that the biggest and strongest don’t always win, the respect the competitors show and that women are finally getting their shot. She also writes a blog for Fight It Out gear. When not watching MMA, Amber can be found at the beach playing volleyball, in the gym learning from Tampa’s only female BJJ Black Belt, cheering on her eight-year-old daughter in tae kwon do, or at her day job. She has a girlfriend, daughter, too many dogs and a cat who lives in the attic. Communication highly encouraged at amber at fightitout dot com.