The Rise to Fame of Michelle Waterson

The Mixed Martial Arts world is famous for the eye catching, often outlandish nicknames given to its fighters. From Ian Uncle Creepy” McCall to Nick “The Ninja of Love” Dennis, MMA nicknames give fighters a persona to play with, and fans an idol to root for. 


Michelle “The Karate Hottie” Waterson is no exception. 


The name seems reductive of Waterson’s talent and accomplishments. A former #1 Women’s Atomweight Champion and currently ranked 9th in the Women’s Strawweight division, this fighter has definitely earned her stripes in the MMA world.  


Waterson began her martial arts training aged ten, and went on to get a Black Belt in American Freestyle Karate. She also studied WuShu and trained in Muay Tai in the Sityodtong camp in Thailand 


Waterson’s rise to fame reads almost like novel. She worked as a waitress and a model to fund her martial arts training, before becoming a reality TV star when she took part in the 2006 series “Fight Girls”, a show that pitted seven female fighters against each other for a chance to compete in Muay Tai championship in Thailand. 


After she expressed an interest in moving into MMA to a local promoter, she was picked up by legendary UFC fighter Donald “The Cowboy” Cerrone, who started training her to crossover to Mixed Martial Arts Fighting. 


Waterson was supposed to have her first MMA fight against another amateur, but when her contender dropped out, she took on a pro fighter instead, and ended up going pro in 2007 without having a single amateur fight. 


“Donald was like ‘well, you’ve been training, what are you gonna do?’ And I was like ‘Imma fight’. And then I fought”, she told UFC on Fox. 


Waterson’s good looks and previous work as a model are never far from the headlines when reporting on her MMA career, with many critics picking up on the “Karate Hottie” nickname, given to her by a bikini calendar promoter during her modelling days, who wanted her to have a “gimmick”. 


As far as she’s concerned, she has long since “proven” herself in the ring. 


“I have come to accept the fact that there are always going to be people that judge me because of the nickname and my looks, but I know in my heart that I am a skilled fighter”, she said in a 2009 interview with; 



She made her UFC debut in 2015, with her current record set at 16 wins 6 losses and no draws. After a year of impressive victories against notable fighters like Felice Herrig and Cortney Casey, her next fight will see the 33-year-old go up against former UFC title challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz on March 30th.  



“My teammates and coaches know my skills as well, and that's what matters to me. When people don't take me seriously, it just drives me to train harder.”