Gina Carano Fan Experience: In This Corner…
It was the summer after I turned 17 and graduated. I auditioned for The Phoenix Suns Dance Squad. I remember practicing so hard to make it on the team. All of the girls were so beautiful; I started to lose confidence. Even though I had the skill, I didn’t shine in the audition. At that point in my life, I started to hate myself. I hated the way I looked and how short I was. Everything put me through a depression.
A month later everything changed. Watching one of Gina Carano’s fights for the first time left me speechless. It was the StrikeForce Women’s Featherweight Title fight against Cris Cyborg. Even though she lost, she just seemed so superhuman to me. I was at loss for words. I just wanted to see more of her. I watched all I could until I was exhausted for school the next day. Every video I watched made me say, ” Gosh, I want to be like her.” She inspired me so much that I questioned myself thinking, “Why not… why not give it a shot?” Don’t get me wrong, I was terrified of fighting. I had never gotten into a fight or even hit anyone, and the next thing I know, I’m stepping foot into a Muay Thai Gym.
Just the sound of “Muay Thai” was intimidating. I didn’t know what to expect. The coach was a little man from Thailand. He gave me my first pair of pink boxing gloves and red Muay Thai shorts. After changing clothes, I remember looking in the mirror and thinking, “I can’t believe I’m here right now!” I then tried to pump myself up, thinking “Okay, be like Gina, be like Gina.” Walking out of the bathroom, the coach said, “Oh good, you look like a fighter now.” By the end of the class, I fell in love with it; I was so excited.
It lit a whole new fire inside me. The girl who had once hated herself now had confidence.
I wanted to learn everything, every: punch, kick, knee and elbow. I would then watch Gina’s training footage and try to mimic her combos by shadow boxing in the hallway of my house and in front of my dresser mirror. I felt the urge to kick everything when I was at work and school, just because I finally knew how to. I became so obsessed with the sport and the culture, that it turned into a way of life for me. By Gina inspiring me to get out of my little box and try something new, my whole world changed in such a small amount of time.
After only 8 months of training, I dropped out of college to prepare for my first smoker fight at Master Toddy’s gym in Las Vegas. I lost the fight by split decision. Even though smokers don’t count on any record, losing made me learn and grow into the fighter I am today. After that, I trained so hard and pushed my body and mind, surpassing my limits. I quit school, my two jobs bagging groceries, and working at a sports bar. I sacrificed relationships, giving up going out with friends because of my dream.
I’ve been doing Muay Thai for two years, & have 2 title belts in the 105lb. Atom-Weight Division for the State of Arizona, & the 105lb South-West Regional Title from The United States Muay Thai Association. I came a long way in a short amount of time, and it all started because of being inspired by Gina.
There is nothing more rewarding than accomplishing a seemingly impossible goal. My journey of becoming a Muay Thai Fighter is just getting started. I am still a student with alot to learn. One of my goals is to go to Thailand, and experience what it is like to live, train and fight out an authentic Muay Thai camp, and learn more about the culture. In the next 5 years, I hope to become a world champion, inspiriting others like Gina Carano did, and they can in-turn share their “Gina Carano/Athena Austin story”. Even though she may not be fighting now, she is still someone I will look up to and thank throughout my journey. I think it is amazing that she is in the movies now because it shows just how many doors can open through hard work and dedication.
Through this journey, I have met wonderful people who’ve shared my dream. So, I’d like to give special thanks to all the training partners and coaches I’ve ever worked with, my amazing parents, my boyfriend who shares the same love for Muay Thai as I do, and my friends who support me 100% and never want to miss a fight. you all have helped me become the fighter I am today. – Athena Austin