At the start of 2014, Sara McMann was viewed as the toughest challenger to Ronda Rousey’s bantamweight crown. The Olympic silver medalist in freestyle wrestling was undefeated in the sport, and coming off a first round knockout win in her previous fight.
Howeve, Rousey needed just 66 seconds to stamp out her supposed toughest challenger.
Fast-forward ten months, McMann is a changed fighter with a growing tool set that now includes an appreciation for striking.
“I’ve fallen in love with the striking game,” McMann said. “I really didn’t like it before – hitting mits and doing stuff like that. But now, I just get new toys – these elbows, hitting knees from different angles. It’s fun.”
The changes in her game have helped her gain a newfound respect for the martial arts. While McMann considers herself a prizefighter, her aspiration is to embody the characteristic of a traditional martial artist.
“If you think about my mentality, I’m definitely a fighter – scrappier and grittier. I try to be a martial artist. It is what I strive for; excellent technique, hard working, diligent, humble and respectful. That is what I think a martial artist is.”
Not only is McMann a fighter, but she is also a mother to her only daughter. As she eagerly explained, parenthood brings with it new perspectives on topics such as patriarchy, femininity, and sexuality.
“I think it makes her believe that women are a lot more powerful than sometimes they can be portrayed,” said McMann. “Sometimes women are portrayed in a soft role – turn the other cheek and accept anything that comes your way. Women are more prized for the way they look, and I think that, for her, she sees that you can be a strong, assertive woman in the things that you want.”
While McMann’s views are particularly progressive, she is well aware that many are yet to see her point of view.
“I think there are a lot of people that are more old school. They definitely see that women should act a certain way and that if they don’t act that way then something is amiss.
However, all things considered, McMann believes the sporting environment is gradually changing its perception of women and how they should look and dress when in competition.
“But I think that it is coming along; women are allowed to be say what they want, and say how they feel. Women can own their sexuality without being, you know, slutty.
“You can be beautiful and a fighter. If you want to be a sexy woman, be a sexy woman. If that is what you want, own it.”
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