Sara McMann: Is She the Next Big Female MMA Superstar?

After a disappointing turn-around from the result of Cyborg’s “tainted” victory, Women’s MMA has taken a slight punch. Cyborg followed her post-fight response with fake photo-shopped pictures of Gina Carano soon after her suspension. Ronda Rousey has hyped up fans with her big talk to Miesha Tate, resulting in an anticipated upcoming rivalry in the ring. This is probably good for marketing of the sport, but I feel it robs the integrity of a true fighter. Look at the controversy with the Sonnen/Bisping fight. Talk is interesting, but actions are what MMA is about. With Cyborg now out of the spotlight, and Rousey seemingly trying to “pick” her opponents, Women’s MMA is left wondering, “Who will be the next rising superstar that could possibly compare to Cyborg or Carano?” I believe the answer is Sara McMann.

Born in Maryland, I am proud to say that Sara was raised in the mountainous region of Marion, North Carolina near my hometown, and is currently residing in South Carolina. If there is one quality a true fighter must have, it is true heart and passion. Sara McMann has proven her stamina and power both inside the cage and in her personal life.

At McDowell High School, she broke a barrier and joined the varsity men’s wrestling team. She continued on to Minnesota-Morris University which housed one of the only women’s wrestling teams in the country. Sara’s older brother was also a great wrestler. Following an altercation with some members of the football team of his university, he was found murdered by some members of the team.

Sara left immediately to Lock Haven to join her brother’s team, in honor of him. To cope with her grief, Sara turned to wrestling. Unable to fight under NACC due to monetary issues of her loss, she reached for an international approach and landed in national championships for 3 years and then claimed the prized silver Olympic medal in 2004 at Athens, also claiming the title of the first American female wrestler to receive a medal.

After the games, she transferred again with her boyfriend to further their wrestling careers at Columbia University. On a drive to Washington, Sara’s vehicle overturned and her boyfriend, Steven Blackford, was pronounced dead at the scene. Sara suffered injuries but did recover.

After coping with this tragedy, she moved to Iowa to train, meeting her current boyfriend, Trent with whom she has a daughter. Since 2004, McMann has placed twice for medals in worldwide competitions and won the Pan American Games in 2007.

My life is really filled with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows,” said McMann. “I’ve come to accept the fact that that’s the way it’s going to be whether I like it or not. If I don’t go after the really high stuff, I’m going to suffer. My daughter is the most wonderful thing in my life right now. No matter what happens, she’s my top priority. That definitely helps me to overcome a lot of the tragedy that has happened.”

Sara left wrestling and went to MMA in 2010. For some time she had a challenge of finding opponents. Finally, she has gotten five fights under her belt, all undefeated. She has a long resume of awards which include the 2011 Mighty Mia Inspirational Fighter of the Year award. Sara completely proved her stance a few weeks ago in her last fight with Hitomi Akano. “Repeated take downs, strategic ground-and-pound and impeccable submission defense carried 2004 Olympic silver medalist Sara McMann to a unanimous decision over Japanese judoka Hitomi Akano in the co-main event. McMann (5-0) swept the scorecards by identical 30-27 counts.”ProElite-3,McMann-Stays-Unbeaten In the Women’s MMA rankings, this fight pushed McMann to the #5 spot and pushes Alexis Davis to #6. February-2012 Womens MMA rankings

I do have to give it to Ronda Rousey. She is smart about marketing, suggesting, and promoting fights. When asked about fighting Sara McMann her response was,

“Since I’m pretty much committed to dropping down to 135 and going for that title after this fight, it’s very likely that me and Sara McMann might meet up pretty soon. We’ll have two Olympic medalists fighting. Two women Olympic medalists fighting for the first time — that will be real exciting, I think.” Rousey comments

Granted, I do believe that would be one heck of a fight, but Sara holds a value in which she has openly spoken of fighting all the girls and making her way up the card rightfully, which coincides with Miesha Tate’s argument about Rousey.

Either way, we know Sara McMann has proven herself to be a true fighter, in and out of the cage and I hold much respect. She’s worked her problems out by joining MMA where she can release her feelings in a cage where there are less limitations and rules which has greatly stolen her attention and passion, and given her an avenue to pursue a sort-of self-help therapy.

Outside the cage, she is a devoted mother. She also holds a degree in theatre from Lock Haven University, and a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from Gardner-Webb University. She works with Habitat for Humanity and SafeHomes. She also took part in aid to Tsunami victims with her Olympian teammates. Sara talks in youth clubs and encourages young boys and girls about wrestling.

Sara McMann knows the true definition of “paying it forward,” and integrity to her sport. Her fighting skill along with her coping skills of life should, and probably will be, inspiration to us all. She has shown that you can come from a small town, live through horrible tragedies, strive and achieve what may seem impossible dreams, and live a satisfying, fulfilling life through it all.

I say, “Cyborg, Have a look at a REAL woman who stands for the integrity that all these women athletes wish to represent.”


Women’s Wrestling Silver Medalist Sara McMann Debuts In MMA June 11 By: John Chandler

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