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'The Karate Hottie' promises action in Invicta 5 title fight

Esther Lin/Invicta photo

Sometimes, a look at a fighter's record can be a misleading activity. Simply glancing at a fight finder doesn't necessarily tell you about the quality of opposition or the circumstances in any given fight.

But taking a peak at the records of the participants in the main event of Invicta 5 on April 5, atomweight champion Jessica Penne and Michelle Waterson, makes for a pretty accurate representation. Both fighters have 10 wins, and both have eight finishes.

And as far as "The Karate Hottie" is concerned, that's a fair reflection of the way the main event in Kansas City should play out.

"There are no secrets or big game plans here," Waterson said in a phone interview with "I like to bring it and she likes to bring it and we're going to bring the fans something to watch until one of us is knocked out or submitted."

It's been a long road to a title shot for Waterson, who trains with Jackson's MMA in Albuquerque, N.M. Waterson, who grew up in Colorado and studied karate from age 10, had her first pro fight in early 2007. This was back before Gina Carano became a mainstream name and gave women's MMA it's first real publicity push. There was little money to be had, even less for a 105-pound fighter.

"It wasn't something you got into back then because you were looking to get rich," Waterson said. "You did it because you loved it, because you wanted to challenge yourself and push yourself. After my first fight, when I won, I realized how much I loved the competition and the challenge of pushing myself."

Waterson, though, lost two of her first four fights.

"When I first started fighting, I found out pretty quick that I was fighting for the wrong reasons," Waterson said. "I found myself fighting out of anger. I wasn't fighting for myself, I wasn't fighting to better myself, and I was wasting a lot of energy. I wouldn't change my experiences because losing and figuring out what doesn't work helps you in the long run as a fighter, but at some point I knew I had to change."

Soon thereafter, Waterson made the switch to Jackson's MMA. In addition to being one of the sport's most well-respected camps on the men's side, it's also the home of veteran Julie Kedzie and has featured the likes of Carano and Sarah Kaufmann over the years.

"Donald [Cerrone] invited me down there and I basically fell in love with the place," Waterson said. "One of the first things that happened was, I realized how much I had been focusing on my strengths and ignoring my weaknesses. Once I realized what a professional environment they have there, and how much they work together as a team, something went off in my head and I just started to become the fighter I knew I could be."

Since then, well, the results speak for themselves. Waterson has won eight of her past nine fights, seven via finish. Her split-decision victory over Lacey Schuckman at Invicta 3 on Oct. 6 earned Fight of the Night honors.

Competing in Invicta has been an eye-opener for Waterson, who previously experienced a bit of fame as a cast member on the Oxygen network's Muay Thai-themed "Fight Girls" reality series.

"Invicta has been such a big, big part of pushing forward women's MMA," said Waterson. "Before Invicta, most people thought there were just a few good women fighters and that's it. But, I mean, look at the card coming up, it's stacked. We've got fighters from all the different weight classes, ‘Cyborg' [Santos] is fighting, Sarah Kaufmann is on the card, and then in the main event you've got the 105-pounders going at it. If I wasn't on the card, if I was home, this is something I'd pay to watch on pay-per-view."

And it's a card "The Karate Hottie" hopes will end with another championship for Team Jackson.

"I'm not going take anything away from Jessica," said Waterson. "She's legit. She looked really good winning the title [against Naho Sugiyama on Oct. 6]. But I'm going to bring it and I hope I come back to the gym with a title belt."

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