The UFC strawweight division just got a little deeper. "The Karate Hottie," Michelle Waterson, has inked a deal to join her fellow Invicta FC veterans inside the Octagon, MMAFighting.com's Ariel Helwani reported Monday on UFC Tonight.
Waterson, the 29-year-old former Invicta FC atomweight champion, is expected to make her 115-pound and promotional debut sometime in the summer against an as-of-yet undecided opponent.
A charismatic fighter who was expected to be the face of the Invicta FC brand following the UFC's mass signing of the 115-pound division and filming of The Ultimate Fighter 20 in 2014, Waterson (12-4) remained under contract with Invicta FC following her Dec. 2014 loss to Herica Tiburcio, however she now becomes the latest high-profile casualty of the all-female promotion's close working relationship with the UFC.
While brief, Waterson's four-fight tenure with Invicta FC proved to be a memorable one. She won 'Fight of the Night' honors in her 2012 debut over Lacey Schuckman, then captured Invicta FC's 105-pound title the following April with a stunning and electric fourth-round armbar victory over current UFC strawweight contender Jessica Penne.
Waterson defended her title once, badly beating Yasuko Tamada en route to a third-round TKO last September in a bout that served as the exclamation point to Invicta FC's first event to broadcast exclusively on UFC Fight Pass.
Her road hit an unexpected speed bump this past December though, when Waterson met unheralded 22-year-old Herica Tiburcio in the main event of Invicta FC 10. Waterson and Tiburcio battled back-and-forth for three gripping rounds before the young Brazilian caught Waterson in a nasty guillotine choke and stole away the 105-pound belt, becoming the youngest champion in Invicta FC history and snapping a six-fight win streak for Waterson.
A Jackson/Winklejohn product who has competed professionally since 2007, Waterson now joins a wide open UFC strawweight division led by Polish striker Joanna Jedrzejczyk but devoid of any clear-cut contender pecking order, meaning opportunities could come quickly for the division's newest marquee name.