An Arrowtown cage fighter has high hopes of competing in the world mixed martial arts (MMA) champs despite taking up the sport less than 18 months ago.
Mel Webster represented New Zealand at recent Oceania champs in Auckland. She lost to a NZ wrestler but has a 2-1 fight record.
The 34-year-old also came runner-up in a more recent kickboxing national title fight in Auckland.
Shooting for the world amateur MMA champs in Bahrain, in November, Webster trains with the Hammerhead Central club in Cromwell five nights a week, under Queenstown coach Jason Smith.
“I love the community I train with,” she says. “You get probably more thrashed in training [than in fights].
“Because you call it cage fighting, everyone just thinks you’re a mongrel, but you’re actually not. It’s a sport, it’s just like boxing.
“I think you get bigger blows in boxing, because someone’s trying to knock you out, whereas you’ve got so many different things with MMA – you’ve got your kicks, your punches, your grappling, your wrestling, and then you’ve got your submitting – my loss in Auckland was by submission.”
Webster’s also had one Muay Thai fight, which she lost, but that was against a two-time world champion.
She first got into combat sport when she tried, but failed, to get into Queenstown’s former Thriller boxing event.
“Then I watched my friend do MMA and I was like, ‘I want to do this’, and then I got into a fight seven weeks later [which she won, in Dunedin].”
She’s so far funded her own way but last week Queenstown’s Alpine Health and Fitness gym made her a sponsored athlete.