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Meet MMA Fighter Tyra Parker

[Health And Fitness]

Tyra Trains For Real

MMA Is A Passion For This Young Female Fighter

Reviewer Magazine Meets A Championship Spirit

Tyra Parker, in the sparring ring at Victory MMA And Fitness. Photo by Reviewer Rob.

Tyra Parker, in the sparring ring at Victory MMA And Fitness. Photo by Reviewer Rob.

In her own words, with Tyra Parker

I was born in a small town in Georgia called for Forsyth, population: 3,817. I went to Mary Persons High School, where my parents, my grandparents, and their parents went to High School. I grew up out doorsy and a tomboy. My dad was my best friend and I was his shadow as a little girl.

My dad saw my interest in sports and love for competition at a young age. He volunteered at the local recreation department and coached me from the time i played tee ball until i was in high school. He also worked crazy hours for the railroad and paid for me to play on traveling soccer teams. I was an aggressive kid and he steered me in the right direction; taught me how to focus all of my energy into sports.

Around the age of ten, I told my dad I wanted to grow up to play soccer in the Olympics. Mia Hamm was my hero. I wanted to be like her. And my dad always told me I could. He knew nothing about soccer when I got into it, but he bought the rule books, started watching the games, and had me dribble the ball around the yard for hours everyday. He never once put the thought in my head that because I’m a girl from a small town that barely knew what soccer was, and because there are so few that make it to the olympics, that I had next to no chance in ever playing soccer in the Olympics. He was always like that growing up though, anything I wanted to do, he always told me it was possible through hard work.

So now, I think that’s the biggest thing that keeps pushing me forward with MMA. As I got older, I got tired of school. I dropped out of high school even though I was an A student, worked all day at a shitty job, and moved out of my dads into section 8 housing at 17 because I wanted to be independent. My dad had kept me on a short leash and i guess I thought high school was going to be the only time I would ever have to hang out and party with my friends.

But I found MMA. I saw Gina Corano fight Julie Kedzie on EliteXC on a basic cable channel. I Thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen and found Rush MMA in Macon, Ga the next day. I started training the next week, and I fought Michelle Waterson in Strikeforce 6 months after that. I got my butt kicked, but I knew that I couldn’t stop after getting that experience. I started driving 2 hours to Athens to train under Adam and Rory Singer, two very well known coaches in Georgia, that have produced UFC/WEC champions like Forrest Griffin and Brian Bowles.

I trained there for two years with some of the toughest guys I’ve ever met in my life and at the same time began Emergency Medical Technician school. I fought for them once and subbed the girl in under a minute.It was the best feeling I have ever felt in my life to this day, that first win. I can’t thank them enough for making that possible. After that, I began working as an EMT in Athens. Working 24 hours and then having 48 hours off. I loved my job but it was really hard on my body combined with the MMA training on my days off. Because I moved to Athens to train, I didn’t have any family to live with. I was 21 years old trying to make it on my own and trying to train enough to fight at a professional level. I began falling into debt and wasn’t able to pay my membership at the gym anymore.

I called one of my best friends, Monique Travis, who trained and fought Muay Thai out of Knuckle Up Fitness in Atlanta. I told her I didn’t know what to do and that I was going to just drive out to California and live in my car until I could find a job out there to make enough money to pay for a gym membership. I had nothing to lose and if I was going to be poor, I might as well be poor in Southern California where they produce a ton of UFC fighters and I might get to train with them. Plus, the weather is nice. She told me to come train with her first in Atlanta, that I could train for free and to see how I liked it.

I trained there for a year, got another fight in October 2012 and submitted the girl in under a minute, again. I had another fight already set up after that, but I was training a lot more and taking alot of time off work, in turn I wasn’t able to make rent payments and got evicted out of my apartment. I was bouncing around from my dad’s house (2 hours away from the gym), to work in Athens (1.5 hours away from the gym), to friends that lived in Atlanta, making at least an hour drive to work or to train everyday, most of the time more. I wasn’t able to eat good or sleep good and I was over-training myself as a result of it. I woke up the day of my fight in Dec 2012 exhausted. I lost that fight in the second round after taking some hard kicks to the head in the first and then being submitted by an armbar in the 2nd. It had been 4 years since I had felt the feeling of loss and failure, but I think I needed it. I’m fueled now more than ever.

On January 1, 2013, I quit my job and drove across the country, sleeping in the back of a Budget Truck on a wrestling mat (one of my few and most prized possessions) in the middle of the desert. I found a job at the OTM Fight Shop in Pacific Beach and I found another family at Victory MMA. Everyday that I get to wake up and go train MMA with some of the best practitioners in the world is a blessing to me. I can hardly function at a normal job because all I can think about are the moves that I learned the day before, or that I need to be running or lifting weights or pulling tires.

There are times when I can hardly sleep because I watch video after video on Youtube of different techniques at night because I feel like I didn’t learn enough that day. And sometimes I feel guilty. I feel guilty for not being normal. For not wanting to go to college, pile up a bunch of debt, and work in a field that doesn’t make me happy, but makes money. And if I would just be normal, I wouldn’t be a burden on my friends, living on their couches, needing rides to work when my car breaks down, needing days off work to go to tournaments. Most of the time I feel like the underdog.

I’ve only been training for a little over 4 years, these other girls are way ahead of me. They grew up competing in martial arts, by the time I catch up, I’ll be too old. But there’s also my dad’s voice inside my head telling me still that I can do it. That I can be the best. That I can be a champion and to keep grinding. And that’s why I wake up everyday at 6am and don’t leave work or the gym until 9pm. That’s why this year I moved from my family in Georgia to train with Dean Lister, Jeff Glover, and Tony Palafox at Victory MMA in San Diego.

Because MMA saved my life and I want to be the best at it, for my dad, and for everyone that believes in me. Last month I tried out for Tuf 18, and I cant say anything other than I tried out for it because the show doesn’t air until September. But I think the show will open many doors for Women’s MMA, and I hope to reach my goal of fighting for the UFC very soon.


Editor’s note: Thanks, Tyra, for sharing your story with Reviewer’s readers.


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