Cory McKenna: “I am looking forward to putting on a well-rounded performance and impressing the UFC.”
The name of Cory McKenna seems to have been doing the rounds in the world of MMA for many a year. Heavily hyped from the get-go, but it may come as a surprise to some, McKenna is still only 21.
After a successful amateur career McKenna turned pro in 2018 to much fanfare, and is currently riding a 4-1 pro resume, all her fights being within the Cage Warriors promotion. The one loss was hotly-disputed, but two winning fights since have got her career back on the upward trajectory once again. With no fight since May of last year, McKenna has been keen to get her promising career up and running again, and this coming Tuesday, she will do exactly that.
A frustrating period of inactivity will end on a major platform, McKenna will return on Dana White’s Contender Series, with a possible UFC contract the reward for a win. Even with a relative short-career behind her, inactivity and a late call for the opportunity, McKenna had no hesitation in accepting the fight:
“It was in discussion quite a bit prior to Covid-19, but more in terms of future opportunities, But in regards to the fight I have taken it on 3 weeks notice. So I have been running around getting medicals and sorting my Visa out. I have always had that mentality of I would fight anybody, I’m always happy to step in there against any girl. I am very confident in myself and the work that my coaches have put into me. It was a big opportunity so it was a case of if we could get it done, then we would take the fight.”
The Contender Series format is one where even a win isn’t enough to get a UFC contract, often the manner of the victory determines if a fighter gets a contract or not. But McKenna will just focus on the fight, and let others decide her fate if she is victorious on the night:
“My goal is the same, I always go out there to put on an entertaining fight and put on my best performance on the night. So to me, the mentality is exactly the same, I am going to go out there to get the win. Their opinion of it really matters, but at the same time, I am not going to focus too much on that, I am just going to look for a dominant win, and If I do that then that should impress them in itself. So I am not going to change anything and I don’t feel any added pressure to do so.”
McKenna will face off against the recently crowned inaugural LFA strawweight champion, Vanessa “Little Monster” Demopoulos. McKenna is under no illusions at the task she faces to have her hand raised:
“It will be a tough fight that is to be expected, she is the LFA strawweight champion, so that speaks for the level she is at. She has a high pedigree in jiu-jitsu, but people underestimate my jiu-jitsu. I think it will be a good fight for me stylistically and I am looking forward to showing my fully-rounded skills. A lot of people think I have just one style, I like to wrestle and grapple, but I do a lot of striking also, I used to compete in Thai-Boxing so I am looking forward to putting on a well-rounded performance and impressing the UFC.”
Despite being so young, McKenna has still plenty of experience behind her, starting so young in combat sports
“I started in MMA when I was 13, before that I was doing a bit of karate, jiu-jitsu and Thai-Boxing, I basically started karate when I was about 10. That was a bit of a hobby, to be honest, my dad was away in the army, and my mum was doing karate also, it was the only thing I was really good at. So at 13, I joined BKK fighters in Colchester, dragged my mum along to that, I got her into the grappling as well.”
Before she got serious about her MMA, McKenna had ambitions of being a scientist:
“I am a massive book nerd so I really wanted to be a scientist, I was always changing my mind what I wanted to do but I was always obsessed with science. But then at 14 I just turned around and said all I want to do is fight. So I have trained full-time since I left school.”
There has always been a certain amount of hype around McKenna, long before she made her professional debut in 2018, but it is something which hasn’t hindered her too much in the way of coping with any added pressure. A relative short career but mixing with elite competition has certainly advanced her progress in the sport, and she has long been regarded as a hot prospect in MMA:
“To be fair I haven’t really acknowledged any hype. I have been fighting since the age of 15, and I have been competing at a very high-calibre even as an amateur.”
The hype certainly has been justified, only a split-decision loss to Micol DiSegni in September 2018 spoils her MMA record, but McKenna has moved on and learnt from her only setback so far as a professional:
“I’m very happy with my career so far, how it has gone obviously apart from that loss. I’m just trying to move, it’s even less pressure now as I haven’t got that 0 to lose. I’m trying to focus on the positives from it. I’ve studied the judge’s criteria incessantly so I have got a much better understanding going into my fights now.”
McKenna is ambitious but level-headed and doesn’t get ahead of herself when I asked where she sees herself in the next year or so.
“I want to be signed to the UFC, working my way up to the top 10. I’ve just got my Visa so I will be out training with Team Alpha full-time, and just living the dream really.”
McKenna and Demopoulos will clash this coming Tuesday on Dana White’s Contender Series in Las Vegas.