Bryony Tyrell: “I Did Retire, But That Was a Mistake.”
By Jack Rainbow
Bryony Tyrell has had a considerably tougher lockdown than most. Working in her primary occupation as a nurse has not been the easiest job in the current climate:
“It’s been quite stressful. I am working in intensive care at the moment, as a nurse, so I work in cancer care and also intensive care with COVID patients. The whole department has been under pressure and a lot of stress so it has been quite hard.”
The stress Bryony references cannot be understated. Hospitals are overwhelmed in the UK at the moment, as the country continues to be consumed by COVID-19. Bryony does not fear the virus personally, however:
“In terms of catching COVID, we have PPE, although in the first wave we had a big shortage, so we didn’t have enough staff at that point. I personally am not frightened of catching the virus, I have been vaccinated but others are really scared. In terms of the actual work, the patients are very very sick, and there are a lot of them. You are just trying to keep people alive a lot of the time which is stressful, but I have been lucky, I haven’t caught it, but a lot of the staff have and some have died from it.”
Famed for being both an MMA fighter and a nurse, the MMA aspect has had to take a backstep as gyms are shut in the UK. Despite this, Bryony has been doing all she can to stay in shape:
“I have been training, and when the gyms were open I was able to train. Not properly, like I wasn’t able to spar and at the moment we are not doing any contact, so I am just trying to keep myself fit at home, but I still feel quite fit. However, in terms of MMA sparring, it feels so long ago since I did it, and I miss it a lot!”
Two years ago Bryony officially retired from the sport to focus on nursing and raising her children. This is something she regrets, however, and she is itching for another chance to compete:
“Yeah absolutely. Obviously, I did retire for a year a couple of years ago but that was a mistake. People tell you that you are too old and I let people get in my head, but that was silly. When I came back and fought on Bellator I loved it and I have spoken to Jude Samuel and told him I would love another fight there, though at strawweight this time as I am too small for flyweight. Every time I fight at flyweight I just find I am not strong enough, whereas at strawweight I did well. Seeing as they have started putting strawweight matchups on, they have seemed open to it, so I am hoping when things lighten up a bit, I could fight there again.”
Naturally, however, after a year focused entirely on saving peoples lives, Bryony will be pickier on where she fights:
“I have had to be really focused on nursing. I signed for a fight promotion called ARES, and I was meant to fight in Belgium in April last year. That got cancelled, rescheduled to October, and really I think by the time things get back to normal, my contract will be cancelled, and to be honest, I don’t really want to do smaller shows anymore. I only really want to do the big promotions like Bellator, as you get paid fairly well to be there, now that’s not why I do it but it justifies it more to take that much time training, and they treated me really well.”
Being an MMA fighter was something that started randomly for Bryony with it never being a career aim:
“I have done martial arts for over 20 years now, and I went to University and competed in Kickboxing and Kung-Fu, at a very amateur level, but I loved the buzz of competing and kept doing it for about 12 years. Then I had my kids and MMA became a lot more popular. I had done varied martial arts and thought MMA would be the perfect thing to put it all together!
“It just built up, and then I started getting fight offers as there were so few women competing, and this was when Ronda Rousey became a big name, and I found I got loads of opportunities and I pretty much went for all of them. I did quite well, due to my background and it was great! I never intended to compete but I just got the offers and did pretty well!”
The willingness to take this sort of chance and to jump headfirst into a dangerous but exciting career as a fighter, epitomises Bryony’s daredevil alter-ego, that she had previously fed in other ways:
“I used to do skydiving, base jumping and any sort of adrenaline sport I would want to do. When you have children the travelling is more limited and you can’t just go off to New Zealand, but I found that doing MMA I would get that same thrill, and to be honest, it is safer than base jumping!”
However, there is one moment in particular which Bryony does regret, a fight against Liverpudlian Molly McCann:
“To be honest, I think it was wrong of me to ask for that fight. Molly and I have been friends when she lived down South, and I think she was annoyed at me for asking for the fight. I didn’t see it as problematic, and I had just fought Kate Jackson who I was friends with, but she was angry at me for that. The social media was not nice at all, a lot of people slated me on social media, and I found it quite difficult.
“You can tell yourself you don’t care what people think of you but it did get to me. The Liverpool crowd were very hostile and I told my mum not to come as I was worried it would be unpleasant. I took it on short-notice, about 5 weeks, so I didn’t particularly enjoy that whole experience, and I didn’t feel the stoppage was good either.
“I was fine, and it was a world title headlining fight and I was still standing. It was frustrating. I feel like I threw that away, and found the whole experience demoralising. I saw Molly a few months after and it was all fine, but it was not a particularly nice experience.”
Although currently focused on nursing, Bryony envisions a comeback in Bellator, at some stage. She does admit she is unsure if she will get the chance:
“They have just signed a couple of strawweights, so really I wouldn’t mind! Any opportunity on Bellator would be great. I don’t know, I haven’t really got anyone in mind, and I may not even get the fight, I’m not exactly on a good streak and I am quite old so they may not give me an opportunity at all. But we can see what happens and I would be ecstatic for the opportunity.”
Photo Credit: Bellator MMA