“They told me, ‘We want to groom your career,’ and I said, no, I’m not gonna do that. I want legitimate fighters who have been training as long as I have or longer. I can’t beat up some girl who’s only been fighting for eight months.”
Having hit a dead end in boxing, Long still trained, but it appeared that her fighting days were done. She was approached to fight in Strikeforce, and while she turned the offer down, she eventually made her pro MMA debut on August 15, 2009, decisioning Avery Vilche at the age of 45. Six years later, at 51, she moved to 2-0 with a win over Mixia Medina.
Yes, Long has not stopped being a fighter – and a damn good one at that. I ask the 56-year-old if she wishes she would have come along ten years later to reap the benefits of being an elite competitor in the UFC, where the playing field has been leveled for all fighters in terms of pay and opportunities.
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“There’s a part of me that wishes that, but, at the same time, I was really fortunate to have some media coverage and be able to fight on ESPN and pay-per-view events, as well as Showtime,” she said. “In that respect, I helped to get women more recognized and I’m grateful that I was able to do that and to help in any way, especially to see some kind of equality when it comes to their purses and the fact that they sacrifice just as much as any guy does and maybe more to do what they do as a profession. It’s been a lopsided story the whole time with almost every profession where men and women are working in the same field – men typically get paid more.”
Long helped break down that wall in mixed martial arts, something key to point out as we close out Women’s History Month, and for those who haven’t been exposed to her pioneering work, YouTube is a click away, and you can see the exciting style that had her dubbed “The Princess of Pain” and the “Queen of Mean.” But her style wasn’t designed to put on a show for the fans; it had a deeper meaning than that.
“I am essentially very, very shy and I was completely abused and horribly mistreated by my boyfriend / trainer,” Long said. “And I did it in spite of what he said and in spite of what he did, in spite of everything and all the obstacles he put in front of me. In my mind, there’s nothing he can do once I’m in the ring and by myself. There, it’s just me, so I can rely on me and count on me. And that’s where I did the best. It wasn’t that I wanted to go out there and put on a show. It was that I was completely free to express myself as I wanted to. And that’s the only time I really had to do that.”
To contact Kathy Long for questions or seminars, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org