The Ultimate Fighting Championship has brought the world of mixed martial arts to the mainstage, and like many sports, its athletes have inspired young people to become involved in the game.
For Nelson mixed martial artist Chelsea Bronaugh it was watching a Canadian UFC welterweight champion that helped her become interested in the sport.
“I used to hate it,” said Bronaugh about mixed martial arts. “My brother was actually really into it and I saw a picture of George St. Pierre. He is just so astonishingly beautiful that I wanted to see him wearing significantly less clothing and that could be accomplished by watching the fights.”
But while watching, Bronaugh didn’t only enjoy St. Pierre, she also developed an appreciation for the sport and began looking for a gym where she could begin fighting.
“I found a little gym in Nelson and then I moved on to the big gym in Trail. I always wanted to fight, it was something that I really wanted to do, so they set me up,” she said.
Bronaugh wasn’t involved in karate as a child, instead she did gymnastics and later on, power lifting. But she’s found that both sports have lent themselves to her skills in the cage.
Bronaugh travelled to Lethbridge for her first fight and like many first experiences, her first cage match was memorable.
“We were at the hotel and I woke up deathly ill,” she said. “I had a super high fever and I just sort of laid in bed and cried all day and ate a chocolate bunny. I thought ‘I wouldn’t go to work like this. I wouldn’t go to school like this, and I’m expected to fight like this.’”
She cried all the way to the arena, but as soon as she saw the cage she knew it would be the “best day ever.”
“As soon as I got in it was a place beyond thought. I say that fighting is the ultimate form of self expression. You fire on all cylinders. I was so aware of everything. You just really want to go at the other person,” said Bronaugh.
“You can’t replicate that experience anywhere except in the cage while you’re fighting. You can’t do it in practice. It’s like the other person provides you with a platform where you can explore that side of yourself and vice versa. It’s really intimate. You do have to tap into the primitive part of your brain and set your phasers from stun to kill and just go.”
Compared to boxing or wrestling, the world of mixed martial arts has very few rules.
“There are some that are there to protect us like you can’t hit people in the back of the head, you can’t hit people in the spine and you can’t stomp on peoples faces on the ground. But anything can be used under mixed martial arts and it’s a proven ground to show martial arts as a form of combat,” said Bronaugh.
Even though she uses her fists and feet to fight inside the cage, Bronaugh said she doesn’t like conflict.
“It wasn’t hard for me to tap into my primitive side because I had a really messed up childhood. I’m a pacifist and I don’t get angry,” she said. “I always say my form of conflict resolution is going into the bathroom and crying or eating cookies in the shower or something. I hate conflict. I’m like ‘why can’t we all hug it out.’”
But inside the cage, she connects with something that she believes lays inside everyone.
“I think all people are inherently violent and women are violent in the way that they communicate a lot of the time,” she said.
“Women employ a lot of emotional violence, and it’s all violence. I think that putting yourself outside of your safety or comfort zone and doing something where you’re physically fighting, scratches that itch like nothing else and it gentles the spirit. I’m totally gentle and I never think about hurting anyone ever. I cry when I hear sad news stories.”
When Bronaugh steps in the cage, she draws on a host of martial arts in hopes of defeating her opponent.
Unlike boxing or wrestling, mixed martial arts takes place both on the feet and on the ground.
“The fight can go anywhere. It can be striking or it can be grappling or wrestling with striking. That’s why our gloves have our fingers exposed so we can wrestle. You can use basically any martial art as long as it’s not an illegal technique,” she said.
Some of the martial arts used include judo, Brazilian and Japanese jiu-jitsu, muay thai, kick boxing, boxing and Greco-Roman wrestling.
“If you’re trained in mixed martial arts you tend to use all of those and specialize in them,” said Bronaugh.
Other than what Bronaugh describes as “short term ugly,” which is black eyes and split lips, she hasn’t had any major injuries.
She will be part of the Caged Rage 5 Rapture mixed martial arts event at Element Night Club in Castlegar on Saturday.
Bronaugh doesn’t know much about her opponent.
“All I know is that she’s tall,” she said.
“[Coach] Glen [Kalesniko] likes to keep their identities secret from me. I just got the opportunity to Facebook stalk her two days ago. I believe in going into any situation without many preconceptions because you have to be able to take what comes at you.”
For more information about Saturday’s event visit mmamadhouse.com.