Montague faces hurdles ahead of MMA world title bid


Combat sports

Traveling the world on her own, unsure of when to return home, Kiwi MMA fighter Michelle Montague won’t be disheartened en route to a world title bid in Kazakhstan.

Michelle Montague doesn’t let a series of obstacles derail her plans to become the Mixed Martial Arts World Champion for the second time.

The local from Matamata suffered the first loss of her nine-fight amateur MMA career at the European Championships last month, but “owns” where things went wrong in her featherweight fight against the talented Sabrina Laurentina De Sousa of Bahrain, the reigning weight class champion.

World lightweight champion Montague remains positive and tries to overcome her obstacles while away from her usual support team. However, she would never use the barriers as an excuse for her performance.

The 27-year-old traveled to the European Championships in Kazan, Russia on her own – having one of her coaches by her side was “too big a demand” in a climate of Covid, she says. Now she has traveled to Florida, USA to train alongside top professional fighters for the world title in Kazakhstan in late November.

Montague also suffers from a minor injury. And she doesn’t know when she will be able to return home – she failed to secure an MIQ place in New Zealand on Monday when another 3,000 places were released.

“I didn’t have room, I was behind about 22,000 other people, it was ridiculous to say the least. I’ll try again on the next version but it’s not looking good, ”says Montague, who hopes for an MIQ opening in mid-December, after the world championships. “The scary idea of ​​not having one means I really need a back-up plan. “

For the most part, the idea of ​​staying put in New Zealand would have been much easier. But Montague has big goals in mind. And like most athletes who are trying to make a living from their sport, the need to persevere is second nature.

Montague has the world championships to focus on and then eventually wants to turn pro early next year. After that, the goal is to land a professional MMA contract.

Despite a favorable 8-1 MMA record, Montague knows turning pro is “another kettle of fish.”

“I’ve had some really good tests over the past six months so I know the next event at the worlds will be another step. And that will probably be the biggest test yet with the skill level that women are now showing in this IMAAF circuit, ”said Montague.

“Also, the whole featherweight division is full of athletic, well-rounded and skilled women, so it will be a big test and we’ll see how well I can do after that.”

Montague advanced to the semi-finals in her first fight in the IMAAF featherweight division, but lost by unanimous decision to Laurentina De Sousa. She will remain at featherweight for the world championships. “But I will have the opportunity to win another division title rather than defend in the heaviest weight class.”

Montague loves a challenge and is ready to take anything. This is how she got into the sport of MMA five years ago. “I’ve just been determined in my life with everything I think about,” she says.

She discovered the combat sport while waiting for the start of rugby training – Montague played for Waikato in the 2017 Farah Palmer Cup. To fill the time, she was watching YouTube clips of Ronda Rousey – the world’s first female MMA superstar. . This made Montague want to “give it a go”.

“I was looking at him and I was like, ‘Oh, I feel like my body is similar in terms of a little thicker body, a little bit muscular, a little bit of body fat and bigger than most average girls.’ “, recalls Montague. “And I saw what she was doing, it wasn’t something crazy like spinning kicks and this and that.”

So she hopped on Google and found out that Core MMA in Hamilton was closest to Matamata where she grew up on the family farm.

Montague, with the fighting nickname ‘The Wild One’, began wrestling and jiu jitsu to bolster his required MMA groundwork. She mastered grappling, comparing it to rugby tackle.

She has since won several wrestling titles in Oceania and is a four-time national jiu jitsu champion. She represented New Zealand at the 2019 wrestling world championships and was part of the 2018 Commonwealth Games squad, but ended up being a spectator after breaking her leg.

At one point, Montague was playing rugby in the morning and then heading to Auckland to compete in MMA in the afternoon.

In 2020, Montague won the categories of Best Female Athlete and Best Performance at the IMMAF Awards. She may have started MMA five years ago, but has only really been active for three years after breaking her legs in two separate accidents.

Michelle Montague (right) playing for Waikato in the second round of the 2017 Farah Palmer Cup against Manukau Counties. Photo: Getty Images.

Her perception of the sport has obviously changed and matured since she first watched Rousey’s fights online.

“After having had a few fights, done a little round the world for that and trained in different places, I was able to broaden my vision of it all. I enjoy what the sport involves much more, ”says Montague, whose coaches are Carlo Meister at Core MMA and Eugene Bareman and Doug Viney at City Kickboxing.

Would she recommend more women in New Zealand to get into MMA?

“Absolutely,” she said. “I’m still trying to do that now with wrestling and also doing ‘take off’ seminars. There are a few fighters from Oceania who are trying to get more women there. It’s so good for your confidence. you, to see how much girls can grow mentally and physically through the sports of MMA.

“Some girls do it to defend themselves, others to lose weight. Whatever it is, it’s addicting in its own way.

She has also seen Core MMA’s women’s classes grow over the years. “And the skills of women too. They go from women’s classes to co-ed classes, and they go with confidence, ”she says.

Montague hopes that with more Kiwi women participating in the sport and doing well on larger stages, the exhibit will encourage more women and girls.

But it’s also a tough sport outside of the cage.

While Montague was trying to achieve her MMA goals, she was also busy funding her business through t-shirt fundraisers and working as a plant manager at Viking Kayaks – the fishing company in kayak from the family his parents started 20 years ago.

“We manufacture and export the best fishing kayaks in the world. While I’m here I can organize export containers to get home a few hours a week or a few times a week, ”says Montague. “And I hope I will also visit our dealership in Texas, that will be great.”

This year alone, she was able to reduce her work hours to focus on training and recovery. She spends at least three days a week there now.

“I make sacrifices in terms of salary, but then again, I know it’s going towards the goals I’m working on,” Montague says. “A lot of amateurs in other countries train full time, so I’m just trying to give myself the best chance.”

Montague loves kayak fishing: “You don’t get seasick, you paddle yourself and you can put a small motor in it. “

Far from MMA, Montague is almost addicted to adrenaline. “I like anything adventurous. When I have free time, I do a bungee jump or a parachute jump. I’m foaming on it, ”she said.

“I like going to the beach and surfing, but I do it once or twice a year nowadays. I often did this with my dad.

“I also like to do DIY projects. During the last lockdown everyone had some free time so I started looking for little things I could do like tables and stuff. She also did a home dojo.

Montague has always been like that. “I was just a wild child my whole life. My parents and my brother are as cold as they got me, ”Montague laughs.

“Ever since I was a kid, I didn’t want to close my eyes during the day in case I missed something fun and exciting. I was always doing super crazy things with motorcycles and karts.

Michelle Montague surfs at Matauri Bay, where her family goes camping together every summer. Photo: provided.

After the European Championship without his usual coaches, Montague still feels “pretty good” physically and mentally. But she still admits it was difficult.

“It took a bit of a toll, and to not come out in that second fight the way I could have, I wasn’t heartbroken or anything, I just knew I had it drunk. so I was a little disappointed. ”she says.

Montague says she almost felt that feeling of losing in a previous fight, so she knew what to expect and could handle the consequences.

“I can own it. Now that I’ve had that feeling, I know that if we fight next time, I don’t want to have that feeling anymore, ”she said. “So in terms of turning things around and playing like I know I can at the world championships, hopefully we can line up for a rematch.”

At the European Championship, Portugal coach Luis Barneto and his six fighters invited Montague to train with their team. “They welcomed me with open arms. Then having him with him and one of the boys in the corner for me as well, with their knowledge bank, was amazing to see them help me, ”said Montague.

She is now training in Florida, at the famous MMA American Top Team gym – alongside professional fighters like Evelyn Martins and Valerie Loureda – while waiting for the world championships in Kazakhstan.

“It was cool. I had the first week and a half here and there are a lot of professional women so it’s great. It’s the same kind of feeling where everyone welcomes you and they’re really happy to train with each other, ”says Montague.

“It’s not like, ‘Oh, the new girl, take her head.’ It’s everyone is there to uplift each other and it’s a nice warm feeling.

“And then the coaches at all levels are both super nice and generous with their time and resources. But also treat me as strictly as they would as one of their own.

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