By Bob McDonnell
Summer vacation is no time to sit around for Sierra Suits.
The Berthoud High School soon-to-be junior spends her days this summer working out. Her goal is to be a professional mixed-martial-arts (MMA) fighter.
A typical day for Suits includes sessions at Loveland’s Seraphim MMA gym from 9 to 11 a.m. or noon. She returns to the gym at 3 p.m., sometimes staying until 8 p.m. or after. She warms up for these activities with a run each morning. In her spare time, Suits babysits.
Bob Gilstrap, Seraphim MMA’s owner also calls himself a head coach and manager of all the gym’s clients who fight competitively. Suits started at the gym in May of 2012, according to Gilstrap.
Suits trains not only in mixed martial arts but also in jiu-jitsu. Gilstrap defines the difference between the two as MMA involves full contact, while there is no striking in jiu-jitsu. He said that Suits already earned three gold and one silver medal in jiu-jitsu competitions.
Recently, the 16-year-old Suits traveled to Montana for her first mixed-martial-arts competition. Gilstrap explained that he does not ask his students to compete but that they ask him when they are ready.
Suits felt she wanted to fight, even at her young age. This age came into play when she learned her female opponent was 10 years older than she.
“Most fighters go through a rainbow of emotions before a fight,” Gilstrap said.
These include thoughts of being scared and wondering if they are ready. Gilstrap said that many men in their 20s and 30s bail out before their first fight because of these conflicting feelings.
Suits did not.
In Gilstrap’s words, Suits “dominated” her elder opponent in Montana. He credits this in part to her participation in jiu-jitsu contests that involved fighting before a crowd.
As a former mixed-martial-arts fighter himself, Gilstrap immediately noticed that Suits embraces the sport and studies it.
She is an example of “putting your mind to it” and knowing that “age doesn’t matter,” he said.
Suits plans to discontinue any high school sports and concentrate on mixed martial arts. Her next competition on June 28 takes place in Denver. Gilstrap plans for her to fight again in September.
With more experience and maturity, Suits saidher goal is to someday go pro and fight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the largest mixed-martial-arts promotional company in the world, according to espn.com.
If determination, hard work and focus count, Suits should reach her goal.