Barely 48 hours after her dominant flyweight victory in Bellator 223, I caught up with England’s Kate Jackson. Kate’s opponent Lena Ovchynnikova was subjected to a brutal ground assault, which ultimately ended in a first round TKO. This was just the most recent chapter in Kate’s very successful career. She holds an impressive professional record of 11 wins, 3 losses and a single draw.
Although Flyweight is her preferred division, Kate did a brief stint at strawweight hoping to increase her chances of being matched. She then returned to flyweight for her Bellator debut against Colleen Schneider. Colleen herself was coming down from bantamweight and Kate admits she was a little concerned. Her fears proved unfounded, however, and she took the win via TKO. Kate says that while she is technically able to get down to strawweight, she feels much happier in her natural weight class.
Kate’s professional career spans a decade, with many of her early wins coming by way of standing TKOs. En route to Wembley she has fought on a number of promotions, including Cage Warriors and LFN. She also appeared on Season 23 of The Ultimate fighter, before eventually signing with Bellator.
Kate is now an emerging jewel in the crown of British MMA and I was interested to find out where her incredible journey began.
Kate started Karate at the age of 15 with a friend. As these things often go with teenagers, Jackson had agreed to learn to dive with the friend in exchange, but that wasn’t to be. Kate was immediately drawn to combat sports, soon progressing to Judo. By the time she was in University, she has begun grappling. Through following Rosi Sexton, who was at the time one of the most visible women in the sport, Kate’s interest in MMA began to flourish. And in time, the opportunities presented themselves.
2009 saw Kate take on her first professional MMA fight against Kate Hopping. She won the fight convincingly with a 48 second TKO.
“I still didn’t know what I was doing. It was actually reffed by Marc Goddard. I remember he pulled me off her. I was expecting him, like in boxing, to give her an 8 count and be ready to go again, and I was like ‘oh, I won!’ That for me was more about finding out if all the stuff I had been doing up until then, actually worked.”
Delighted if slightly scared after that initial victory, Kate just kept going with the sport. Although she admits she wasn’t even quite sure of the rule set back then. The sport was very much in its infancy, and her career has grown up alongside it.
Kate decided to drop karate and judo in order to focus on MMA, kick boxing and jiu jitsu. She didn’t immerse herself fully into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu until 2012. She now holds a brown belt in the discipline. She is supremely modest about this achievement.
“I kinda feel like I more or less know what I am doing on the ground now, which is nice.”
In spite of starting off as a striker, commentators now regard Kate as an expert in grappling. This is partly due to Bellator allowing her to take part in Jiu Jitsu competitions without prior arrangement, whereas striking matches are not permitted. This has naturally guided her focus. Staying active in BJJ competitions has helped the 32-year-old to avoid cage rust, despite the 13-month gap between her two most recent fights.
Kate has spent large parts of her career to date as the away fighter, due to the lack of opportunities on home soil. While she says that fighting away was always a great experience, you can’t replicate the feeling of having the home crowd behind you. Now dubbed “Queen Kate” she is clearly a fan favourite. Last weekend, the London crowd delighted in getting behind their home-grown hero.
“It’s just really amazing going around the arena afterwards, getting to chat to people and hearing them cheering. It’s not something I had had for quite a long time… The whole experience was absolutely amazing from start to finish.”
Ms. Jackson, still a young woman, is in the unique and enviable position of hitting her fighting prime, with a decade of experience in the sport already under her belt. I was curious to hear how she feels the sport has evolved over the past ten years, since her professional debut.
“There have been massive improvements over the last ten years. There was a pretty non-existent pro scene ten years ago, whereas now amateur MMA in the UK and Ireland is looking really good. There are at least half a dozen women that have just been competing at the European Championships in Rome and got some really god results. The opportunities now are amazing…For me now it’s not about lack of opponents, it’s purely down to what Bellator want to do with the division.”
Having seen Kate take such a convincing win last Saturday, with a first-round stoppage, I for one am excited to see what the future holds for the woman from Cornwall. As the bout against Lena was the last in her four fight Bellator contract, Kate is waiting to see what will happen next. The possibilities, it seems, are endless.
There is no clear number one contender. Kristina Williams will face Juliana Velasquez in Bellator 224 next month. The winner of this fight will be in the mix Kate and Denise Kielholtz.
“I think it’s all up in the air until next month’s fight happens. I am quite happy to fight once more if that gets me the number one contender position”
Of the two upcoming European events, Dublin in September and Milan in October, Kate had this to say,
“Any of those would be really good if they’ve (Bellator) got someone they want me to fight before a potential Title shot. So, it’s wait and see what they come back with.”
In terms of potential opponents, Denise Kielholtz (3-2) is an option, however, Kate would prefer to be matched with someone closer to her own experience level.
“I like the look of Alejandra Lara (12-6-1)”
Kate was obviously frustrated by the longer than expected gap between fights, however she seems very philosophical about the whole experience. Using the BJJ competition circuit to keep her skills honed. With this proactive approach, I am sure whatever comes next for Kate, she will be ready for it. We wish her the very best for the future and look forward to seeing her back in action very soon.