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Friday, May 18, 2012

Alpha Female: How Miki’ala Freitas’ Determination To ‘Keep Up With The Boys’ Has Propelled Her Towards MMA Stardom

Miki'ala Freitas

By Jon Pritchard

Miki’ala Freitas has always been just “one of the guys.” As a kid growing up in Hawaii, she had two older brothers and a handful of male cousins to compete with. Whether it was boxing, surfing, football, hiking, or even fishing, they pushed her to keep up—and she pushed herself even harder to not disappoint.

Now 26 years-old, Freitas has grown up, but she still takes time to reflect back on those days with affection and gratitude because, without them, she might not have developed the spirit and the heart she has today—the heart and soul of a warrior.

“I caught plenty of beatings from my brothers as we competed growing up,” she recalls. “They were definitely key in building my overall toughness. They never cut me any slack, and they always expected me to keep up. They molded all of my athletic abilities.”

Freitas—who also remembers her father holding pillows so that she could work on combinations as a little girl—is now a rising MMA star. After dominating her fights on the amateur circuit, she has an upcoming matchup scheduled for June 22 in Roseville, California that may very well be her last—before she turns Pro that is.

Just as she has her real brothers to thank for sharpening her warrior instincts, she has another group of “brothers” to thank for sharpening her skills and advancing her fight career every day at the gym. One of them is UFC lightweight Danny Castillo, who recently defeated John Cholish (unanimous decision) at UFC on Fox 3 to improve his record to 4-1 since being called up to ‘the big leagues.’

After meeting at his gym a couple of years back, Castillo and Freitas remained close buddies, and Castillo has been an influential figure in Freitas’ development.

“I knew she had trained Muay Thai and had a couple of fights,” Castillo recalls. “And one day she told me she wanted to have her first MMA fight. I was nervous for her because I knew she didn’t have much experience on the ground. I thought I needed to show her a little submission defense first, but she was a lot better than I expected. Because of her athletic ability and strength, she was able to learn and adapt to every situation.”

Freitas began formal training at the Muay Thai Lao gym back in 2009, while attending school at Sacramento State University as a Kinesiology major. But after she won her first cage fight, she grew curious about mixed martial arts and branched out to UFC superstar Urijah Faber’s—Ultimate Fitness.

She quickly fell in love with the sport, even going so far as to put her college degree on hold in order to train harder.

“I just enjoy the challenge of competing one-on-one with another person,” she says. “I love the fact that I can singlehandedly control the outcome of a fight—it’s exciting to me. And really, my favorite part is when you step into the ring in front of a crowd, the adrenaline hits, and you can do things you never imagined possible.”

Freitas (left) working the Thai pads during a training session in Thailand

One Castillo realized her talent and her commitment; he extended her a simple gesture that would change everything…

“I invited her to our pro practice at Team Alpha Male, and Miki’ shocked me, again. She looked awesome sparring and wrestling with some of our fly weights. The whole team was impressed with her, and we welcomed her back. There’s no question that if Miki’ continues to train as hard as she, she’ll have a bright future in the sport of women’s MMA.”

And so she’s since been the lone female training with Team Alpha Male—and sparring and rolling with hardened UFC fighters like Castillo and Faber.  Undoubtedly one of the most elite fight teams in the sport, it also counts several other UFC fighters – Chad Mendes, Joseph Benavides, Danny Castillo, and Justin Buchholz – as members.

“I’m the only girl, so they kind of baby me—but those guys have all taken me under their wing and are always willing to give me extra help,” she says. “It’s definitely a huge benefit training there…especially for working on my wrestling, jiu jitsu, and MMA sparring. But, I still like to joke and call it Team Alpha Female.”

In preparation for her upcoming MMA bout, Miki’ has actually committed to nearly three months of Muay Thai training at the Tiger Muay Thai and MMA training camp in Thailand. And the routine hasn’t been for the faint of heart.

She’s put in two-hour practices, twice-a-day with legendary Thai trainers, six days per week—and added weights or cardio in-between sessions. It’s no wonder that she recently demolished two professional opponents at a nearby Thai boxing stadium in Patong Beach.

To everyone in the stands on those nights, it was clear that Freitas has a ferocious stand-up game. The constant sounds of “ooo…” and “ahh…” from the crowd said it all, as she pummeled her opponents with power and precision.

“My roots are in Muay Thai, man. I love it… I definitely like to keep it standing (in MMA).”

And so that’s what the 125-pounder will hope to do in her upcoming fight in California. But given her athletic abilities, which can only really be classified as “special,” and the new skills she’s learned from Faber and Castillo and the rest of the boys down at Team Alpha Male, it’s likely that she’ll have no problems on the ground, either.

Regardless, Freitas will turn pro very soon. And it should come as no surprise to those brothers back in Maui because on that day, the blood, sweat, and tears of keeping up with the boys for so long will finally pay off.
Follow Jon Pritchard on Twitter @wellrounded_man

posted by FCF Staff @ 10:55 am
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