You may not have heard of Aussie Megan Anderson but you probably know Ronda Rousey, the former UFC-golden-girl turned WWE-pro-wrestler whose scowl has cameoed in Entourage and Furious 7. And if you’ve ever googled Ronda, you might have come across Holly Holm, the fighter who kicked Ronda off her UFC pedestal. Literally. In one of the most memorable fights in recent history, Holly caught Ronda with a head kick that signalled the beginning-of-the-end of Ronda's UFC career.
And that long introduction leads us back to Megan. The Gold Coast native is making her UFC debut against Holly at UFC 225 in Chicago on June 9. And here’s why this is all very impressive: Megan only started fighting five years ago and is now one of the top mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters in the world.
Crazy, we know.
We got on the phone to Megan, who’s now based in Kansas, Missouri, to chat about her rise to the top of the MMA ladder, how she's dealt with being bullied on social media because of her body, and why learning to fight taught her to love who she is.
We hear you only started boxing and MMA five years ago for fitness. Is that true?
Yeah, I hadn’t done anything before. I’d done a little bit of soccer in high school, that was about it. I wasn’t an athletic or sporty person growing up. I think it was in May 2013, I went straight into training MMA.
What made you do it?
Funnily enough, I was always one of those people, back in... I’m going to say 2008... that was like, "Oh this is so barbaric, I’m never going to do this," and then it’s the sport I chose!
I went to watch a local MMA fight, and the person I picked the tickets up from was a gym owner and coach. We just got to talking and he was like, “Do you train MMA?”, and I was like, “No, I just go to the gym, and lift weights a few times a week. Nothing really spectacular.” And he was like, “Okay, well if you’re interested, come in have a try. See if you like it and go from there.” A few months later I did, and that was it really.
How long between that point and your first fight?
I think it was like six months. It was relatively quick.
That's not long at all! How did you get to this point where you’re making your UFC debut so quickly?
It’s kind of surreal. There are some people who have been doing this for seven to 10 years that aren’t in the position that I am, so I guess it’s pretty crazy. I do know for females our careers can be fast-tracked because there aren’t as many of us, so it’s slightly easier [than for men]. But I think, what it really is, I have dedicated my entire life to this. This is literally all I do. Like, I think about fighting, everything I do on a daily basis is to improve as a fighter. I’m so dedicated to what I do that I feel like that’s what’s driven me to excel in this sport.
You have a reputation for openly talking about mental health. How has training helped you at all?
A lot of my issues come from being bullied about body issues. I’m 6ft tall, I walk around at 79kg, so I don’t look like a typical Instagram model. MMA gave me confidence, and that’s helped me a lot. Like, I’m confident in the fact that I know that if I wanted to I could stand up to someone bullying me now, I have the tools in place.
You don’t have to look a certain way for people to like you. Everybody is different, and I hope that I can help people feel and understand that about themselves.
Being someone who a lot of people can go on my social media and say a lot of negative things, admittedly at first, it really upset me. But I’m at a point now that I’m like, “I don’t know you, so why should I care about what you say about me?” I think it says more about them, the fact that they’ve gone onto somebody’s profile that they don’t even know and tried to talk negatively about them.
But yeah, with the body image stuff, I still have my moments where I’m like, “Oh, does this look nice?” or “Do I look big in this outfit?”. I think most people do. But I look at it now that my body is built for a reason. I’m physically one of the best athletes in the world at what I do, so why would I want to change that if it helps me be one of the best in the world?
I’ve kind of embraced that and realised that I can help other people. I hope that other people can look at me and think you don’t have to 5ft2, 58kg. You don’t have to be small to be an empowered woman or you don’t have to look a certain way for people to like you. Everybody is different, and I hope that I can help people feel and understand that about themselves. I definitely don’t look like the norm.