There have been many professional mixed martial artists with Philadelphia roots who have had success on the largest of stages of the combat sports world. Former UFC world champ Eddie Alvarez, Paul Felder, Zach Makovsky, Sam Oropeza, Sean Brady and many other males have left their impact on the sport in the cage.
As far as the ladies go, Tara LaRosa and Andria Wawro are the pioneers of professional MMA from Philly. LaRosa began fighting as a pro in 2002 and retired in 2015. I reached out to Andria to ask her about her experiences breaking into the sport as a female. Wawro told us…
“Tara LaRosa was the one female that was fighting pro as I was trying to follow her path. Tara is from Woodstown, NJ but trained out of the Philly Fight Factory. It was difficult to find a fight in the beginning. I trained for over 12 months waiting and waiting in anticipation. I actually injured my knee that I was training so much. I healed up and was able to start getting a few fights. Four amateur fights and then I was able to turn pro. There was no such thing as Invicta. The UFC was not holding women’s fights. I actually ran into Dana White at a UFC event and told him that he was crazy for not having women’s MMA. About 3 years later, he saw the light and the Ronda Rousey era and women’s fighting became a part of the UFC. Bellator was the one larger promotion that would have the females on their cards and I fought in Atlantic City on the Bellator 54 card.”
Wawro’s last fight was in 2016 and since then we have had a little lull in the region with the ladies other than Renzo Gracie’s Jamie Colleen (5-3). That is about to change as a new wave of talented women have arrived on the scene and are determined to reach the lofty status of the men.
Leading this charge is Criszaida Adames. Criszaida is a 26-year-old who has came out of the gates dominantly at 2-0 as a pro after an undefeated (4-0) amateur career. She signed a 3 fight contract with Combate Americas and has a finish and a lopsided unanimous decision thus far. Adames is a member of the very deep pool of fighters at Martinez BJJ in Northeast Philadelphia and has lots of weapons at her disposal but none stronger than her will to succeed. She’s a tireless worker and very savvy. It’s just a matter of time until you will see her at Invicta or in the UFC. Please check out our video interview with this future star on the link above. Cris talks about her first two fights and some of the other women in the region who also like to spend time in the cage.
Other top Philly region female prospects….
Lisa Edinger (Lisa Lynn on social media)…Lisa is currently Pennsylvania’s first and only pro female muay-thai champion as she holds the USKA belt. Lisa is probably tired of me asking her about the crossover to MMA, but I will never give up that dream. She has trained BJJ in the past but she loves striking so I can understand her motives and desires to achieve success there because she is very good at her craft. Lisa is one of my favorite athletes to watch in any sport. She fights angrily, with bad intentions and has non-stop cardio and is an exceptional athlete. She is a problem for anyone who were to step in the ring or cage (hint, hint). If she decides to make the move, she will have success.
Devon Estes is the current Dead Serious amateur female champion. Devon is a lifer as she and her life partner Steve McCabe are instructors at 302 BJJ in Delaware. Estes got her start in Philly and remains a mainstay there in the MMA community as she teaches, learns and works corners for fighters of both sexes. Devon is a student of the sport and is capable of winning a fight anywhere it may wind up. She is also a work-out warrior and very talented. I’ll be surprised if she does not make her pro debut sometime in 2020.
“Bang Bang” Sandy Chheng recently took home the Art of War Cage Fighting female’s amateur championship. Sandy fights like a bully. She has years of BJJ training and has now become a vital part of the team at Blitz Athletics. When the bell rings, you need to be ready because “Bang Bang” sprints out looking to pick up her opponent and smash them into the ground and then inflict ground and pound. She is high energy and has a high ceiling with a very mature demeanor and perspective. Sandy is not far from making the move and beginning to earn a paycheck for her pugilistic talents.
Gabriela Valdes got off to a rough start losing her first two amateur fights. She went through some real life troubles and just needed to get right and now she has bounced back with three straight impressive wins including picking up a belt at Primal Fights. Valdes is a teammate of Devon Estes and they train together on a regular basis. Devon is a tremendous role model for Gabriela and she is headed in the right direction and in the wings behind these other ladies.