Covering the Tri-state (Philadelphia/ Delaware/ Southern NJ) regional MMA scene for the last 15 years, I’ve gotten to meet, interview and become friends with some amazing homegrown fighters who have reached the top of their sport. Former UFC Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez, Paul “the Irish Dragon” Felder, Zu “the 8th Wonder” Anyanwu, Jonavin “Spider” Web, Tim “the South Jersey Strangler” Williams, and Anton Berzin have all made appearances in the UFC. Sam ” Sammy O” Oropeza, Jesus”Chavo” Martinez ,and his brother Will Martinez are Bellator vets. Joe Lowry, Sean Brady, Pat Sabatini, and Bill Algeo are rolling right now and are on the cusp of earning a contract from one of the two largest mixed martial arts promotions in the country.
What I am in search of is… who will be the first woman from the area to make her mark and get herself that opportunity on the big stage?
Andrea Wawro has put a dent in and made it to Invicta FC several years ago. Kaitlyn Chookagian has fought in the area, but is a Northern NJ native. I don’t consider her a Philadelphian or a local fighter. Katlyn is now currently making noise in the UFC.
I decided to take a road trip as I reached out to some of the top female prospects, who are currently training and competing in events in hope of being that one lady who makes her way into the spotlight. I reached out to Devon Estes and her bestie, Lisa Edinger, who wasted little time inviting myself and a few other of the area’s top female talent into 302 Jiu-Jitsu for a Muay-Thai class and some sparring.
Gabriela Valdes is scheduled for her MMA debut at Maverick 6 on April 14. Gabbie has two kick-boxing fights under her belt and now trades in the ring for the cage
Taylor Matsinger is currently in camp for her kickboxing debut at USKA Philly Fight Night 3 on April 28th. Taylor has always been an athlete and competitor, and is working out and training with the Martinez BJJ Fight team.
Criszaida Adames is 3-0 in her MMA career and has continually worked on her game with grappling and kick-boxing events. She is one of the most exciting and focused young females fighting in this region and will be on the Maverick 6 card as well attempting to win her first championship. She is also a Team Martinez member and very well-trained.
Lisa Edinger is a fierce competitor and is fighting for her first title as a pro on the same USKA card with Taylor Matsinger. Lisa brings a “take no prisoners” mentality with her into the ring each and every time she goes to battle. It’s a pleasure to watch her work. The future for her also includes crossing over into the cage for MMA.
Devon Estes is clearly the ringleader. Her personality is infectious and people gravitate towards her as she is a bubbly bundle of energy. I marveled at her as she is 6 months pregnant and actively sparring and training to stay in shape and keep her weight down, as well as have a healthy pregnancy. Devon and her fiance, Steve McCabe are instructors at 302 BJJ. Estes is a veteran of kick-boxing and MMA. She loves to stand and throw and plans on having a beautiful baby girl in July, and then being ready to get in the cage or ring by December or January. Fighting is in her blood and she gives me the impression that she won’t be stopped from getting better and better at doing something she obviously loves.
The six of us had a little pow-wow on the mats at 302 (full interview below). We talked about their upcoming contests and the state of women’s MMA. I also got their takes on the big rematch at UFC 223 between current champ,”Thug ” Rose Namajunas and the former holder of the belt, Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Please listen as these ladies are all goal-oriented and hard workers as well as sweethearts outside the gym.
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