Michelle Waterson is a working mum - and a Mixed Martial Arts fighter.

Take Your Daughter to Work Day is a little different for Michelle Waterson.

Her daughter Araya, six, has seen Waterson with a broken hand and a huge black eye—not the usual for the board room, but certainly a possibility for the locker room following a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) bout in the octagon.

It’s at that moment, says Waterson, 31, a professional MMA fighter now ranked among the top 10 for her class (strawweight ), that she is able to impart a visceral lesson on resiliency to her girl.

“I tell her Mummy’s fine. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.”

Speaking at Mobilising the Power of Women, a New York City event hosted by Ellevate Network, on June 21, Waterson said she followed her brothers into martial arts 20 years ago.

“I was always ‘Yes, ma’am’ to everyone,” she says.

michelle waterson MMA
Michelle credits martial arts with lifting her confidence. Image via Getty.

"I didn't have the confidence to get through high school. Martial arts gave me the voice I needed to carry on in life."

It also gave her a career—and a brand. Today, the 5ft. 3in fighter, also known as the Karate Hottie, is on "the fast track to becoming one of MMA's most famous athletes, regardless of weight or gender," according to Bleacher Report.

Waterson credits her hard-fought success on her hard work to prepare for each bout, and her husband, former boxer Joshua Gomez, who gave up his career to support hers as well as their family.

"I think it takes a strong man to say, 'My wife is a badass' and support her all the way," says Waterson of Gomez.


It takes eight to 10 weeks to prepare for a bout that can last just 15 to 20 punishing minutes.

"Only I know if I've put in 100 per cent," says Waterson.

"Everyone asks, 'Are you ready?' But only I know if I put the work in. If everything isn't aligned physically, spiritually, then you're not going to be ready."

But, she adds, "if I put the work in, then I can let the punches fly and what's going to happen happens."

Which brings her to the locker room, where her other roles as a wife and mother await.

Waterson notes that her pregnancy arrived in the middle of her fighting career and that she wasn't sure at first what impact it would have.

Ten months after giving birth—and a few hours after breastfeeding—Waterson was back in the octagon.

Today, when Araya asks why Mummy has boo boos, Waterson says she tells her: "In a fight, there are only two outcomes: You win or you lose. Victory is amazing, failure is not."

"And," she adds, "I don't say 'Mummy's a female fighter.' I say 'Mummy's a fighter. Mummy's a warrior.'"