By: Nick Portella
What’s good fight fans. Today i will be talking with the amazing Grace Cleveland. Grace is fresh on her contract with King of the Cage and looking to make a splash in the MMA world. Let’s sit down with Grace and see what is going on.
Nick: Congratulations on signing an exclusive deal with King of the Cage. How does that feel?
Grace: Signing a contract with King of the Cage I think was a good option because they have a good number of women in the atomweight division. Very good names of challengers to fight and also to give me the push in experience I need. I think it will be fun fighting for them and I hope to impress them.
Nick: What does it mean (for you) to be a fighter?
Grace: Honestly for me it is pretty simple because being a fighter is fun. I do it because I love the sport. I’m happy everyday walking into the gym and training with great people. It’s inspiring itself and to live it and do it is an amazing feeling. I get to meet genuine people that help me and I hope in the long run I can help others. I think as a fighter it creates you to be open with yourself and be you.
Nick: At what age did you begin to train martial arts?
Grace: I got into martial arts when I was 18. I saw it on television and I immediately told myself that this is what I want to do. It took me a year to really find a good gym to call home. It is definitely not easy. Especially being a tiny woman at the time. Basically at 19 I really started training consistently at a gym that actually took me in and taught me a lot.
Nick: What belts disciplines do you train and what belts do you have in them?
Grace: I try learn and train the most basics disciplines you need for MMA. I do muay thai, jiu-jitsu, judo and wrestling mainly. It all chains together when you fight in the cage. At least you hope so. It isn’t easy all the time. I’m really not ranked in any of the activities by belts.
Nick: With an ammy record of 5-1 what made you decide to go to the professional level?
Grace: I had a conversation with my head coach. He has worked really hard with me and so has my team in making me the fighter I am today. He saw potential and told me that I’m doing very well and since I’m beating my opponents quick he thought it would be a good move for me and my career. I trust in my coaches and I believe in myself so why not.
Nick: What camp do you train out of? How long have you been with them?
Grace: I used to train at FactoryX Muay Thai in Englewood, Co. I was with them basically 4 years and did all my fight camps there. I recently switched over to High Altitude Mix Martial Art. This is my first fight camp with them so it has been fun and still learning everyday. I also travel and train with Easton Bjj Centennial and doing some training at 303 Training Center. It has been a great learning experience and I’m excited for April 15th and perform.
Nick: With your fighting background to you prefer to keep the fight standing or take it to the ground?
Grace: So I personally don’t mind standing, but most of my fight go to the ground. I would say l try stay comfortable everywhere, but dominate on the ground mainly. I enjoy all of it though and hope to be a well rounded fighter, explosive, and entertaining.
Nick: What is your biggest strength as a fighter?
Grace: My biggest strength as a fighter is being active and moving. Knowing how to get in range and using what I learn or muscle memory. I try use all the skills as a MMA fighter and not focus on just one skill. As for my greatest weakness it is food.
Nick: What is your favorite strike/submission to use in any fight?
Grace: I don’t have a favorite strike or submission in a fight. I just go for what I see or what they want to give me. Just keeping my eye outs for opening and things I can take. I do win most of my fights in armbars, but I couldn’t say it is my favorite. My great friend Jennifer Perez who is a purple belt told me that an arm will always be there. People tend to leave them out there or give it to you in a fight.
Nick: Do you feel that you represent the next generation of fighter? Do you have any added pressure to represent it?
Grace: I hope I can represent the next generation of fighters, but I honestly my goal is to just have fun on this journey and take it as far as I can. I don’t do it to be a role-model or to represent the next generation of fighters, but to live my life as me and do what I love. I feel there is a pressure to be one of the top female fighters and I don’t mind it. It is a good feeling and awaking that I’m here and I need to be ready. I get a little nervous though which is natural as a being human and doing things that push me to be out of comfort zone. I like it because I am growing and learning to adapt to the changes and different obstacles. So it helps me deal with the pressure knowing that I’m going to be the better person on the other side from this experience.
Nick: With cutting weight and fighter safety always being a priority, what methods of cutting weight do you use? How much weight do you usually have to cut before a fight? Do you feel the weight cut has a major impact on your strength before a fight?
Grace: For my weight cuts I sometimes start a month out and start eating smaller portions of what I usually eat. I tend to cook more and eat more seafood and less carbs. I don’t have to change to much because I naturally eat healthy food, I just tend to eat double the calories a person my size should eat. Oh also I love beans and rice so I have to stay away from that in my camps!! I water load and eventually a couple days before my fight I should wake up on weight or only have to cut 2 to 1 pound in water. I am not a fan of water cut because I feel it isn’t healthy or good for your organs and functioning in general I think recovery is tougher from a water cut also and it drains you mentally and physically so I try my best to stay away from water cuts.
Nick: Your nickname is the Thai Kitten. Who gave it to you? Why?
Grace: My coach came up with it and then my teammates started calling me it too. I’m originally born in Chiang Mai, Thailand and came to Colorado at the age 4. Anyways that is where the thai part came from and the kitten is probably because I’m this cute little thing, but if you mess with my I get feisty and my claws come out.
Nick: You understand that marketing is important in the sport. What tips would you give young up and coming fighters on the balance of presenting yourself based on beauty vs. brawn or skill alone?
Grace: For me marketing myself is just being who I am. Do what you are comfortable with and sharing. Your selling yourself however you want. If you want to glam yourself for attention do it. Get recognized on how amazing and exciting of a fighter you are. Showing people how active you are in the community is great and if you have great social skills and use them correctly to gain more ears and eyes is also a plus. There are many ways you can market yourself.
Nick: Do you have plans to ever sign with the UFC or Bellator?
Grace: I would love to be apart of the UFC when they open the division up. That would definitely be a dream and it gives me chills even thinking about typing these words! When the day comes it would feel unreal to be there. I’d have to get punched to make sure I’m not dreaming. Bellator would be awesome experience too and whatever happens in a year or two will tell my future and where I decide to go. I will do what is best for me.
Nick: Who is your favorite MMA fighter past or present?
Grace: I would say my favorite MMA fighter is Michael Chandler. I love how intense he is and the pressure he brings. He has heart and was exciting to watch.
Nick: Grace have you submitted to the takeover?
Grace: This is Grace “Thai Kitten” Cleveland and I have submitted to the takeover.
What left is there to say. Grace is the perfect mix between beauty and brawn. I enjoyed talking with her and wish her all the best in her pursuit of her MMA career. Signing off for TheMMATakeOver.com this is Nick Portella. @NickPortellaMMA