MMA and Autism: One fighter is fighting both fights

By: Nick Portella

Good day fight fans!

Today we have a very special guest. I will be sitting down with a rising amateur MMA fighter and ambassador for autism awareness Serena “The Southpaw Outlaw” DeJesus. She will be stepping into the cage April 1 to go after the bantamweight title and has done miles of good for autism awareness so far. Let’s have a seat with Serena and get to know her a whole lot better.

Nick: What does it mean (for you) to be a fighter?
Serena: It means I can be a role model and do something that I love all at the same time. It is something you will never learn 100% of and it keeps changing therefore something of a fun journey through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

Nick: At what age did you begin to train martial arts?
Serena: I did some Taekwondo in my preteen and teenage years. It wasn’t until after high school I got into Muay Thai and BJJ and I loved it. One thing lead to another and here I am.

Nick: What belts do you have and in what disciplines?
Serena: I have a blue belt in BJJ but that is because I am never been around for belt testing. I tend to like no gi more, but this year I’m going to try and focus more on gi so I can maybe get my purple belt

Nick: What camp do you train out of? How long have you been with them?
Serena: I train at Syndicate MMA. I was at first bouncing from them and back home in Philadelphia, but now it’s been a year that I have been with them and I don’t regret it at all. My coach John Wood along with the other coaches and my teammates have really been key in my growth as a mixed martial artist and I can’t see myself with any other team

Nick: With your title fight coming up quickly how has your training camp been going?
Serena: It going pretty good. I am just doing what I always do when I have a fight coming up. Staying focused!

Nick: What would you say your biggest strength is inside the cage?
Serena: I’m unorthodox in every sense of the word.

Nick: With a 4-1 record and a title pending when do you plan to make your professional debut?
Serena: Whenever it feels right I will make my debut. I will have to talk with my coaches about that one.

Nick: 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?
Serena: I diet down to 145 then cut the rest of the weight off in water. I really don’t feel too much of an impact because I diet slowly.

Nick: What advice can you give to new fighters starting out who want to make this a career?
Serena: Find a gym that feels like family. Train as much and as hard as possible, and always remember to have fun while doing it.

Nick: April 1 you will be facing Courtney “The Lion” King for the Fusion Fight League bantamweight title. Do you have a prediction for the fight?
Serena: I predict a hard fought and entertaining war. I’m pretty strong so I’m going to be more forceful than normal and put as much pressure on her as possible.

Nick: I know that you are very involved with Autism awareness being autistic yourself. Does this play a part in why you began to fight?
Serena: Of course. Not only am I autistic, but two of my siblings are also. There are not any autistic role models out in the world. I wish there were some as I was growing up. In my eyes I am trying to be the idol I wished I had. In doing so I hope I am a good role model for others on the spectrum to emulate.

Serena was clear about thanking everyone along her journey. Thanks to friends, family, supporters, her camp, followers, and fans.

Facts about Autism:

What is autism spectrum disorder?

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. We now know that there is not one autism but many types, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences.

The term “spectrum” reflects the wide variation in challenges and strengths possessed by each person with autism.

Autism’s most-obvious signs tend to appear between 2 and 3 years of age. In some cases, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Some developmental delays associated with autism can be identified and addressed even earlier. Autism Speaks urges parents with concerns to seek evaluation without delay, as early intervention can improve outcomes.

Some facts about autism 

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates autism’s prevalence as 1 in 68 children in the United States. This includes 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls.
  • An estimated 50,000 teens with autism become adults – and lose school-based autism services – each year.
  • Around one third of people with autism remain nonverbal.
  • Around one third of people with autism have an intellectual disability.
  • Certain medical and mental health issues frequently accompany autism. They include gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, seizures, sleep disturbances, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety and phobias.

Interested in Helping?

If you you interested in helping Serena raise money for autism awareness please send donations to Serena via Paypal at Every little bit can help. Also please visit Martial Arts Life on Facebook where they will be selling t-shirts for $20 each to help raise money also.

You can keep up with Serena on Tumblr at

or give her a follow on Twitter @SerenaSouthpaw
Her instagram is: serenasouthpaw

I absolutely enjoyed interviewing Serena. She is an amazing woman doing great things to help others. I wish her all the best in her title fight, and will be keeping up with her, her career, and her progress to help with autism awareness. Please give me a follow on Twitter @NickPortellaMMA and also follow @themmatakeover as we will be putting out updates as well.

Nick Portella.

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