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Cory McKenna trains at the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas, Nevada, on August 3, 2022. (Photo by Zac Pacleb/Zuffa LLC)
Athletes

Cory McKenna Wants To Ride The Wave Of Momentum

Welsh Strawweight Cory McKenna Hopes To Parlay A Career-Best Performance Into Another Good Result At UFC Fight Night: Cannonier vs Strickland

Mixed martial arts is unforgiving, and when a young fighter hits a moment of adversity, their response is often indicative of whether they’ll have the ability to have a long career in the sport. For 23-year-old Cory McKenna, she experienced that in two ways after her debut win over Kay Hansen in November 2020. First, she suffered a torn ligament in her knee, as well as a broken ankle, in the fight. After more than a year away, she met her second speed bump of her UFC career: a split decision loss to Elise Reed in London last March.

Five months later, however, she bounced back with the best performance of her career against Miranda Granger. Showing a sharpened skill set, McKenna ended the bout in the second round with a Von Flue choke submission. The performance was a career-best, and she is hoping to carry that momentum through at UFC Fight Night: Cannonier vs Strickland.

Fight By Fight Preview | UFC Fight Night: Cannonier vs Strickland

“I want to constantly be improving and having similar results and people saying the same things in my future fights, too,” McKenna told UFC.com.  “So hopefully on Saturday I'll get to do that and show everybody I'm continuing to grow and develop as an athlete.”

Cory McKenna Sinks In Von Flue Choke Submission Against Granger | UFC Fight Night: Santos vs Hill
Cory McKenna Sinks In Von Flue Choke Submission Against Granger | UFC Fight Night: Santos vs Hill
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In her sights now is fellow Contender Series alumna Cheyenne Vlismas, who is also 7-2 with two wins in the Octagon and a finish to her name. 

All McKenna sees it as is a perfect test for this point of her young career, and an ideal way to build up some more hype as she progresses her way through the strawweight division.

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“I want to ride that wave,” she said. “Hopefully get the same or similar result this fight. It was very emotional after that fight coming off the loss. I had a really hard year or two of injuries and stuff, so it was really nice to go out there and put on a performance that I felt finally kind of showed everyone what I'm capable of.”

Although McKenna has made quite a home for herself in Sacramento, California, with Team Alpha Male, the Welsh phenom made her way down to San Diego to work with the women at Alliance Jiu Jitsu. There, she rolled with the likes of Angela Hill and Jessica Penne. 

Cory McKenna Fight Week Interview | UFC Fight Night: Cannonier vs Strickland
Cory McKenna Fight Week Interview | UFC Fight Night: Cannonier vs Strickland
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She also made stops at 10th Planet and “loads of different gyms” to work with different bodies on the mat and improve her game.

“It was really nice because I feel the very like-minded individuals got along really well down there,” McKenna said. “I still stay in contact with them and everything, so they're just really supportive and on the same page. (Hill) was in camp, I was in camp, so it kind of worked out perfect. It's great to do that alongside them.”

View McKenna's Athlete Profile

Heading into her fourth trip to the Octagon, it feels like McKenna is settling into life as a UFC fighter. She has her training camps settled and is working with high-level peers. She has a finish to her name and a pair of wins under her belt. 

It’s the life she envisioned for herself when she started her MMA journey. McKenna doesn’t quite recall the first moment she felt like her dream could manifest into her reality, but after a few amateur bouts, the joy she gained from it was undeniable. As a self-described “very committed person,” she knew if she threw 100 percent of herself into it, she could make good on her UFC aspirations.

“It’s pretty cool to see that all those dreams come true,” McKenna said. “It takes a lot of hard work, a lot of years, a lot of ups and downs, highs and lows, but it's really satisfying, and hopefully I'm not done yet. I still got big goals to accomplish. But yeah, it's been a rollercoaster.”

As she approaches her third fight in the UFC APEX, she also admits she does enjoy the cozy and close confines of the building. Of course, it helps that she is perfect through two jaunts to the smaller Octagon.

Overall, though, she is most eager to display the improvements she made over the last four months, ones that are the product of a life’s work. Although McKenna understands her strengths lean toward grappling and pressure, she does have a sneaky confidence in her striking, something she might display against the always-aggressive Vlismas. Either way, however, she knows getting her hand raised is the most crucial, which is why that is her lone focus on December 17.

“It's going to show everyone what I'm capable of, what I've been working on, and how hard I have worked over the over the last decade or so,” she said. “I think it's going to be a very exciting fight. She likes to keep it exciting, I like to keep the pressure on, so I think it's going to be fun.”

UFC Fight Night: Cannonier vs Strickland took place live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas on December 17, 2022. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass