“Rowdy” Bec Rawlings, who fights Seohee Ham this Saturday (Sunday in Australia) on the main card of UFC Fight Night: Hunt vs Mir, doesn’t just promise a win anymore.
In fact, the women’s strawweight fighter, whose UFC.com profile aptly lists her main strength as “aggressiveness,” has become fond of the term “Soul Eater.”
“I remember someone said you literally ate (your opponent’s) soul at the weigh-ins and I just loved that saying, so I kind of just adopted it,” the Brisbane fighter said. “I feel like after girls fight me they’re just not the same anymore. (Laughs) Win or lose, they’re just not the same, they’re just traumatized from being punched in the face by me, so I definitely feel like I capture a piece of people’s soul every time I fight.”
When Rawlings fights in front of her friends and family at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre this Saturday, it will be over ten months since her last bout, a first-round rear naked choke victory over Lisa Ellis.
Rawlings was sidelined following a serious hip injury sustained in training. The 27-year-old was forced to undergo surgery that saw three screws placed in her hip.
For many fighters, returning to the bright lights of the UFC’s Octagon after a long layoff results in sensory overload and underperformance, often called ring rust.
But mother of two Rawlings thinks ring rust is imaginary. Perhaps the most successful example of that attitude is UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, who recaptured his title in January with a decision win over TJ Dillashaw after a lengthy battle with injuries. Cruz also happens to be a training partner of Rawlings at Alliance MMA in San Diego.
“I’m with Dominick Cruz on this,” she said. “There’s no such thing as ring rust. There’s only ring rust if you believe there is. I don’t believe there is. I feel like I’ve been training my brain and training all my other body parts. Every day in the gym is a fight for me, so it’s no different when I’m out there in the cage fighting. I don’t feel like there’s gonna be any ring rust or anything like that, I’m just excited to get out there and punch someone in the face. Really, I’ve been going crazy not being able to.”
Cruz’s journey has inspired Rawlings.
“He’s one of my main mentors,” she said of “The Dominator.” “He’s kind of like my psychologist, my fight psychologist, my training partner and my homie all in one. He definitely brings inspiration to me, he’s educating me every day, and I’m grateful to have him as a teammate. He’s definitely helped me out a lot for this camp and my previous camps as well. It’s good to have someone as intelligent and mentally strong as him around you, because you feed off other people’s energy. So I definitely feel like he’s my secret weapon.”
Speak to Rawlings and it’s obvious that she loves fighting. But the heavily tattooed fighter with the ever-changing hair color has gained as much notoriety for her outspoken personality and flamboyant style. She’s not lacking in personality, so does she hope movies and TV are in her future like they have been for other MMA stars?
“Definitely. I love fighting and I’d go crazy if I wasn’t able to fight, but I’m not naive to think I can fight forever. So I definitely need a plan B. I would love to get into movies and things like that as well, so obviously I’m already working on plan B. But right now I’m just focusing on winning fights and chasing that gold. As soon as you get that gold, so many opportunities present themselves, so that’s my main goal right now.”
And a win over Ham will bring her a step closer to that goal of UFC gold.
“I’m coming off my last win last year in Adelaide, so it’ll be cool to keep the ball rolling, but I definitely feel like if I can win two or three more fights I’ll definitely be up there in title contention. It all depends on who I fight and who I put to sleep. I’m just excited to go in there and prove how good I really am and how hard I’ve been working on my skills.”
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Rawlings believes Ham’s style mirrors her own, and she expects a toe-to-toe brawl.
“I think she’s very well rounded. She’s a southpaw, so she poses some threats that orthodox fighters don’t. She’s not afraid to stand in the pocket and bang which I actually really like about her. I think that’s why the style matchup is good and that’s probably why the UFC matched us up because we’re both strikers and we’re both not afraid to stand in the pocket and put on a good show.”
Along with her coaches at Alliance MMA in San Diego, Rawlings has done her homework, and she believes she knows how to get the win.
“I’ve seen a lot of weaknesses in her game, I’ve studied quite a lot of her fights, especially her recent ones in the UFC, so there’s definitely some weaknesses there that me and my coaches have been working on exposing. I think we all have our weaknesses and strengths. If we were all 100% invincible it wouldn’t be any fun (laughs).”
Rawlings doesn’t miss a beat when asked how she sees her fight this weekend unfolding.
“I see a first-round or second-round knockout. I’m going to put her to sleep. I’ve been working on my hands, I’m very confident in my striking and my ability to pick my shots and I’ve just been working a lot on sitting down on my punches, so I feel like I’ve got the power advantage, I’ve got the size advantage and I see myself knocking her out.”