Ronda Rousey has become a pioneer of firsts in the women’s MMA. Her influence has traveled across the world, affecting millions in the process. Specifically, these three young promising athletes.
Evnika is an 8-year-old boxing sensation from Kazakstan. Her quick hands and perfect technique are the result of training since she was 3 years old.
Evnika follows a strict training regimen from her father, Rustam. Rustam does not believe in sparring and fears that it’s harmful in a young boxer’s development of necessary technical skills. So Evnika, following the footsteps of her two brothers and four sisters, trains without a partner and strictly works on perfecting the fundamental techniques.
“During training children have the feeling that you feel when you are dancing,” Rustam said to UFC.com. “It allows athletes to open up, to relieve tension and to move for fun.”
And that’s all it has been about for Evnika thus far: fun. She loves watching fights of Mike Tyson and Manny Pacquiao, though her idols are her brothers and sisters.
Now living in Russia, Rustam doesn’t know what Evnika’s future holds. He said no matter how talented she is, if she does not fall in love with the sport then it will not be her way of life. It’s her choice.
Rustam has a small inclination, though. He sees the way she trains every day and thinks Evnika may have already fallen in love with the sport without knowing it.
The dreams of a young athlete in Mapleton, Utah are set as high as can be. Dreams that don’t just include following the footsteps of her idols, but becoming a wrestling pioneer.
Meet Sage Mortimer, a 13-year-old dedicated wrestler who hopes to become the first female high school wrestling state champion in Utah. Women’s wrestling is not offered as a high school sport in Utah but that hasn’t deterred Sage. She just plans on beating the boys along the way.
Sage comes from a wrestling family. Her dad is a wrestling coach and her brother has been wrestling since he was four years old. When Sage was eight, after watching her brother at practices and tournaments, she asked if she could begin wrestling.
“We decided to let her try it out. That very day she was beating boys that had been wrestling for years,” said Shanille Mortimer, Sage’s mother. “She never looked back.”
Sage kept fighting boys and won the Greco wrestling state tournament in her first year and the Folkstyle and Freestyle state tournaments the following year.
Against girls, she’s a two-time national champion.
Sage rarely has the opportunity to wrestle other girls in Utah but is constantly trying to talk to other girls into wrestling.
"My goal is to win an Olympic gold medal in women's freestyle in 2020 as an 18-year-old," Sage said.
So while she dreams of one day being a women’s Olympic and UFC champion, opening the doors and spreading awareness for women’s wrestling in Utah will have to do for now.
A young girl in Armagh, Ireland was set to begin classes in ballet and Irish dancing. But the 3-year-old had other plans.
Meet JJ, now a 10-year-old turning heads in the world of karate who once had other plans. JJ wasn’t a fan of ballet or dancing, but when she saw other kids in karate gis she wanted to give it a try. It was a perfect match and she fell in love with the sport.
JJ dreams of becoming an Olympic athlete and one day sharing a movie set with iconic heroes Jackie Chan and Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Jon Gagnon is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com Follow him on Twitter at @jgagnonUFC