A few months ago a 68-year old lady from Colorado shocked the world by competing in a cage fight against a woman who was not even half her age. Many thought she was insane for doing that. But even though she did not win that particular fight, what she did win was the respect of many people of all ages who now see her as an inspiration.

The lady in question, Ann Perez de Tejada, did not just walk into a cage and pick a fight. She has been training in all the disciplines that make up mixed martial arts (MMA) for quite some time; she’s a third-degree black belt in Kenpo Karate, a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (a form of submission grappling), and has been training in Muay Thai (similar to kickboxing) for five years.

ann perez

Photo by Amanda Armstrong at Trihex Photography.

“I started karate when I was 53 [...] I was watching the classes my youngest son was taking and finally worked up the nerve to slink into the back row, where I've been ever since,” she says of how she got started in combat sports. “When I was getting ready to test for my second degree black belt, I started jiu jitsu; a few years later I was invited to train with an MMA fight team and just fell in love with the sport. I gradually developed an overwhelming desire to take a fight myself.”

And fight she did. “I've had two amateur kickboxing fights in a local promotion here in Colorado called Just Bang, sanctioned by the Colorado Muay Thai Association,” Ann says. “We felt my first fight was a success, and would have been a victory had it not been declared an exhibition because my 24-year-old opponent didn't make weight. I lost the second fight by decision; I believe that girl was in her late 40's. At that point, I decided that if I were going to fight again, it would be MMA.”

Taking an MMA fight requires an obscene amount of courage and skills. You just never really know what your opponent will hit you with: besides the usual jab, cross, hook and uppercut, there could be elbow strikes, head kicks, a knee smashed against your face... and that’s just the stand-up portion. You could also get tripped and taken down to the ground or lifted in the air and then slammed on the ground, only to then have to defend a possible submission, which could come in the way of a choke, an armbar, a kneebar or, if your opponent can’t make a submission work, he or she could just go for some good old “ground and pound,” with punches viciously raining down on you until the referee decides to stop the fight. There is a good reason why most pro-MMA fighters usually train six days a week for more than three hours a day.

That said, it is not surprising that many people would react negatively to a 68-year-old woman giving cage fighting a try. But if someone who has some MMA training watches the video of Ann’s fight, he or she will notice that Ann actually had a game plan and was not simply “winging it.” It is easy to see how Ann catches her opponent’s leg and then tries to take her to the ground by pushing her back. Later on, when her opponent takes Ann down, you can see Ann moving around, trying to avoid staying flat on the ground and really attempting to get into guard position (in which she would wrap her legs around the opponent’s waist, making it harder for the opponent to submit her.)

Unfortunately, things didn’t go Ann’s way that day, but just because she lost the fight doesn’t mean she doesn’t know how to fight. Even Ronda Rousey has lost - and was actually knocked out. Furthermore, Ann was cleared by two physicians and met all Boxing Commission requirements. "Most important of all," she stresses, "I was cleared by my two coaches, who between them have over 60 cage fights." Her coaches are Luke Caudillo, a UFC vet and coach of the amateur fight team at Grudge Training Center, and Nick Honstein, a former Australian national champ, Cage Fury Fighting Championships national champ, and Titan FC fighter.

Post fight w Nick Honstein Luke Caudillo

Ann poses with her coaches Nick and Luke post-fight

Still, when video of the fight hit the internet, so began the onslaught of armchair MMA critics who described the fight as “disturbing.” “a freak show” and “mind-boggling.”

“I believe that there were so many negative comments due to the first couple of write-ups that came out on blogs, which were simply made up since no one contacted any of us,” Ann says. “They were filled with errors, the worst being saying that I was knocked out when all I got was a small cut closed with a steri-strip. I wasn't knocked out or even rocked," she adds. 

Ann's opponent also got her fair share of criticism for going all out on Ann, but Ann wouldn't have it any other way. "Both my opponent and the referee were awesome! [My opponent] has been criticized for fighting hard, when that's what she is supposed to do - why anyone would be stupid enough to actually say that is beyond me! The ref did not stop the fight early; he gave me every chance to get out of the position, and then stopped the fight when I couldn't - all by the book."

While Ann says she was appalled at the viciousness of many of the comments, she also says she understands that people want to believe what they read, and unscrupulous “journalists” can easily cash in by sensationalizing the way they present the issue,” Ann notes. "Bottom line - age IS just a number, and if you're in there, you play by the same rules as everyone else, whether your 18 or 68," she says.

Despite the internet snark-fest, Ann actually gained many fans thanks to that fight. “[The support from the fans] and of many fighters, training partners, and others from the fight community more than made up for the negative comments, especially as the real story has started to be disseminated,” Ann says. “I've found along this journey that friends and supporters pop up in the most unexpected places.”

Since the fight, Ann has become somewhat of a celebrity. She has been featured in Fox and NBC, among other mainstream media outlets. She also says she has gained many new Facebook friends. But her life hasn’t changed much. “I'm still training, working on the things that need to be fixed, and of course I have a higher profile than I did before – doing interviews and videos is definitely a new experience for me,” she adds.

While Ann hasn’t given much thought to future fights she would like to have, she definitely wants to get in the cage again. “I would like to take another fight sometime in the next few months if the stars align, and I do plan to stick with MMA as long as I can.”


T. Rosa

T. Rosa

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