Cage fighting not for men only

Martial arts led to local woman's interest in sport

Aug. 1, 2003

Jim Gintonio
The Arizona Republic

While she was growing up, stepping inside of a cage to fight was the furthest thing from Michelle Farrow's mind. "I grew up in a very strict religion, and martial arts was forbidden," Farrow said. Now that her mind-set has changed, she rather enjoys beating her opponents senseless. Farrow, 36, will be in the lone women's fight on the card for Saturday's Rage in the Cage matches at Celebrity Theatre. Farrow (8-2) will fight at 150 pounds. She will meet Nicole Maldonado, a 145-pounder from Tucson who is making her debut. Farrow, who competed in track at Paradise Valley High School, first took an interest in martial arts at the age of 14. Years later, after watching her husband compete, she decided she wanted to try it.

"I started training the next morning, and he trained me at home," said Farrow, who first learned judo and jiu-jitsu. Five years ago, she turned to cage fighting. Her training, five or six days a week, three to four hours a day, has never wavered. Her strongest suit is grappling, and her goal in a match is to win by submission with the use of an arm bar maneuver on her opponent's elbow. "It's pretty intense," said Farrow, who trains at Leininger Martial Arts in Phoenix. "But I train with all men. No girl out there can hit me as hard as one of the guys. "My husband is my main training partner, and he doesn't take it easy on me. He hits me harder than some of the other guys, and he says if I'm going to fight, I need to learn to defend myself."

There are only a handful of women involved in RITC matches, but many more than a few years ago, said Farrow. She said fear has nothing to do with it. "It's not a mainstream sport to begin with, and every time women do a combat sport, men tend to look at it as a sideshow act," she said. "It's good for the sport for women to go in there."

Reach the reporter at [email protected] or (602) 444-8380.