CELEBRATING Women's History Month
Updated: Apr 5
LF: Who is your female inspiration?
AW: Angela Davis, whom I was named after, for her activism against racial inequality.
TM: Honestly, I really struggled to answer this question – only recently have I started going out of my way to follow other female fighters and watch high-level women's matches. Most of us train almost exclusively with men, so I think its really beneficial to watch women put on beautiful displays of combat sports (be it Muay Thai, boxing or MMA) – there's something different about watching a woman do it. Anissa Meksen, Tiffany Van Soest, Caley Reece, Miriam Nakamoto, Brooke Farrell, Ashley Nichols, Sofia Olafsson, there are so many women who have done/are doing incredible things in the sport. I couldn't pin down a single inspiration, but its definitely inspirational to see other women living the fight-life, watch performances and listen to pre- and post-fight interviews. I think it helps me imagine myself and my reactions when fight day rolls around.
LF: What has been your proudest moment so far?
AW: Overall, I'm just proud to be representing Puerto Rico in Muay Thai for the past several years, especially after the way Hurricane Maria took a toll on a vast majority of us. The devastation of that event was too real, and I didn't think I would fight again, BUT the USMF presented me with several international opportunities and despite the struggle, I was able to win a bronze and silver medal at the IFMA World Championships and gold at the Pan American Championships.
LF: What sets you apart from your competitors?
AW: In addition to being a fighter, I am also a Marine Biologist, Scuba Diving Instructor, and PhD Candidate working on a project involving coral reef ecology and coastal resilience at the University of Puerto Rico.
LF: What is your go-to pump-up song/walk-out song?
TM: I'm very guilty of going straight for GIRLY pop before fights – like the really positive, happy, upbeat stuff. I'm not proud of it, but I've embraced it.
The first fight that my coach (Kru Jeff Harrison) cornered me for, the DJ came looking for a walk-out song and he said "I've got this, it'll be a surprise". Next thing I know I'm walking out to old-school Taylor Swift, 'Mean'. Since then, I've walked out to Taylor Swift for every fight since then. As a self-proclaimed Taylor Swift fan, he'll often pick the song.
AW: I don't really have a song I get pumped up to, but I listen to a lot of Afrobeats, Soca, Reggae, Bomba and Salsa.
LF: What advice do you have to young females looking to pursue combat sports?
AW: Be coachable and resilient. Never stop learning and always set little goals for yourself so you consistently make progress AND have fun!
TM: I would encourage any young female to do things that bring them joy. Fighting is HARD, all the little pieces that go into being successful when you step into the ring/cage are HARD. Make sure you enjoy the process. Find a gym, a coach, training partners, life partners and friends that help you to enjoy the process. I think that's the secret to longevity in the combat sports, especially for women - if training and all that goes into it is a perpetual struggle, you won't be successful and you won't last. There are so many reasons why women are pressured not to train/compete/fight, you have to create an environment for yourself that is positive, supportive and enjoyable.
LF: Taylor, Fans might not know that you also hold a master’s degree in molecular science! What drew you into that?
TM: I did my undergraduate degree in Health Sciences – fully expecting to be a doctor of some kind. It was over the course that degree that I really fell in love with training and fighting and realized that I didn't want to sacrifice the sport that I loved to jump fully into studying for medical school entrance tests (or actual medical school). I decided to prolong the student experience with a Master's degree in pure science. In this case you have a lot of freedom to design your own work in a lab while getting paid a (minimal) student stipend to live. I got lucky with the lab that I joined, my supervisor was always very supportive of my training schedule and let me build my workdays around training instead of the other way around. I took 4 years to finish my 2-year program because I was probably training more than I was working – but it was a great experience and really let me dig into fighting at a high level. I graduated with a Master's degree in Cellular Molecular Medicine (which is just a fancy description of my biology degree). I always found sexual health and reproductive science remarkably interesting from a physiological and sociological standpoint, so when I was looking for a focus for my master's reproductive biology seemed like a good fit. I still work in the same lab as a technician, we study the development of eggs, and early embryos in a mouse model.
LF: When did you know that you wanted to become a professional fighter?
TM: I have always said that becoming a fighter at all, let alone a professional was an accident. I joined a cardio kickboxing gym at 13, and it was a slow insidious shift from recreational high-schooler to professional adult. I fell in love with training basic techniques at first, and trained for fun for almost 10 years, and eventually competed with great success as an amateur. As I progressed as an amateur, I added all the "extras" - the diet, roadwork, strength and conditioning, recovery, accessory, drilling, sparring, etc. until I was training like a professional, so it was time to compete as one.