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Fighting her way to the top

--- Walworth woman takes up cage fighting

Mike Heine/The Week

(Published Oct. 29, 2007, 12:26 p.m.)

With a steel jaw and an iron fist, Walworth's Karen Williams one day wants to own the ring.

And she'll kick your butt if you try and stop her.

Williams, 36, is training in mixed martial arts and hopes to turn professional, going toe-to-toe with the world's best inside a steel cage.

She has already won her first amateur match, a 46-second technical knockout against an Ohio woman at the Mixed Martial Arts Cage Competition on Oct. 6 at the Wisconsin State Fair Park.

"I didn't initially come into this school thinking I was going to do an MMA fight," she said at the DeLeon Martial Arts Academy in downtown Walworth. "That was the furthest thing from my mind. As you're here training, you get a feeling for it and you want to go further. You take one step and you want to go a little further and a little further."

Williams started training about five years ago, learning tae kwon-do and jiu-jitsu. She also knows karate and even fought with the amateur United States national jiu-jitsu team.

But taking some off the force of a punch wasn't Williams' style.

"I always found like I had to hold back sometimes because of the rules that you had to abide by when you're in those competitions," Williams said. "What got me intrigued a little bit with MMA is there are less rules. It's more of getting techniques correct when you're out there and the pressure is on. It's an adrenaline rush."

MMA is a combination of striking, throwing and grappling, trainer Ben DeLeon said. Started in eastern Asia, it gained popularity in the United States with the Ultimate Fighting Championship events being shown on cable TV and pay-per-view.

Professional women's fighting is also growing, but Williams is not quite to that level, DeLeon said. Promoters have already pushed her to turn pro because of a lack of professional women fighters.

"It's possible she'll have opportunities to fight in the big ring in the UFC if and when they decide to put women in. Her name would come up with something like that," DeLeon said. "I think the opportunity is knocking at the door."

Williams, a mother of two-18-year-old Samantha and 12-year-old Jeffery-is ready for the challenge, but knows she has a lot to learn.

"I do understand that going pro would be (fighting) a whole different type of athlete than I'm going up against (now)," Williams said.

Williams will fight again Dec. 1 at an event in Milwaukee. The Harley Davidson Company is hosting a "Seasons Beatings" event where Williams will step in the ring again, probably against an amateur, but possibly facing a professional fighter, DeLeon said.

"I'm not sure where this is going to take me or where I'm going to end up," Williams said. "All I know is I have a pretty good start."

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Cage fighter Karen Williams

Describe your first fight.

"Mr. DeLeon told me she was right handed so I should move to my right. I took a few steps to my right and kicked her in the chest. She was weebel-wobble, but didn't fall down so I went after her punching. Maybe 15 to 20 seconds into it, I used the knees. I gave her eight to 10 knees in the chest and face area. She broke away and went up against the cage. I hit her again with a few more punches the ref jumped in. It was a technical knock-out within 46 seconds."

Trainer Ben DeLeon

What is the most important thing to know with cage fighting?

"I talked about conditioning and that is probably the most important thing. But that mental toughness. When you're getting racked in the face or kneed in the face or smothered into the ground, you have an overpowering 'I've got to give up' feeling, but you have to push past that. It's the training and the practice that prepares you for that."

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