The Valdosta Daily Times
Emily Parker is looking for a knockout.
The 21-year-old Lowndes High School graduate will become the first female to step inside the cage at a Bud Light Winter or Summer Heat event this Saturday, where she will compete in a kickboxing event.
Parker isn’t just looking to win in Saturday’s debut, she is looking to knock her opponent out.
“I’m aiming for a knockout,” Parker said. “I don’t want to win just by hitting her more times than she hits me. I’m aiming (to knock her out) in a minute.”
Parker will participate in a kickboxing event, instead of a mixed martial arts event, after her first two MMA opponents dropped out due to illness. Her new opponent said she didn’t want to fight MMA style because she knew Parker had been training for years.
Instead, the duo agreed to kickbox, although Parker wasn’t pleased.
“She found out I had been training longer than her; I’ve been training for three years and she hasn’t trained that long,” Parker said. “So, she said, ‘I don’t want to fight her.’ Well, they convinced her to fight me, but she said she only wanted to do a kickboxing tournament. I said, ‘OK, but with MMA gear.’ She said no, so I was upset about that.”
Parker’s appearance, which will officially be made at 7 p.m. when she opens the Bud Light Winter Heat card at Mathis City Auditorium on Saturday, will be the culmination of three years of training in Lake Park, and two and a half years of nagging event coordinator James Corbett to fight.
Parker said six months after she started training at Hall Family Fitness in Lake Park, she approached Corbett at a Bud Light Heat event, saying she wanted to fight.
“All the guys I had trained with were all talking about their fights and I was like, ‘I don’t want to just train and not doing anything. I want to fight,’” Parker said. “I wanted to show people what I could do. So I went up to Corbett at one of the heat’s and I said, ‘hey, I hear you’re looking for some girls.’ He said, ‘No, I have my girls.’
“He thought I wanted to be a ring girl. I don’t want to be those girls. I want to fight and he said, ‘Oh, OK. We will get you set up.’”
Parker said she started training MMA for self-defense reasons, saying she wanted the ability to protect herself, if she ever needed it.
“I realized how much I needed self-defense, because I have to deal with men and guys at school and stuff,” Parker said. “So I wanted to learn how to protect myself and stuff. So I started at White Tiger (Martial Arts Academy) and I realized I was pretty good at this. So I just realized I wanted to fight.”
With Parker beginning her training while she was still in high school — she graduated from Lowndes in May 2010 — she admits people started asking questions about her bruises and the marks that were on her body.
“They were always like, ‘What happened to you?’” Parker laughed. “People were asking me if people were beating me.”
Now, Parker continues her training at Hall Family Fitness in Lake Park, under the direction of professional MMA fighter Shaun Gay, who will be the main event on Saturday night.
“It is awesome, except I am afraid to fight him,” Parker joked. “I’ve watched all of his fight videos and I’ve seen him knock people out with head kicks like three seconds into the fight.”
One thing that has kept Parker motivated throughout her training is knowing the amount of people that expect her to fail in fighting. That thought lack of negativity doesn’t sit well with the highly-motivated female fighter that is days away from setting a new standard in female fighting in Valdosta.
“I have a lot of people who doubt that I can do it,” she said. “I just want to prove them wrong.”
The way to prove those people wrong is by winning Saturday’s event in front of a packed crowd at Mathis City, which Parker admits will intimidate her prior to the fight.
“It is going to be excitement and anxiety,” Parker said. “I get pretty nervous anyway. In front of a huge crowd, I’m going to go in panic mode. But, I will just have to block it out.”
Once Parker gets through Saturday’s kickboxing event, it won’t be long again until she steps back into the ring. She has plans of fighting next weekend in South Carolina, against one of her opponents that withdrew for this weekend’s fight.
“I want to get as many fights as possible,” Parker said. “My second opponent, our deal was, she was going to come down from South Carolina if I went up there the next weekend to fight her again.”
Bud Light Winter Heat begins Saturday night at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m. All proceeds of the night of MMA fighting benefit the House of Joy Community Center in Valdosta.