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Kailin Curran: Hawaii's First Lady of MMA

 
We’ve all heard the stories from the Hawaiian fighters who graced the UFC roster over the years, from Penn to Holloway, Grove to Tavares. They all spoke of Hawaii having a fighting culture that didn’t necessarily confine itself to the gyms and rings.

That was the male version of matters. So, Kailin Curran, first female fighter from Hawaii to be signed to the UFC, is it the same way for the ladies?

“It is,” she laughs. “Unfortunately, as much as there are guy fights out of the cage, there are a lot of girl fights too. I've never been in one outside of the cage, but I've heard of them, seen them. Rugged Hawaiian girls.”

Ewa Beach’s Curran, 23, keeps her fighting confined to the Octagon, where she will make her debut on Saturday against fellow UFC newcomer Paige VanZant. For the newly instituted strawweight division, this is seen as a glimpse of the future, but when talking to the unbeaten Curran, she believes her time is now.

“I feel like I'm always ready, and I've been doing it for so long already,” she said. “I'm a fast learner, so just by being here (in southern California) I've learned a lot, and watching TUF (20) and seeing the talent, I feel like I'm right there beside all the girls that are on the show. I feel like I'm ready and I feel like this fight that they're giving me is actually the perfect matchup for me. I train like a champion, so I feel ready.”

Now living in southern California, where she works at the Reign Training Center in Lake Forest and Art of 8 in San Diego, Curran gave up island life to pursue her fighting dreams, ones she’s had since she first began kickboxing in 2006. Back then, she was competing just for fun with a group of her friends. Eight years later, she’s the last one standing.

“It's pretty much only me from that group,” she said. “Everyone else went their separate ways. Some had some kids, were working, college. I'm the only one that pretty much stuck it out. But it was cool that we all started together. It gave me motivation in the beginning to be alongside my friends, who were doing it as well.”

Curran stays in contact with the friends from her early training days, and needless to say, they’re pretty excited to see one of their own make it to the biggest stage in mixed martial arts.

“They're really proud of me and proud of how far I've come,” Curran said. “They're pretty stoked. They always tell me 'we knew you'd make it,' because of my dedication and because of how active I stayed after everyone else stopped fighting.”

Just 3-0 as a pro, it’s important to point out that Curran also had six amateur fights, as well as a wrestling background that she didn’t exactly appreciate at the time.

“My dad started me off in wrestling in seventh grade and I hated him for it because I was the only girl at the time,” she laughs. “I was super uncomfortable and I felt like it was such a guy sport. I was a tomboy, but I was like 'do I really have to go and do this and wear a singlet?' It was just so weird.”

She did it though, along with her brothers and sisters, and now as she approaches her UFC debut against VanZant, she feels like everything is coming together at the perfect time.

“A lot of people say she's really good, but I watched some of her fights and as far as the stand-up I don't think I have anything to worry about,” Curran said. “Maybe her wrestling (will eb a concern), but I also have a wrestling background, so I feel pretty confident all around. I'm not too worried about what she's gonna do; I'm thinking more about what I'm going to do to her. I don't really see anything that she could do that would potentially make me lose the fight.”

Sounds like a Hawaiian fighter. She doesn’t dispute it.

“I want everyone to see that I dedicate my life to this. I put in a lot of hard work and I fight with my heart and I fight for Hawaii.”

We’ve all heard the stories from the Hawaiian fighters who graced the UFC roster over the years, from Penn to Holloway, Grove to Tavares. They all spoke of Hawaii having a fighting culture that didn’t necessarily confine itself to the gyms and rings.

That was the male version of matters. So, Kailin Curran, first female fighter from Hawaii to be signed to the UFC, is it the same way for the ladies?

“It is,” she laughs. “Unfortunately, as much as there are guy fights out of the cage, there are a lot of girl fights too. I've never been in one outside of the cage, but I've heard of them, seen them. Rugged Hawaiian girls.”

Ewa Beach’s Curran, 23, keeps her fighting confined to the Octagon, where she will make her debut on Saturday against fellow UFC newcomer Paige VanZant. For the newly instituted strawweight division, this is seen as a glimpse of the future, but when talking to the unbeaten Curran, she believes her time is now.

“I feel like I'm always ready, and I've been doing it for so long already,” she said. “I'm a fast learner, so just by being here (in southern California) I've learned a lot, and watching TUF (20) and seeing the talent, I feel like I'm right there beside all the girls that are on the show. I feel like I'm ready and I feel like this fight that they're giving me is actually the perfect matchup for me. I train like a champion, so I feel ready.”

Now living in southern California, where she works at the Reign Training Center in Lake Forest and Art of 8 in San Diego, Curran gave up island life to pursue her fighting dreams, ones she’s had since she first began kickboxing in 2006. Back then, she was competing just for fun with a group of her friends. Eight years later, she’s the last one standing.

“It's pretty much only me from that group,” she said. “Everyone else went their separate ways. Some had some kids, were working, college. I'm the only one that pretty much stuck it out. But it was cool that we all started together. It gave me motivation in the beginning to be alongside my friends, who were doing it as well.”

Curran stays in contact with the friends from her early training days, and needless to say, they’re pretty excited to see one of their own make it to the biggest stage in mixed martial arts.

“They're really proud of me and proud of how far I've come,” Curran said. “They're pretty stoked. They always tell me 'we knew you'd make it,' because of my dedication and because of how active I stayed after everyone else stopped fighting.”

Just 3-0 as a pro, it’s important to point out that Curran also had six amateur fights, as well as a wrestling background that she didn’t exactly appreciate at the time.

“My dad started me off in wrestling in seventh grade and I hated him for it because I was the only girl at the time,” she laughs. “I was super uncomfortable and I felt like it was such a guy sport. I was a tomboy, but I was like 'do I really have to go and do this and wear a singlet?' It was just so weird.”

She did it though, along with her brothers and sisters, and now as she approaches her UFC debut against VanZant, she feels like everything is coming together at the perfect time.

“A lot of people say she's really good, but I watched some of her fights and as far as the stand-up I don't think I have anything to worry about,” Curran said. “Maybe her wrestling (will eb a concern), but I also have a wrestling background, so I feel pretty confident all around. I'm not too worried about what she's gonna do; I'm thinking more about what I'm going to do to her. I don't really see anything that she could do that would potentially make me lose the fight.”

Sounds like a Hawaiian fighter. She doesn’t dispute it.

“I want everyone to see that I dedicate my life to this. I put in a lot of hard work and I fight with my heart and I fight for Hawaii.”


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