By Ella Fenwick
Cory McKenna, despite having only just turned 21 years old, has not only become the first Welsh woman to receive a contract from the infamous mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion company the UFC, but is also the youngest Brit to have ever been offered one.
McKenna is from Cwmbran a small town in South Wales and began her journey into MMA in her early teens at local club Tillery Combat. The talented fighter soon enough turned amateur at the age of 15, and then became a professional fighter shortly after in 2018.
Since then the strawweight competitor has continued to rise into the limelight. Mckenna competed in six fights in her professional career with a record of five wins and one loss. Like many up and coming fighters, McKenna has been actively waiting for her successes to catch the eye of the UFC President Dana White in hopes of a contract deal.
Eventually her opportunity came earlier this month, where McKenna was invited to Las Vegas to compete in Dana White’s Contender Series 28, where she would face American, Vanessa Demopoulos. Even though McKenna was thought to be the underdog of the bout, it became clear from the start she was keen to turn the odds around. Despite the frequent threat of submission attempts by Demopoulos over the three rounds, McKenna kept a cool head and confidently cleared all attempts and continued to control the pace of the fight. Steering away from her previous comfort zone of wrestling, McKenna dominated the match with consistent use of powerful hand striking and strong counters utilising her slick kicking ability. After three intense rounds, though both fighters showed key moments of successes, McKenna’s fierce performance had left her with a win by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28).
In spite of her impressive win, McKenna was left waiting anxiously to see if she had done enough to hear further news on a long dreamt opportunity at the top level of MMA. But “The Hobbit”, her fighting nickname, was not kept waiting long as White immediately offered her a contract after proving herself as a well-rounded and skilled fighter in her successful fight against Demopoulos.
White had high praise for McKenna, stating: “She’s tough, she’s well-rounded, she’s willing to bang, she’s got great groundwork… She’s sweet but when she gets in there she’s a killer and I love that about her.”
She joins the likes of John Phillips, Jack Shore, and Brett Johns as Welsh representatives in the UFC but makes herself the first Welsh female to be offered a contract.
Since confirmation of her new path, McKenna has decided she will be moving away from the UK to Sacramento, California full-time to continue with her training for Team Alpha Male run by UFC icon Urijah Faber.
McKenna remains eager and insists she is ready to start working her way through the rankings of the UFC strawweight division in the near future, with talks about her debut fight being confirmed for November 14 against American fighter Kay Hansen.
At such a young age, the world is at Mckenna’s feet. Already in her brief fighting career she has made her mark on both UFC and Welsh history, and the opportunity to test herself at the highest level will only bring more exciting challenges in the future too.