Sara McMann, 2004 USA Olympic silver medalist in freestyle wrestling, has been getting a lot of attention the past couple of weeks, and rightfully so. Some of it has to do with the excellence she displays inside the cage, some of it with the perseverance and strength she shows outside of it. In terms of Sara McMann the person, there was this piece in the Washington Post detailing McMann’s perpetual uphill battle against a litany of painful personal traumas, a new one seeming to spring up around every corner. I read something like this and as a mere mortal cannot conceive going about my normal, every day, cubicle dwelling (I actually have an office now NBD) life with these kinds of experiences weighing me down, let alone perpetually grinding to be a championship-level athlete. In discussing McMann the fighter, she is just that – championship caliber – and at almost 37 is making one last push to secure herself a UFC championship, something she failed once to do against the then-dominant Ronda Rousey. This time around, she is making a very strategic, drastic change to her preparation to ensure she attains gold.
For her UFC 215 fight against Ketlen Vieira, a bout that feels like it has received a new date 500 times, McMann has picked up her life, including her young daughter, and moved her camp to Team Alpha Male. This is a PERFECT situation for her. The Northern California gym has long taken high level wrestlers, names among which Sara McMann indeed still stands out, and integrates a style of striking and phase-changing that compliments that wrestling without hurting its effectiveness. Not only will McMann’s always-improving striking continue to get sharper, but certain aspects of her game that the folks at Alpha Male specialize in, such as scrambles, will make huge leaps as well. My only slight concern is the lack of sparring partners in her weight class, who are female at least. Alpha Male has some excellent female talent but they seem to be concentrated at the 115ish level. That isn’t to say McMann can’t hang with the boys at 135, but there are always injury risks, etc. associated with that sort of thing not to mention simple personal discomfort a male fighter might have at going 100% at a female. I don’t see this being a huge issue however as Alpha Male has always been an insanely competitive gym without becoming susceptible to the injury bug as some gyms have. More to the point, despite this lack of training maladies that are associated with a good, hard camp, their fighters are always some of the most well-prepared.
I’m biased because I love Sara McMann – her attitude, her fighting style, and ya, her resilience – but I think this is an excellent move. I thought she’d be the one to dethrone Rousey and although I’m a fan of Amanda Nunes, I think McMann has the strength and agility to beat her as well. If any updates come out regarding her time in the sunshine state I’ll certainly provide them but if not, here’s to THE Sara McMann getting it done at UFC 215.