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Lindsey Lawrence: Battling for the love of Mixed Martial Arts

SIOUX FALLS -- Lindsey Lawrence has welcomed contact in sports. But the 2012 Mitchell High School graduate didn't know her experiences competing for the Marlins hockey team, as well as the Mitchell High School volleyball, softball and track and f...

Lindsey Lawrence poses with her International Mixed Martial Arts Federation national title belt in 2015. (Photo courtesy Lawrence Photography)
Lindsey Lawrence poses with her International Mixed Martial Arts Federation national title belt in 2015. (Photo courtesy Lawrence Imagery)

SIOUX FALLS - Lindsey Lawrence has welcomed contact in sports.

But the 2012 Mitchell High School graduate didn't know her experiences competing for the Marlins hockey team, as well as the Mitchell High School volleyball, softball and track and field teams, would lead her into her current sport of choice - mixed martial arts.

"I've always been more for the physical sports, but I honestly never thought I'd be a fighter," said Lawrence in a phone interview with The Daily Republic. "When I got into the cage for the first time, I loved it. It was a rush."

Lawrence, 22, played collegiate hockey at Stevenson University in Maryland after high school. But she turned in her ice skates and hockey stick for boxing gloves and a gym training membership, to compete in seven professional fights since August 2013. Currently battling a hip injury that has sidelined her from training for the first four months of 2016, Lawrence has dreams of making her MMA career more than a hobby.

"I'd like to go pro and one day join the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championships)," said Lawrence, who last fought in July. "Not sure if that'll ever happen, but I definitely want to stick with this."

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Lawrence's route from hockey standout to part-time MMA fighter has helped the former Kernel learn she can accomplish anything, when she dedicates herself.

"I learned that I can take a punch to the face, that's for sure," Lawrence said. "Mostly, I've learned the limits for what I can push myself to. Your body can take so much more than you ever think it can."

Lawrence got her start in MMA through a friend of a family member. A promoter, who was friends with her cousin, asked if she was interested in trying the sport.

"I was pretty athletic in high school and the promoter asked me randomly to fight, and I did," Lawrence said. "I've loved it ever since."

The jump from college hockey to MMA came as a shock to her parents, who found out about Lawrence's new hobby during an interview on an online broadcast of one of her college hockey games.

"They did a get-to-know-your-players interview and they asked her, 'What's something people don't know about you?' She looked right at the camera and said, 'I'm a cage fighter,' " said Mike Lawrence, Lindsey's father. "We were like, 'What the h-- was that all about?' "

Hockey is a contact sport, but MMA is on another level of contact. The sport of MMA is defined as "a full-contact combat sport that allows the use of both striking and grappling techniques, both standing and on the ground, from a variety of other combat sports and martial arts," by UFC.com.

"My mom hated it," Lawrence said. "She's gotten better with it, but I don't think she'll ever be 100 percent on board with it.

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"My dad wasn't too eager, but once he saw I've been training and could get in the cage and defend myself, he was more accepting."

For Mike Lawrence, watching his daughter compete in the octagon instead of a hockey rink was an adjustment.

"It was different, but you always have to root for your kid," he said. "I'm not a big fan of women's fighting, but you support her. While she's fighting, I'm behind her all the way. When it's over, I'm just grateful her face is in one piece."

Success in the cage

In seven career fights, Lawrence, who now resides and trains in Sioux Falls, has a record of 5-2. She fought in South Dakota for her first two fights and has also entered the cage in Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota and Las Vegas, Nevada.

In her first fight, an unsanctioned amateur fight at Stevenson University in August 2013, Lawrence impressed promoters with a win. Seven months later, she fought for a title belt and won.

"It was extremely nerve-racking," Lawrence said about her first time in the cage. "I knew everybody was just watching me, but once you get in there, you have so much adrenaline going, you don't see or hear the people watching. It's definitely way different that a team sport."

Lindsey started fighting at 125 pounds then moved up to 135 pounds and eventually fought at 145. She won a fight at the 2015 Midwest Fight League national tournament, by TKO, and earned a spot at the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation world tournament in Las Vegas, where Lindsey took home a bronze medal after falling in the semifinals.

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Lindsey said the goal is for her to start training back at 125 pounds and, when she's healthy, she said she'll have another title fight awaiting her.

"I found out I have, essentially, arthritis in my hip," Lawrence said about her current injury. "It was tough doing the ground game classes, because it was painful. It's easier to move around after doing therapy. Hopefully, it'll help when I get back into the gym."

In her more recent fights, Lindsey has been training with Bruce Hoyer at Next Edge Academy in Sioux Falls. Hoyer, who was unable to be reached for comment, is the only black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Sioux Falls and one of only three in South Dakota.

"He helps me with everything," Lawrence said about Hoyer. "He knows a lot."

Throughout her athletic career, Lawrence said her experience with other sports helped lead her to this point.

"All of them helped me with MMA," Lawrence said. "It takes so many different muscles. This is hardest sport I've ever competed in."

Mike Lawrence said Lindsey's hockey career helped her build a strong base that transitioned well to MMA.

"A lot of her coaches said hockey helped her get strong legs," Mike Lawrence said.

Through seven fights, Lindsey noted she couldn't do what she does without the support she receives.

"It's categorized as an individual sport, but once you factor in your trainer, your family, your friends, it takes a whole team to help you get better," Lawrence said. "Bruce helps me 24/7 whether he's with me or not. My parents are my biggest supporters. They help me travel and paid for my gym membership. I get a lot of help when I'm not in the ring."

Balancing gym, school, work

On top of pursuing a possible career in MMA, Lindsey transferred from Stevenson University, after majoring in biology and then switching to physiology, to the University of Sioux Falls. She is now finishing her degree at Capella University, an online university based out of Minneapolis.

She will graduate in September and along with school and training, she works at Lutheran Social Services as an assistant teacher.

"It's a lot of work trying to keep up with school and work, as well as train and get myself better," said Lawrence, who added she works anywhere from 35 to 40 hours a week. "It's worth putting the time in. Sometimes, it gets to be a little too much."

There is no set timeline for Lawrence to get back in the cage for a fight, but she hopes to begin resuming a full training schedule within the month.

"The only thing I really need to do is get back into the routine of practicing and working on my standup and ground game," Lawrence said. "Then weight cut."

Looking at everything his daughter balances, Mike said he admires Lindsey's passion and has no doubt she'll be back in the cage as soon as she can.

"She's a driven individual," Mike said. "I'll just sit back and wait, until we go watch again."

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