24 Jan 2019

MMA: A matter of Faith for Invicta FC comeback

8:53 am on 24 January 2019

Professional fighter Faith McMah is determined to reclaim a featherweight top spot in the world's only women's MMA organisation Invicta FC.

INVICTA featherweight fighter Faith 'The Immortal' McMah

INVICTA featherweight fighter Faith 'The Immortal' McMah Photo: Esther Lin INVICTA FC

Mixed martial artist Faith 'The Immortal' McMah is aiming for an emphatic return to the world stage on her path to MMA world title contention when she faces Russian Helena Kolesnyk (5-2) at Invicta FC 34 on February 15.

The 32-year-old's first featherweight title opportunity came in July 2015 against legendary fighter Cristiano Justino - also known as 'Cyborg' the now UFC former featherweight champion.

McMah (6-3) entered the championship match in only her second appearance with the promotion, proving her worth only two months earlier with a rare-naked choke win over American Amanda Bell on debut.

It may have been the dream position standing opposite the champion though it wasn't the result she wanted. After 45 seconds it was a knock-out win for Cyborg, the experience though priceless for an up and coming hopeful.

"First thought was what have I got myself into [laughs]... but as camp went on I got in my head that she's just another woman and I realised everyone can be beaten," says McMah

"Standing across from her in the cage she was like a lion ready to pounce and rip my head off, but I had all the confidence I could beat her, or I wouldn't have been in that cage."

"Yes, it was against the world champion... but when I look back at it I know I wasn't ready. I wanted to return but I needed to grow first."

Cris Justino (L) Faith McMah (R) weighing in for Invicta FC title match in 2015

Cris Justino (L) Faith McMah (R) weighing in for Invicta FC title match in 2015 Photo: Esther Lin INVICTA FC

Since then the 32-year-old has given birth to her son while fitting in two professional fights and competing in Muay Thai locally in a bid to search for opponents in New Zealand's pool she describes as "non-existent".

With women's mixed martial arts yet to find the same momentum as its male counterparts, the country is littered with female amateur fighters which poses problems for a professional fighter like McMah.

Female fighters have offered to turn professional at a chance to fight McMah with no match up coming to fruition.

It doesn't end there. As the only New Zealand fighter to be contracted to the world's largest, all-women's mixed martial arts organisation it too comes with challenges.

After competing in an eight-women competition in Australia McMah was picked up by Invicta FC but the U.S. based organisation soon recognised that transportation to and from New Zealand was too expensive leaving McMah to fit the bill to keep her spot.

"Invicta FC was the only way I was ever going to get fights and they weren't going to re-sign me, so I offered to pay for my own flights just to get to America," says McMah

"We have done a few fundraisers, so we have managed to cover flights to Kansas City which is great news."

The bright American lights has never stripped this mother of three of her modesty.

Six years ago, living in Papamoa McMah wanted to get fit and be a positive role model for her daughters deciding to sign up at local MMA gym, Tauranga Fight Club, and has never left the community.

McMah is currently based with Iron wolves team and Papamoa Fight Department with her strength and conditioning coach, also husband, Paul McMah.

After breaking the mould for women competing in MMA internationally McMah hopes other female fighters press to be recognised on promotions like Invicta FC to grow the sport for women in New Zealand.

Self-promotion among women has proven to be an achilles heel to make it on stages like these, but McMah can't stress enough that having some faith to put yourself out there for offshore opportunities is a positive approach.

"It's hard to find opponents because MMA is so new for women but the only way you are going get anywhere is to ask, just ask them," says McMah.

"Some women have their pro debuts on Invicta which screens on Fight Pass so New Zealand girls could get that opportunity."

"My goal is to fight the champion or to get that fight back against Cris Cyborg - tomorrow if I could! I Just to show my children that with a dream and a goal anything is possible."

Faith McMah v Helena Kolesnyk at Invicta FC 34 - the event will stream live from Kansas City on UFC Fight Pass on February 16 at 2pm NZT.