Holly “Lil Bear” Lawson has had a hell of a career. The one-time Top 5 boxer simply wasn’t able to get traction in mainstream boxing, which seems particular hostile to women. On the other hand, MMA has fully embraced women and stars have emerged out of the sport. Now, Bellator is putting its might into the ladies and Lil Bear is now a pioneer in the fight league under the reign of Scott Coker. Check out the latest with the fighter that is finally getting that well-deserved shot at the top.
Knockout Nation: Tell me about the new situation?
Holly “Lil Bear” Lawson: Bellator signed me to their featherweight division. I'm the 5th woman they've signed, the only one with no [MMA] fight experience. I'm super excited to be fighting for Bellator, especially under Scott Coker, he did a great job with Strikeforce and has a proven history with building fighters, particularly women. He was the first major MMA promoter to see the value in female fighters and their audiences.
You came from boxing so you are not exactly new to this. What made you switch and how hard has the transition been?
I love boxing and my life's goal had always been to become a world champion. Unfortunately the boxing world - American promoters particularly - don't see women as marketable and not only are we paid a fraction of what men make, we have to deal with the "major" promoters basically having blackballed women from fighting on their cards. I trained for years with MMA fighters at Wildcard and they were always trying to "convert" me. I finally thought, “What the hell I might as well go see if I like it, if I have the capacity to learn and if it's something I am interested in.” Fortunately I was introduced to Antonio McKee and his team at The Bodyshop and they took me under their wing and have been fundamental in me growing into the fighter I'd like to become. MMA grows on me every day! I never thought I'd enjoy grappling as much as I do. It helps to be surrounded by world champions, men who I respect as people not just as fighters
Do you catch flack from people in the game that feel you are just riding the MMA wave?
A little.... But MMA is so much more accepting of female fighters and our space in that world. Generally everyone has been really excited about me entering the sport. I've made it a point to try and be low key about it. I learned on boxing not to count my chickens before they hatch so I've waited until now that I have a fight lined up until I wanted to come out and tell everyone what I'm doing.
What advantages will your boxing background have for you? Is there a downside?
I’m not going into the sport thinking I have any advantages, I feel like that's an easy way to get caught up in overconfidence, but I do know that my grappling is what I work on daily. You can never know everything, just like boxing - it's a constant evolution.
You have a fight coming up. Tell me about it.
I'm fighting in Iowa Oct 17, I literally just found out about it less than 48 hours ago so I'm still getting all the information, but so far the date and the opponent have been confirmed.
Who are you fighting?
Jozette Cotton. I’m fighting on Friday, October 17th from the Mid-American Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Sorry, Bellator guy just sent me that. (Laughs) I'm the first female fight to be happening for Bellator under Scott Coker! Which is huge.
I'm humbled and honored to be fighting for what I consider to be the best mma promotion on the planet and I'm looking forward to bringing something different to the women's MMA world.