Araya Gomez is in school now, and that’s a big change for her mom.
Saturday, Araya’s mom will try to take Tecia Torres to school.
Albuquerque’s Michelle Waterson, the mom, also is a professional MMA fighter. She’s scheduled to face Torres on Saturday on UFC 218 in Detroit.
Having Araya in first grade, Waterson said this week in a phone interview, has dramatically affected her daily routine.
“The biggest thing is all the activities that she’s involved in and trying to be heavily involved with her school and her school projects,” Waterson said.
“She has homework now, and making sure everything is packed and ready to go before she goes to school, making sure she has her homework done when she gets home, taking her to gymnastics, taking her to karate, these are things that just cut into your day.”
In the past, Waterson would take Araya with her when she trained at Jackson-Wink MMA. Now, it’s drop her off at school in the morning, train at Jackson-Wink, pick her up in the afternoon and get her to her next activity.
These are adjustments, of course, that Waterson and her husband, former professional boxer Joshua Gomez, are happy to make.
“These are important things that have to happen,” she said, “for little kids to grow and develop and have passions of their own.”
Waterson’s passion for fighting, meanwhile, flows unabated. A victory over Torres (9-1) is crucial if Waterson is to get a long-desired shot at the UFC strawweight (115-pound) title.
In April, Waterson lost to Rose Namajunas by second-round submission (rear naked choke). On Nov. 4, Namajunas defeated longtime strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk by first-round TKO.
Namajunas’ first title defense has not been announced. Waterson said she believes Jedrzejczyk deserves an immediate rematch, based on the Polish fighter’s prior dominance in the division.
The only thing Waterson (14-5) can control, though, is the outcome of Saturday’s fight against Torres.
“We both have traditional martial arts backgrounds,” she said. “And I’m the bigger fighter.
“She actually is quite muscular and really strong, but I have the reach on her, so I think I’ll be able to dictate the fight wherever it is.”
OVEREEM: Albuquerque, says heavyweight Alistair Overeem, Waterson’s Jackson-Wink teammate, is “a city that I would not like to grow old in.”
Nonetheless, the Dutch fighter says he’s grown to like the place.
“I always love coming to Albuquerque,” Overeem (43-15) said in a phone interview from Detroit, where he’s scheduled to face France’s Francis Ngannou (10-1) on Saturday. “It’s kind of like a second home to me.
“There’s good food, but you’ve got to go find it. I’m really happy that I kind of found some spots now that I feel comfortable in.”
Among his favorites: Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen on Pan American Freeway NE; Havana Restaurant on Menaul NE (“I could eat there every day, such good food,” he said); Taste of the Caribbean on Central SE.
Overeem came to Albuquerque to train at Jackson-Wink in June 2014, having lost two of his past three fights. He’s 6-2 since then.
He has his own coaches of long acquaintance, whom he flies in when he trains at Jackson-Wink. But he values the team atmosphere that Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn have built and maintained, as well as the J-W physical therapy program headed by Beau Hightower.
Overeem is approximately a 2-to-1 betting underdog against Ngannou, who has caught the fancy of the MMA world with five straight UFC victories — none going past the second round. Ngannou also is billed as the sport’s most powerful puncher, having registered an all-time high on an apparatus that measures such things.
The Dutchman says he’s unimpressed.
“Yeah, right, who cares about that stuff?” Overeem said. “That’s a machine.
“And he only has the record because I didn’t punch the machine.”
Overeem’s and Waterson’s fights are both on Saturday’s main card, available on pay-per-vew.