Michelle Waterson had never lost two fights in a row, until she did.
Now, as she prepares to face Cortney Casey on Saturday in Glendale, Ariz. on UFC on Fox 29, the Albuquerque MMA fighter confronts the possibility of losing three in a row — with the potential career damage that could ensue.
Pressure? What pressure?
“I don’t think about (losing three in a row),” Waterson said cheerfully this week in a phone interview. “My goal is to win this fight, and that’s what this (training) camp has been all about.
“It’s been about enjoying what I do and training every day and learning something new.”
Of those back-to-back losses to Rose Namajunas (second-round submission, rear naked choke) and to Tecia Torres (unanimous decision), Waterson said she considers them a positive and not a negative going forward.
“Honestly, when I think about the fights I’ve lost, there’s nothing that I would take back,” she said. “I’ve learned so much from those fights, fighting girls that are in the top level of the (strawweight) division, let alone the world.
“I’ve only grown from those experiences.”
In the matchup with Casey, Waterson (14-6) has one clear advantage: experience. She’s been fighting professionally for more than 11 years. Casey 7-5) entered the professional ranks in 2013, though she fought as an amateur for three years before that.
In return, Casey has two apparent advantages: the home-town edge — she’s from Phoenix — and size. She stands 5-foot-6, tall for a 115-pounder. Waterson is 5-3.
Before signing with the UFC in 2015, Waterson was competing in the all-female Invicta FC circuit at the atomweight limit of 105 pounds; the UFC does not have an atomweight division. Casey is a career-long 115-pounder.
Both fighters will be required to weigh in at no heavier than 116 pounds on Friday, but it’s possible that, once re-hydrated, Casey will outweigh Waterson substantially.
Just as when discussing her two-fight losing streak, Waterson showed no concern.
“As long as we both weigh in at 115, then we did our job and then we have to go in there and fight on Saturday,” she said. “I have teammates that are bigger than me.
“Holly Holm obviously is taller than Cortney and heavier than Cortney, and she’s been one of my main training partners.
“All the girls I’ve been training with this fight camp have been bigger and taller, so it’s not something I’m not used to.”
Casey is best known, perhaps, for a positive drug test in the wake of her victory over Jessica Aguilar in Dallas in May 2017. She was slapped with a 90-day suspension and a hefty fine.
The test, however, was determined to be a false positive, and the sanctions were rescinded.
In the cage, Casey has three wins by submission, three by knockout or TKO and one via decision. Her trophy victory over Aguilar (19-5 at the time) is sandwiched by losses to Claudia Gadelha (unanimous decision) and, in December, to Felice Herrig (split decision).
“I think it’s a great matchup,” Waterson said. “… She comes from a great camp. She’s a nice person. She likes to stand and bang, and I’m excited to get in there come Saturday and showcase my skills.
“I believe my speed and my strength will triumph over hers.”