ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Michelle Waterson and her fiancé, Joshua Gomez, are both fighters – she in the cage, he in the ring. It’s natural to suppose it was their combat-sports careers that brought them together.
“You know what, we just kept bumping into each other,” Gomez said Friday, just before Waterson, of Albuquerque, weighed in for her MMA fight tonight against Denver’s Diana Rael.
Jackson’s MMA Series VII, 7 p.m., the Hard Rock: Michelle Waterson vs. Diana Rael, seven other bouts. Tickets: $25-$125, holdmyticket.com or at casino box office (505-244-8191)
“I had no idea she fought; she had no idea I fought.”
The two were already dating, Gomez said, when he noticed Waterson was sporting some bruises and asked where they came from.
Waterson came by those bruises honestly; she has an 8-3 MMA record entering her fight with Rael at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Albuquerque.
Gomez, a former U.S. Armed Forces amateur champion, has a 3-1 record as a professional boxer.
“We had no idea (when they met),” Waterson says. “But, I guess, birds of a feather flock together.”
Waterson will be fighting tonight for the first time in almost two years, having given birth to her and Gomez’s daughter, Araya, in March.
“I feel I’ve come full circle,” she said. “This (training) camp was hard, and the weight cut – it was hard. But I feel 100 percent back.”
Waterson weighed in at 106 pounds Friday, as did Rael (3-1).
In August, Rael disappointed many Albuquerque MMA fans by taking a victory by split decision over local favorite Angelica Chavez – delaying, at least, a much-discussed Duke City showdown between Chavez and Waterson.
Waterson’s focus is solely on Rael.
“Diana Rael is an aggressive fighter, but that’s something I’ve dealt with before,” she said. “I’m just gonna keep doing what I do and taking home that win.”
If Gomez and Waterson’s similar lines of work were mere coincidence in their relationship, that coincidence has been a happy one.
“As far as being in a relationship, it definitely helps,” Waterson said. “There’s a certain type of stress you have as a fighter that other people don’t understand. Because (Gomez) fights, he understands if I’m at the gym. He’s not nagging me to come home.
“If I’m cutting weight, he doesn’t get on me if I get irritated, because he understands.”
Gomez will be ringside – no, make that cageside – tonight, battling a far worse case of nerves than he ever experiences before his own fights.
“When I fight, I’m real calm and collected,” he said. “(When she fights), I feel like I’ve got no control over it.
“But she’s a go-getter, man. She knows exactly what she’s doing.”
Gomez said he offers Waterson advice from time to time, dealing with the aspects of MMA that resemble boxing.
The rest, he said, he leaves to her coaches. Waterson trains at Albuquerque’s Jackson-Winkeljohn Mixed Martial Arts.
“She’s got the best coaches in the world,” Gomez said. “I’m there for support, whatever she needs.”
The Waterson-Rael fight is the main event of Jackson’s MMA Series VII. A 155-pound fight between Jackson’s Henry Martinez (7-1) and Denver’s Ali Hanjani (2-1) is the co-main event.
The professional side of the card includes a match between Jackson’s Jodie Esquibel (1-0) and Amy Riehle (0-1) of Lake Havasu City, Ariz. Esquibel weighed in at 108.8 pounds, Riehle at 109.
Former Eldorado football player and state champion wrestler Adam Gonzales of Jackson’s will make his pro debut against Las Cruces’ Armando Montoya Jr. (4-2) at 174 pounds.
Four amateur fights are scheduled. A 155-pound match between Jackson’s Landon Vanata (2-0) and fellow Albuquerquean Greg Chavez (4-1), who fights out of Club De Jiu Jitsu Pitbull, is the headliner.
Vanata and Chavez are both 19 years old.
The amateur side also features a 125-pound women’s bout between Jackson’s Emily Kagen (4-2) and Courtney Casey (3-1) of Phoenix.
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal