Competing in the world of mixed martial arts requires precision training, rock-hard muscle definition and a whole lot of mental toughness. Bloody noses and bruises are common. Blonde braids and nail polish are not.
What started as a way to increase her physical fitness turned into much more for Laura Marcusse. With a history in karate and with kickboxing in mind, Marcusse found what she was looking for in the world of cage fighting.
Without knowing any other females in the sport, and despite her parents’ wishes, Marcusse began her journey. “I started training a couple years before I started to fight,” she said. “I loved the training. It is very empowering in terms of understanding what you’re capable of.”
Standing 5 feet, 5 inches tall and weighing in at the top of the 95- to 105-pound weight class, Marcusse has trouble finding opponents to fight. “Up until eight months ago, I was the only girl at my gym. It’s hard to find women to train with,” she explained. “It’s not realistic to practice as hard as you would fight, but we do go pretty hard.”
Marcusse formally stepped into the ring for the first time on Sept. 11, 2010. “It’s as close as you can get to a street fight without getting into a street fight,” she shared. “I really enjoy the grappling part of it and the jujitsu part of it.”
Marcusse said she is frequently asked if she gets scared before a fight, and her answer is always yes. “That’s part of the challenge. Every ounce of your body is saying run away!” she said. “You have to calm yourself down, go in and come out victorious.”
After more than a year and a half as an amateur fighter and a 3-1 record, Marcusse said her training varies depending on her fight schedule. She knows she could fight more often, but she averages a fight nearly quarterly. “Living in full training mode is hard,” she noted. “I still train regularly, so Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a big part of my life.”
In addition to the expertise of a nutritionist, a strength and conditioning coach, a skills training coach and a boxing and wrestling coach, Marcusse incorporates a specific piece of technology into her training regimen.
In the six or so weeks leading up to a fight, she uses the BodyMedia FIT (BMF), a device that straps around her arm and generates exercise output and nutritional intake.
“It’s almost become a mental thing now. It’s almost like my body knows it’s time to get to real work,” she said of her transition into keeping the BMF on day and night.
The BMF tracks physical activity as long as it is being worn. It calculates calories in, calories out and sleep quality, according to bodymedia.com and, after each meal is entered into the website via computer or smartphone, the ratio of fats, carbohydrates and proteins is calculated.
“I eat a lot of food that I make up, and the system allows me to create recipes,” she said. “Entering food takes no time at all.” Thinking in terms of a math problem simplifies prefight weight loss for Marcusse.
“I walk around at a lean weight anyway, but I need to get to a lower weight class,” she said. With the exception of fighting outside of her weight class on one occasion, Marcusse has a limited number of opponents available to fight. “There aren’t enough women in any one weight class,” she said, and she’s been known to recruit other female friends to the world of cage fighting. “I love the idea of having girls involved in martial arts of any kind,” she confided.
Marcusse credits social media with some of her success in networking within the sport and describes herself on her Twitter page as an “entrepreneur, a fighter, a chef, a horsewoman, a devoted girlfriend and just one of the guys.”
“It’s a good networking opportunity,” she said of her Facebook community. “It’s easier to find fights, and it has definitely helped.”
Having grown up in Lenexa, Kan., Marcusse now calls Kansas City, Mo., home. Despite networking and training at various gyms around the country, she has fought exclusively in the Midwest and has no plans to leave any time soon.
“I grew up here,” she said. “We have a pretty decent-sized MMA community.”
Access to televised fight events and promotion companies that support female fighters have contributed to the opportunities and publicity Marcusse has received throughout the last 14 months. In MMA, a scheduled event typically consists of 10 fights and is referred to as a fight card. Because some promotion companies don’t host female fights, Marcusse is happy to fight on the under card, or as the opening act, for some of the major Midwest fights. “Most people at my level don’t get to fight on their card,” she said of some of her past experiences. She says her professional interactions with some of the local promotion companies have been classy.
Marcusse attributes her success to the network of fighters and trainers she has established, the support of her friends and family, and the versatility of local promotion companies. But, she’s being modest. It is clear that her drive, her commitment to excellence and her spirit of competition are what set her apart from the crowd.
With her last fight just a month ago, Marcusse said she would compete again on March 30. “I will be fighting Nadia Nixon for the 105 lb. Blue Corner Battles title,” she said. After that, she is not sure when she’ll step into the cage next, but it will most likely happen soon. “Once I get that itch, like, ‘I haven’t fought in a while,’” she said, she will know when the time is right.