UFC bantamweight Sara McMann doesn’t have the hype of champion Ronda Rousey but she definitely has the divisional queen’s athletic chops and drive to succeed. Like Rousey, McMann is also an Olympic medalist, taking home silver in wrestling in 2004. And, also similarly, McMann is unbeaten since transitioning to Mixed Martial Arts.

McMann will make her Octagon debut tonight against Sheila Gaff at UFC 159 in hopes of announcing her presence as a legitimate title-contender and showing just how far she’s come since her days as a mat-based competitor. The 6-0 McMann spoke to the UFC’s website about her journey thus far, saying her drive to improve in MMA is one she felt years ago the first time she shot in for a double leg takedown.

“I just knew that I wanted to compete still. I knew that I was done competing in wrestling and I wanted to retire from wrestling at the time, but I still wanted to be a competitor, so I was thinking that I would start learning jiu-jitsu. A lot of the parts of my athletic training made me very compatible for jiu-jitsu, but it was obviously different enough technique-wise that I would feel like I was doing a different sport. But it wouldn’t be like saying ”˜oh, I want to join the ballet.’ It wouldn’t be drastically different from what I had been doing.”

“I said ”˜this is awesome.’ I totally fell in love. I was terrible at it and I still have a long way to go from where I want to be in my mind, but it hooked me like wrestling did, and if things are really difficult for me, I get a little bit obsessive.”

“I’m not a very patient person. When it comes to athletics, I think that’s part of my drive. I want to be awesome and I want to be awesome yesterday.”

PHOTO CREDIT: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

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