Photograph Credit: Lance Emery Photography, Xplode Fight Series (XFS)
Video Provided Courtesy of Manolo Hernandez
Our follow-up story on local San Diego female mixed martial artist Chris Stanley from S.D Combat Academy as she rides the momentum of her epic knockout at XFS Tidal Wave.
If you don’t know Chris Stanley by now, well, quite frankly you should. Stanley is a highly-talented striker who fights out of S.D. Combat Academy and Team Hurricane Awesome under legendary coach Manolo Hernandez and alongside UFC female contender Liz Carmouche and Titan FC fighters Walel Watson and “Boogeyman” Richie Martinez.
We sat down with Stanley in August prior to her bout at XFS “Tidal Wave” to discuss her upcoming fight, her journey through women’s mixed martial arts and her future among the sport’s most elite fighters.
But it was August 23, at XFS “Tidal Wave” that would prove to be the night that Stanley made a splash and came one step closer to her dream of fighting at the highest level of female MMA.
If you have been living under a rock for the past two months and have not seen the video of Stanley earning an epic KO, check it out below.
Following the video, which gained well over 500,000 hits online across multiple site, Stanley was afforded an opportunity to fight with Invicta Fighting Championship, an opportunity she was quick to jump on.
“Honestly, we jumped on it because that has been my goal. They have the 125lb division, they have the championship belt and great fighters to compete with,” Stanley said.
2014 has been a big year for women’s MMA and continues to gain steam with rumors of Gina Carano coming back to the cage, Chris Cyborg slimming down to 135 lbs. for a potential mega-fight with champion Ronda Rousey, the UFC kicking off its twentieth go-around of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) with a season dedicated solely to the women, and Invicta Fighting Championship coming off a card that saw exceptional ratings on UFC Fight Pass in late summer.
While the big news of Rousey, Carano, and Cyborg warrants its own conversation, the focus of this piece is on one local fighter who recently became an internet sensation after the video of her devastating knockout made its way around the internet and led to an opportunity with Invicta FC, the premier promotion for female mixed martial arts.
Stanley is excited about the opportunity with Invicta FC and is ready to step into the cage on a premier card with some of the best female competition in the world. Stanley said she is hoping to get a fight at the beginning of 2015.
For Stanley, August 23 played out perfectly and exceeded her expectations. “It’s a lot more than I expected.”
In today’s world, with social media acting as our lifeblood, it is no wonder the video became an instant classic and found its way across the MMA world in hours. “I mean the video went viral, which is something I did not expect. I just wanted to knock someone out and put on a good show for everyone,” Stanley explained.
It was after the show that things really started to take off. For me personally I remember my Facebook feed blowing up with posts about the ‘kick heard around the world.’ Lucky for me, I witnessed the kick firsthand only rows from the cage. I have been to several XFS shows, and it was a special moment when the entire crowd was out of their seats, nearly blowing the roof off of the place.
“After the fight it was posted and people were freaking out. The next day I had to put my phone aside because it was so crazy. I really couldn’t comprehend it honestly,” Stanley tells me.
Not only was this a win for Stanley, but also for the gym she calls home, S.D. Combat Academy, and the team she is a part of, Team Hurricane Awesome. As she explains in our interview, the spoils that come with this victory can, and will be shared among everyone who helped her prepare for the fight. For Stanley, teamwork is a two-way street. “Everyone is super stoked and really excited about the rest of the year. It gives our team a lot of great exposure for the rest of the year,” Stanley added.
“The support from everyone has been great. People have been expecting me to do that for a long time, but it was just a matter of time before I hit that kick in a show,” Stanley explained.
I first met Chris Stanley two months ago as she was preparing for her bout at XFS “Tidal Wave” on August 23, a night that would be her first fight back in the cage in some time, and an opportunity to show the world exactly what she was made of.
Little did we know at that time, that Stanley was planning something big for her fight. Something that, if executed perfectly, could be the vehicle for her to springboard her MMA career to the next level.
I was lucky enough to see this fight firsthand, from the first row of the venue, directly behind Stanley’s corner. It would be difficult for me to describe it with perfect accuracy because it happened so fast, however there are two things I distinctly remember from that fight.
The first was thing I remember is seeing Stanley one hour before her fight pacing around the fighter tent. She looked focused. She looked locked-in. As if she had a plan. “I have landed that kick at the gym many times. I really wanted to land it and KO somebody. It worked out just as planned,” Stanley explained.
The second thing I remember is seeing Stanley’s corner. There was a unique calm among them as they made their way to the cage. Just a look of focus and determination from everyone. It was almost the perfect calm before the storm that was fast approaching. Also, I noticed Coach Manolo Hernandez pointing his cell phone towards the cage seconds before the bell sounded.
At that point, I knew something special was going to happen. Before the bell rang I thought back to something Stanley’s coach, Manolo Hernandez, told me. He said, “Chris Stanley is the most natural striker I have seen.” Just seconds later that fact could not be truer.
So what exactly did Chris Stanley execute inside the cage that had people out of their seats screaming for dear life?
“It is a flying spinning back hook kick. That is a very legitimate technique and is a very nasty kick when it lands,” Stanley explains in detail.
For Stanley, this wasn’t a technique she just learned. In fact, with a long history of tae kwon do on her resume, and multiple tournaments under her belt, this is a technique she can execute on command.
“I have been throwing that kick since I can remember, but it was just about integrating it into MMA that made it different,” Stanley explained. “I have been doing that in tournaments since I could remember. It is a little different doing it in MMA and it took time to perfect,” she added.
Lucky for the fans who were present that night, Stanley pushed all of her chips into the pot and took a risk that paid off. “Honestly in the back of my head, I questioned it at times. It is a high-risk move. But nobody questioned that I couldn’t land it,” Stanley told me.
As the video went viral, reaching multiple MMA websites and blogs across the country, one can only wonder if Stanley will only be known for that kick going forward. If you know Chris Stanley, her team and her coach, then you would be confident this fighter has much more up her sleeve.
“It is going to be hard to pull away from that (the kick that went viral), but I think when people see what else I am able to do it won’t be one of those things that people expect,” Stanley confidently tells me. She added, “I have other really awesome things I can show, I just haven’t had a chance to showcase it yet.”
So what is next for the internet sensation? Training of course. “Nothing changes in training. Still working on every aspect of my game. We will probably pick it up honestly. I am looking to be #1,” Stanley explained.
So let’s take a moment to recap. XFS “Tidal Wave” victory? Check. Landing one of the most memorable knockout kicks in MMA history? Check. Contract with Invicta FC and taking the next step to being a fixture on the women’s MMA scene? Check.
I would only be able to describe that with one word. “Surreal,” Stanley said with a smile. “Really really surreal…”
All in a day’s work for Chris Stanley. As a Chris Stanley fan, I cannot wait to see her on the big screen, living out her dream of fighting at the highest level of women’s MMA. One thing is certain. We will be entertained.