Mixed Martial Arts
Newnan fighter continues push toward making pro debut
by Chris Goltermann
Some say you can’t judge a book by its cover. But potential opponents don’t seem to even get to the “Table of Contents” when it comes to Erica Hanson. Even if she considers herself “a nerd.”
Since getting her first taste of Mixed Martial Arts two years ago at the Coweta Cage Combat 2 event at Newnan High, the 22-year-old University of West Georgia student been on the verge of making her professional debut while continuing to train with Tim Stout at MOAB Fighting Concepts locally.
“It’s been tough to find an opponent for her,” said Stout, who has experiences as an MMA fighter, coach and promoter.
After having a potential debut bout on March 8 canceled, so far there’s been no official takers — yet — for the 6-foot-2 Hanson in the 155-pound division, who despite studying to become a nurse, certainly looks the part of a fighter who could do enough damage to cause medical attention.
But along with a passion for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and kickboxing, is a side more becoming someone who could fit right in on the TV sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.”
“I’m a nerd,” said Hanson. “You wouldn’t know it, but I love books. When I’m not here [at the gym] I love to play video games and read books.”
After moving to Newnan from Decatur in 2008, she happened upon Stout’s facility with a mindset more toward physical fitness than stepping into the octagon. Muay Thai Kickboxing became an immediate love while eventually becoming an assistant cardio kickboxer instructor at MOAB.
“It’s nice to be the boss sometimes,” she said. “You also get to experience that joy someone else gave to you.”
But Stout saw potential elsewhere as well.
“I started off wanting to get into shape. But even from my first day, my coach said from the minute I walked through the door ‘you have what it takes to do this,’” Hanson said. “That’s always been my mentality.”
Not that Stout tiptoed around her during training. Hanson found herself surrounded by male counterparts while training four-to-five days in two-to-three hour sessions.
“We don’t treat her any different,” Stout said.
Even when eventually getting caught with a punch to the face, Hanson immediately got back on her feet.
“I’ve seen a lot of girls come and go, but he told me that I could go far with it,” she said. “There’s a moment when you feel, ‘I can be the best.’ Especially being one of the only female fighters here, you learn that if I can sit here and stand face to face with these men, there’s not a woman that can take me.”
As much as the training has been a physical challenge for Hanson, who didn’t participate in sports in high school despite quite possibly having the lineage for it (her cousin is a member of Jamaica’s Olympic track team), it’s equally been a test of fortitude.
“What I like about fighting is that it is your body, but it’s mostly your mind. You have to get mentally ready. You learn so much about yourself, and pushing yourself to the edge further than you thought you ever could,” she said.”You learn to have a family. These guys are like my brothers. They push me to the brink.”
While currently on a quest for her professional debut, Hanson fought as an amateur at Stout’s Coweta Combat 2 against Chelsea Brooks, knocking her opponent down several times in a three-round bout that went the distance.
Despite embarking on a professional career, she still admits to being a novice among the national MMA scene.
“I don’t know anything, none of the fighters. The only one I know is my coach,” she joked. “He would throw all these names around and they would go right over my head.”
It hasn’t stopped Hanson, however, from the thoughts of being another Ronda Rousey, arguably the most well known female MMA fighter and current UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion.
It’s all about staying dedicated to one’s goals according to Hanson.
“You have to be dedicated. If you’re not dedicated you won’t go far,” she said. “If your mind and your heart’s into it, you can definitely do it.”
COMING SUNDAY: MOAB coach James Lavin earns a World Championship belt at last month’s Ringside Masters World Championships in Lenexa, Kansas.