KOTC Atomweight Shawna "BAM BAM" Ormsby is on Her Way to the Top of MMA
Shawna “BAM BAM” Ormsby isn’t your typical MMA fighter; she’s been described as the “nice, quiet girl,” by those she grew up with, is 5’1, and has no martial arts background. In fact, she didn’t have any interest in MMA or even knowledge that girls competed in the sport, until seeing Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate coaching season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter.
But it didn’t take long for her to take up training, and fighting, for herself. After struggling to find a gym, she went to the UFC Gym in Winter Springs and never looked back, working with coach Joe Rosario throughout her amateur kickboxing, muay thai, and MMA career.
Five years later, she is now a professional MMA fighter, having recently won her first fight in King of the Cage on April 21st, with a dominant unanimous decision victory over Kelly Villarino at atomweight. With power in her (small) hands, “BAM BAM” is embracing her unique approach to fighting and wants to make a name for herself as someone who doesn’t fall into the norm.
If there’s anything we embrace at Female Fight Fans, it’s difference. It’s unorthodox. It’s being told you can’t and doing it anyway. That’s what Ormsby represents and why we can’t wait to see her rise.
FFF: A cliche question, but I think an important one: what initially inspired you to start training? How did that translate into getting into the cage?
Shawna: I was initially brought into the life of a Martial Artist and Fighter when I felt that I needed a change in my life. I did Tae Kwon Do when I was younger and have always been active and involved in sports. All my life I’ve been a quiet and shy person but would have a couple friends and had a long time boyfriend. I needed a change and broke up with him and decided to find a hobby for myself.
Originally, I wanted to get in shape and do figure competitions but a friend of mine introduced me to MMA instead. This was around the same time that the Ultimate Fighter with Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey came on and it introduced me to the sport of Women’s Mixed Martial Arts! From then on, I went on a hunt for a gym and haven’t left the sport since!
FFF: Our platform is about creating increased visibility and breaking down barriers around combat sports for women since these spaces are still often very male-dominated or can be intimidating for those who don't have a martial arts background. What was your experience like when you first were looking for a gym or a trainer- did you find this aspect of things to be difficult? Do you think the impact of pioneers like Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate has resulted in more women training and competing?
Shawna: The most difficult part trying to find the perfect gym to start training at was that there were not many options close to where I lived. I did find a BJJ school that was down the street from me and was the only school around. I stayed with them for about a month of training and they were amazing people but I knew I wanted more. That is when I sat down on my computer and started doing research on MMA schools and which were the best ones. I came across the name " American Top Team" and took a chance to find one. There are many in the Orlando area and I decided I would make the sacrifice to drive to train if I find the right one. The first couple seemed like they focused mostly on kids and the last one I tried to visit was supposed to be open but the doors were locked with the lights on and no one was answering.
At that moment I was ready to give up and I visited about 5 schools but quickly glanced at a sign that said UFC GYM. They had no marketing online because they were new which is why I had not seen them. By that split second chance of seeing the sign, I decided to walk in and was welcomed with open arms to come back the next day to train to see what I had. The sacrifice of driving there was seen and they continued to help me train hard until the manager at the time introduced me to the head coach Joey Caballero who would then eventually take me as his fighter and worked his magic with me!
FFF: Being a smaller woman, do you find empowerment or physical confidence to be a byproduct of your MMA training, knowing that you can defend yourself? How do you feel it translates into your everyday life outside of fighting?
SHAWNA: I was extremely lucky to come across guys who did not look down on me for being a small female but as stories are heard and have been told to me, most women have a difficult time and must prove themselves or feel very uncomfortable and stop training. I have visited places that have tried to make me feel that way I just refuse to let them. Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey inspired me and I know I wouldn't be here today had it not been for them so I believe they had a huge impact on many other females!
I am one of the smaller women in this sport, even for my weight class at 105lbs. In the beginning, I used it as an excuse to not be able to do some things or if something wrong went in a fight. I have never been afraid to fight anyone and have always said yes no matter what. But people in the sport like Bruno Malfacine and Demetrious Johnson (the UFC’s 125lb champion and number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world) have completely turned around my view and made me more confident in myself. Once I stopped letting that thought cloud my head, I became the more dangerous and sound fighter I knew I could be. I love hearing people say wow you're so small then showing them pictures of my fights. It changes their view in people and to stop underestimating people! I now walk around in life with my head up in confidence and am not afraid to stand up for myself or to go out and get whatever I am after.
FFF: You recently had your first pro-MMA bout and came out the victor, but faced quite a bit of adversity in your amateur career. How were you able to learn from those losses and bounce back from defeat? Was it difficult to stay motivated to train when your skill wasn't resulting in W's?
SHAWNA: My amateur career was not what I wanted it to be. I started fighting only 4 months after I began training because I wanted to. After that I was fighting if not every month, every other month. I racked up fights fast and did not always get the outcome I wanted but I did fight might heart out and was in a sense, the peoples champ. Everyone always came up to me to tell me what an amazing fight I had, or in many cases how I should have won that fight.
If you don't finish the fight, you can't guarantee anything. It was hard to want to continue but I guess what makes me different is that I refuse to give up. That is the way that champions are built. My MMA record was 1-6 and I have about 20 kickboxing/muay thai fights with 3 Title belts. Records do not define a fighter and most people do not understand that. They start to think that people are making excuses for themselves but that's not the case. If you do research, most people with amazing records have fought people with small or terrible records. That do not test themselves with someone at a higher caliber. I've never taken an easy fight and I am proud of the list of people I have fought whether I won or lost because I know I gave them a fight they'll never forget.
FFF: What is your training structure and regime like? How many times a day do you train and in what capacities?
SHAWNA: My training structure will continue to change as I get to a higher level. As the manager of the UFC GYM, I basically live there but have to balance out my trainings with work, teaching classes, and personal training. Fighting does not pay your bills in the beginning. I train at least 3xs a day sporadically and at least 6 days a week or 5 if it is a very tough week of training. Because I have such a close relationship with my coach, he let's me tell him how my body feels and what I feel I can work on for the day. It is very important not to force certain trainings on days your body is not ready for.
FFF: What are your broader career goals as an MMA fighter? Do you have any aspirations or plans as far what kind of an impact you'd like to make in the sport, especially as a strong female presence?
SHAWNA: I love the fact that there is so much I can try to accomplish in this sport. Not only winning fights or fighting for a title but everything I can do outside of that to inspire other women. From running self-defense seminars, going to schools and showing the kids some cool stuff while building their confidence and continuing the teach my women's classes. My goal is to have everyone remember me as a loving and caring person while being a badass!
FFF: As you're just coming off of a win, another cliche question for you- what's next?
After my Pro Debut win that was on April 21st, we are not looking for my second win in Niagara Falls, New York in September for King Of The Cage! That seems like a bit of time in between but my last camp was about 3 months which was perfect. My coach has never steered me wrong and I trust him so much which is why I know I am lucky and in good hands for my career. People pick fights they shouldn't have or try to jump into one too fast but in the Pro circuit you can't turn back time and you are only given so many chances to make something happen. I am taking the month of May to heal up from my last one and will begin my camp in June. I am originally from Niagara Falls/Buffalo New York so I will have a TON of family and friends there so I want to make sure I put on the best show possible!