By U of MMA Staff
Lots of amateur MMA fighters have trouble coming out of their shell, particularly female fighters, who have the added element of being a woman in a predominantly male sport. So when a fighter shows up with skill, heart, looks, and that outgoing ‘It Factor,’ people get excited. When it’s a woman, it’s even more fun.
On May 20th, at ‘Champions of Tomorrow!,’ University of MMA fans were introduced to a dynamo female fighter named Brooksie ‘The Bear’ Bayard, who trains out of FightworX in Pasadena. With a bright smile, pretty blue eyes, and physique that speaks both to her athleticism and sex appeal, Bayard owned her amateur MMA debut in both skill and showmanship. The result was a fan-pleasing TKO victory early in the second round, along with a ballet dancer’s courtsey for the crowd after the fight. Such was Bayard’s performance that it inspired the U’s Turi Altavilla and Jay Tan to create Freshman Honors, a performance-of-the-night reward recognizing the best overall U of MMA debut for that event.
“Before I met Brooksie, I remember Matt telling me ‘y’know how Ericka [Newsome, U of MMA alum fighter and Bayard’s main training partner] is kind of shy in her fighting, and she doesn’t like to hit people? Brooksie is nothing like that. She has no problem beating people up.’ Now anybody who’s seen Ericka fight knows she’s not shy about throwing hands. I could only imagine what to expect with Brooksie,” joked U of MMA matchmaker Jay Tan.
As the youngest of six kids (with three brothers and two sisters). Bayard is a balancing act of tomboy and girly-girl. She grew up in New Iberia, Lousiana, where, by her own accord, “there’s football and there’s dancers. Especially back at that time.”
Despite having plenty of female influence in her life, Bayard often found herself running with the boys. She did a lot of sports as a child, and roughhousing with her brothers was a regular part of life. Family viewings of movies like Bloodsport typically led to pulling aside the furniture and going all-out on each other.
“One time my brother tried to grab me. I threw him over my shoulder. They would rough me up a lot,” she explains.
However, there were times when her feminine wiles got the best of her. One story she remembers is when her father took her on a hunting trip and, in wanting to be more like one of the boys, she was inspired to cut her hair short the next day. Ever the one for learning the hard way, between the end result and realizing that she couldn’t grow it all back instantly, Bayard burst into tears.
“Back to a girl again,” she laughs.
In her teens, dancing became her outlet, particularly in jazz, tap, and hip-hop. She qualified to join a competitive dance team that traveled to tournaments around the country almost every weekend, and after winning several awards and a scholarship to train in California, Bayard was inspired to see what the Golden State was all about.
“I just wanted to come and try the dance studios out. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a dancer, but I wanted to at least take classes out here,” she recollects. “So I came here and I thought the weather was just great. I really liked the activity; that there was so much to do. Very ambitious and very active.”
One year later, Bayard made a permanent move to Southern California.
In many ways, dance was the path to Bayard’s introduction to the fight world. Without the invitations to train on the West Coast, Bayard might not have ended up in Southern California. Likewise, Bayard fully believes that dance helped her develop the work ethic required to be a successful athlete, saying “that’s a foundation of what made me so dedicated to anything with sports. The dancing.”
But Bayard keeps her dancing roots close. Nowadays, dance is an outlet she enjoys away from her fight training. And of course the elements of footwork and balance have direct parallels to her striking.
“Part of that comes out of me. The curtsey thing. I sort of did a little tribute to my dancing background, because it made a lot of body parts on me strong and durable,” explains Bayard. “It helped get rid of any jitters, having been dancing and performing in front of a lot of people.”
Accompanying that sense of showmanship and audience awareness is a sense of righteousness and justice that also fuels Brooksie’s outspokenness. By her own accord, Brooksie has always had protective instincts.
“[If I’d] see somebody getting the crap beaten out of them, I was the one to go run in,” she says. “No matter if there were four people and one person getting attacked. I’d go in and save the person. Not thinking maybe it was possible I’d get hurt.”
Being at FightworX, one of Bayard’s main training partner is another U of MMA alumni, Ericka Letrice Newsome, who won both her bouts with the U last year. Newsome went 5-0 before going pro in her MMA career, and was known in the amateur circuit for heavy hands, a strong frame, and unbreakable chin. Finding opponents for her was a challenge, so having Bayard on as a regular training partner has served a dual purpose of keeping Newsome’s motivation healthy while putting Bayard through a baptism-by-fire initiation into the fight world. According to FightworX head trainer Matt Hambelton, Bayard and Newsome are the perfect combination of the Unstoppable Force meeting the Immovable Object.
“They can punch the shit out of each other and laugh about it,” he notes.
“Not that we do it. Most of the time, we’re nice, but if we have to crank it up. . . ” she chuckles.
“We work well together because there’s a durability,” she explains. “We want each other to do really well. As much time as we put in, we both sort of wish the best to each other. She says it to me. I say it to her. So it’s a good support system.”
With two reliable and dangerous fighters paired up, FightworX stands poised to make some waves in the SoCal womens’ MMA scene. According to Hambelton, the pairing was just a coincidence, and he hosts no lingering thoughts about how training women might be any different than training men. To that end, Bayard is very comfortable with the just being one of the guys.
“That’s one of the things I love about FightworX,” notes Bayard. “They don’t treat us like a girl. They treat us like an athlete. They don’t go easy on us.”
Not surprisingly, Bayard brushes off any suggested differences or extra factors that might set women’s fights apart from the men. Just like her days of hunting with her dad or roughhousing with her brothers on the sofa cushions, fighting isn’t anything she feels she can’t handle on par with the men.
“Most people think it’s too brutal for women. But we want to do it,” she says. “If we can handle it, and we love it, and no one’s forcing us to do it, then don’t cry for us. Cheer us on. And don’t treat us like we’re girls. Treat us like we’re athletes.”
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