The hard hitter: Bec Rawlings, 25, mixed martial arts
Describing herself as an “inflictor of ridiculously stylish violence”, Bec Rawlings is the first Australian female fighter to sign with the Invicta Fighting Championships. In May, the mother of two will appear as a contestant on the first all-women season of the US reality television series The Ultimate Fighter. The winner will become the inaugural UFC women’s strawweight champion.
RC You had an unusual start in mixed martial arts (MMA).
Bec Rawlings I started to cardio kickbox to lose weight. I was badly overweight and so I just wanted to get into fitness to get healthier. That’s where I found MMA and pretty much fell in love with it after the first lesson.
RC When did you first think it could be more than a hobby?
BR I think it was when I was starting to give the guys some trouble. They were thinking, “Oh, this is just a girl”, but I started to beat them up.
RC Was your family surprised when you became a fighter?
BR No. I guess I’ve always been fiery. And I was the youngest of four children, so I had to learn how to defend myself. They’re very supportive. My mum hates it, but she’s still supportive. She always says she spent her whole life trying to protect me, now I’m putting myself in harm’s way. She can never watch it completely – she stresses out too much. She’ll have a little peek around the corner and see that I’m still alive.
RC In your first fight you were knocked out with a kick to the head. When that happens, some fighters never really get over it, but you seemed to bounce back straight away.
BR Yeah, absolutely. It kind of woke me up, really pushed me to train harder and work harder and just prove that I could come back from it. It happens. It’s probably the best thing that’s happened to me in my career. It really lit a fire under my butt. I’ve always had something that I’ve had to fight through.
RC You had a tough time at school …
BR I was a bit of a wild child. My mum thinks I was misunderstood, but looking back I just think I was a pain in the butt. I’m not as smart as I should be, but luckily I can use my fists to make money now instead of my brain.
RC What was the latest tattoo you got?
BR I just got “VOID”, which is like a void stamp over my ex’s name on my wrist.
RC You also changed your name after your relationship ended, from Hyatt back to Rawlings.
BR It took a lot of thinking, and I spoke to my manager just to see what he thought. I just feel with everything that’s happened to me that it was wrong to carry his name any longer. It was just a horrible, horrible time that I’m trying to put behind me. So I felt it was time to go back to who I am, and that’s Rawlings, and really carry that name and hopefully get that name famous.
RC It was an abusive relationship?
BR It was abusive for a long time, and three years down the track it just got to be enough. A lot of people think it was just abusive for the end of the relationship. It wasn’t at all.
RC So while you were having this sudden public success, there was private despair at the same time.
BR Yeah. A lot of people were surprised, because I’m so bubbly. I just try not to let anything affect me as much. And lots of people didn’t think it could happen to someone like me – a strong womanly figure who’s out there fighting people in cages. That’s why I released the story and just let it become public, because I wanted people to know that it happens to everyone and not just weak-minded mums who can’t defend themselves. I can defend myself, but it still happened to me.
RC In the media there’s an association made between mixed martial arts and violence on the street. Do you think that’s unfair?
BR Definitely. If you were to come to an MMA gym and introduce yourself to a number of fighters in the gym, you’d find we are just like the kindest, humblest people that you could meet. The people who are out on the streets fighting and calling themselves MMA fighters – or whatever they’re calling themselves – are not, because there’s no glory in street fighting. You’re not going to win a prize at the end of it. You’re not going to earn a ranking at the end of it. We don’t go out on the street looking for fights. We book fights and we get paid to fight. So it’s just stupid that they will link MMA to street fighters. We have the martial arts way – respect and honour – and there’s no honour in street fighting.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Apr 5, 2014 as "The hard hitter". Subscribe here.