Kansas City Chiefs Cheerleaders in October 2008
by Chris Oberholtz
August 17, 2015
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) –
The Kansas City Chiefs cheerleaders have been working hard for months, gearing up for the first home preseason game.
And after practicing for hours, multiple days a week, they’re ready to take the field Friday at Arrowhead Stadium.
“We cheer really long games, it is multiple hours,” cheerleading coach Stephanie Judah said. “So, to be able to physically do it, they have to train like an athlete.”
The 33 women who make up the Chiefs cheerleading squad have been training like athletes every week since auditioning back in March.
“We have practice for 4 hours, twice a week and games on Sunday,” said Chiefs cheerleader, Hannah. “Outside of that, we have personal trainers. So they’ve given us our own individualized plans we follow on our off days.”
Outside of the training and practices, these women also have full-time careers.
“I have nurses, I have teachers, we’ve had lawyers before,” Judah said. “When you have a job, when you have a full-time student schedule on top of practices and appearances, you have to learn to be organized, learn how to be responsible, but also, learn to be the best you can.”
It is a balancing act for most of the women, who say the hectic lifestyle pays off when their boots hit the turf on game days.
“My favorite thing is interacting with the fans on Sunday their energy is so high it feels like a family, you feel like you’re home and it’s so cool to be a part of something so major in this city,” Hannah said.
For these women, it is not just about connecting with fans on the field but creating a lasting impression in the community.
“The main role of being a cheerleader is being a role model for young girls, women of all ages,” Hannah said.
You can see the Chiefs’ cheerleaders in action on Friday when the Chiefs take on the Seattle Seahawks at Arrowhead Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. You can also watch the game on KCTV5.
The Kansas City Chiefs Cheerleaders are revisiting Saint Lucia’s Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa for their 2015-2016 swimsuit calendar photoshoot, April 9-14, 2015. This is the first time that the organization has returned to a destination for their annual destination photoshoot.
The resort’s 85-acre landscape and mile-long beach will offer stunning shoot locations as home base for the squad as they capture the south coast beauty from sunrise to sunset. They’ll also visit the attractions that make Saint Lucia an award-winning destination from the seeing the World Heritage Pitons from a catamaran to Pigeon Island National Park.
“We are honored to be the first resort and first destination the Chiefs Cheerleaders have chosen to visit twice. We look forward to welcoming them again. They are wonderful ambassadors for the team and we know our guests will enjoy spending time with them as they enjoy the best our island and our resort has to offer,” says Mark Adams, President and CEO of Coconut Bay. “Our guests will have several opportunities to mingle, get autographs and photos with the squad during the course of their visit.”
Coconut Bay’s varied amenities and family-friendly activities will be the center of the action as the Chiefs Cheerleaders pose for the camera and have some fun behind the scenes. The squad will take to the ocean in kayaks and on stand-up paddleboards. The adults-only Harmony Pool, one of five at the resort, the oceanfront spa, waterfalls and sundecks will serve as the perfect backdrops for sunrise photoshoots and unwinding later. The squad will also have some good old fashioned fun as they enjoy many resort offerings from horseback riding and Segway tours to tubing around the Lazy River and twisting down the slides in the CocoLand Waterpark, Saint Lucia’s largest.
KC Chiefs Cheerleaders pool (2)Fans can get a sneak peek of the photo shoot and the Chiefs Cheerleaders’ Saint Lucia experience by following @ChiefsCheer and @_CoconutBay on Twitter, Kansas City Chiefs and Coconut Bay on Facebook.
Click here to check out some photos on KCChiefs.com!
See the whole squad here.
By Sean Keeler
If you want your shot, ladies, Rachel Wray is ready. Or pretty darn close, at the least.
“Now that I’ve achieved the one goal I have been focusing so hard on for so long, I feel like I can finally turn my attention back to MMA,” Wray, the former NFL-cheerleader-turned-mixed-martial-arts fighter, tells FOXSportsKansasCity.com.
“I may compete in one more tournament in March, but I told my coach I’m ready to fight. He said he may have a fight readily available.”
That “goal” above is a blue belt in Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu, granted to Wray after she won gold Jan. 31 at the 2015 Arkansas Open tourney in Conway, Arkansas.
“This (was) literally the moment I (had) been waiting for the entire time I have been training for MMA,” says Wray, a Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader from 2010-11.
“I think the reason he decided to promote me at the tournament was because of one of the matches I won. One of the girls there who is a purple belt, a pro and an MMA fighter with a 5-1 record, her opponent was a no-show. So they asked me to fight her. I figured I would probably lose but I wanted to get the experience of rolling with such a high-level grappler. So I said, ‘Yes.’
“She dominated me from top position for the entire first four minutes of the match, but then she decided to expose her back for a split second, so I got up and jumped on her back like a little monkey and sank in a rear naked choke. As I squeezed with all my might, I started to get tears in my eyes because I couldn’t believe it was happening. I was going to not only beat this pro, but I was going to submit her.”
Wray says she has taken home at least 10 golds in BJJ tournaments over the past 18 months, having fought competition ranging from 130 through 180 pounds.
Chiefs-cheerleader-turned-MMA-fighter Rachel Wray.
Now that the blue belt — the second adult rank (after white) in BJJ — is in hand, her focus now is dropping 10 to 15 pounds and “sharpening my boxing.”
The former Chiefs cheer squad member, who sports a 2-2 MMA record as an amateur, hasn’t fought since last July 12, when she fell by submission to Jamie “The Pretty Assassin” Clinton after 44 seconds at Attitude MMA Fights II in Lakeland, Tennessee. Wray says she took the date while still battling the effects of a recent concussion, and that Clinton’s choke hold caused her to black out — a sensation she described later as “the same feeling as dying.”
“Once I can lose lots of weight and my hands are back to where they were two years ago, I will definitely be ready to fight again,” Wray says. “I’m also praying I don’t reinjure my ankle or get any more concussions, because those are always major setbacks.”
The Chiefs Cheerleaders traveled to London for the Super Bowl
By Rachel Santschi
The Chiefs Cheerleaders spent time across the pond this weekend, to celebrate the Super Bowl with UK fans at the NFL Super Bash. Twelve cheerleaders traveled to London and performed at various events during the week, including a premiere club soccer match. They also did radio interviews, toured the city and visited Wembley Stadium.
“We were thrilled for the opportunity to visit London and be a part of the NFL’s Super Bash,” Stephanie Judah, Chiefs Cheerleader Director, said. “We had an amazing experience exploring the city, taking in the culture, meeting NFL fans and performing at a soccer match and the NFL’s Super Bash. It was a great time and we are so thankful for the opportunity.”
Day One: The group arrived in London and immediately headed to the NFL’s UK office. Each cheerleader had a one-on-one interview to give more information about themselves and their trip to London. Following the interviews, they enjoyed a few delicacies of London as they taste tested all kinds of famous dishes.
Day Two: The group visited Talksport Radio Station as guests on the morning show. The girls discussed the Chiefs upcoming trip to London in November and touched on their passion for the organization and the support of the Chiefs Kingdom.
They had some laughs as well, when they played a trivia game called ‘CheerLeader or CheerLiar.’ The girls would describe a dance move and the radio hosts, Alan and Mickey, would have to decide if they were telling the truth or fibbing.
Following the radio appearance, the girls headed to Wembley Stadium. They toured the stadium and filmed some promotional commercials and photos for the upcoming Chiefs game. The girls were astounded by the stadium and since all the seats are red, they were reminded of Arrowhead Stadium and the “sea of red.”
Day Three: On Saturday, the cheerleaders were invited to the West Bromwich Albion vs. Tottenham Hotspur match at Hawthorns Stadium. The cheerleaders formed a ‘guard of honour’ for the players as they made their way onto the pitch and then they performed at halftime. They also presented the team with a Chiefs football.
“The environment was amazing,” Judah explained. “The fans were singing and chanting the entire game, even with no music. It was wild. We were so glad we were able to experience it and be a part of it.”
#Chiefs Cheerleaders performed at halftime at the @WBAFCofficial vs @SpursOfficial match today! #ChiefsKingdom pic.twitter.com/lajji4UNSe
— Rachel Santschi (@KCChiefs_Rachel) January 31, 2015
Day Four: Sunday morning the girls were able to take in the sights and show off their Chiefs Kingdom pride. They visited Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, London Tower as they took the Red Bus Tour around town.
That evening, the girls arrived at the NFL’s Super Bash where there were over 2,000 UK NFL fans in attendance to celebrate the Super Bowl. The cheerleaders signed autographs, met fans, handed out posters and performed at pre-game and halftime.
“It was such an incredible experience and an amazing trip to London,” Judah noted. “It was an honor to perform at the NFL Super Bash and watch the Super Bowl with all the fans. We even met some Chiefs fan; it was great to see that the Chiefs Kingdom truly knows no bounds. We can’t wait to visit again in November and cheer on our Chiefs.”
By Rachel Santschi
Chiefs Cheerleader and eighth year veteran, Krystal, will be representing the Chiefs organization at the 2015 Pro Bowl.
Krystal is a software architect for a healthcare IT company and is a graduate of the University of Richmond. She grew up in El Paso, TX and both of her parents were in the military.
“I couldn’t be more excited and proud that Krystal will be representing the Chiefs and the Chiefs Cheerleaders at the Pro Bowl,” Stephanie Judah, Chiefs Cheerleader Director, said. “She is the true definition of hard work and heart on this team. She is going to have the time of her life and she deserves it.”
After the announcement was made, I spoke with her about her reaction to the surprise, her experience as a Chiefs Cheerleader and her future trip to the Pro Bowl.
R: Tell me about you experience as a Chiefs Cheerleader.
K: My experience as a Chiefs Cheerleader has been enriching and eye opening. I have learned and experienced so much over the past eight seasons; ranging from being a positive role model for our community youth to hanging out and cheering on our fans to traveling around the globe, visiting with our military stationed aboard. I feel all these experiences and life lessons has enriched and helped shape me into the woman I am today. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect to be a professional NFL cheerleader or be a part of a phenomenal organization who truly believes in their team, fans, and community. At times, I feel this is all a surreal dream that I don’t want to wake up from.
R: Did you ever dream you would be cheering at the Pro Bowl one day?
K: No! I am still in disbelief. Never in my wildest dream did I ever expect to one day represent the Chiefs at Pro Bowl. Being selected for Pro Bowl is such an honor because it means that my fellow teammates believed in me to represent our squad and the Chiefs organization as a professional with character, class and passion.
R: How did you find out you were selected to go to the Pro Bowl? And what was your reaction?
K: I found out at the Chiefs vs. Raiders game during the two minute warning in the first half after our full squad routine. The Chiefs staff told us to form a semi-circle immediately after we were done performing. As a vet, you immediately know what is about to happen. As we line up in our semi-circle and they begin to call out the Pro Bowl nominees, I was so happy for the girls being recognized that I almost missed my name. I’m very proud of all of the Pro Bowl nominees that I got to stand next to. After they announced the top 5, I suddenly hear the announcer say my name but it was like a dream. The next thing I know, I see Summer, my teammate, rush over to me and I’m just standing in disbelief, eyes welling with tears of joy. Then I am engulfed by my teammates and I lose it, buckets of tears stream down my face.
R: What are you most looking forward to about this trip?
K: Meeting each of the cheerleader Pro Bowl representatives! I’m looking forward to getting to know each of the girls and hearing about their programs and cheering next to them.
R: What is some of the advice you’ve received from your teammates or coaches who have also traveled to the Pro Bowl?
K: To be myself, enjoy every minute, take lots of pictures, invest in the other cheerleaders and fans.
R: What does it mean to you to be selected and to represent the Chiefs?
K : Being selected to represent the Chiefs at Pro Bowl is a great honor, which I will cherish forever. To be selected tells me that my team believes in me to represent them and this organization. Each of my teammates are exceptional cheerleaders, who can easily represent our team at Pro Bowl, however, the mere thought that they wanted me to represent them is a great honor. To represent the Chiefs is the biggest honor because I get to spread my love for the Chiefs around the Arizona community and grow our Chiefs Kingdom by showing the community how great our fans are, our team, and our organization!
[Krystal at KCChiefs.com]
Cricket follows dreams from Wildcat Stadium to Arrowhead
By Kyle Troutman
For one Cassville High School alumna, being part of Chiefs Kingdom involves more than just tuning on the television on Sundays.
Cricket, whose full name is redacted per Chiefs’ policy, puts in a full day of work on game days at Arrowhead Stadium as a Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader.
A Kansas City native, Cricket moved to Golden when she was about 3 years old, attending Cassville elementary, middle and high schools. She first started twirling and dancing in the sixth grade, and as she got older, she got more and more into sports.
“I got more into sports and being a tomboy for a while, and I played football in the sixth grade as a safety and tight end, then I moved to wide receiver in seventh grade,” she said. “I joined the cheer squad in eighth grade because as the guys got bigger, I did not grow as quickly. So, I transitioned to cheerleading and stayed on the squad from eighth grade until I graduated high school.”
In her time as a Cassville cheerleader, Cricket was always up to help out the squad when needed, even when it meant donning the mascot garb.
“My sophomore year, we didn’t have anyone to be the mascot, and being an opportunist, I volunteered to be the mascot,” she said. “It was a lot of fun and something you don’t see a lot of females do.”
Cricket said her other favorite part about cheering at Cassville was the yearly camp, which was always at a different college in the area.
“One week out of the year, we would go to cheer camp at colleges like Missouri State or the University of Arkansas, and we got to meet the college cheerleaders,” she said. “That was a lot of fun and was one of my favorite parts of cheering at Cassville.”
Cricket took her talents to the college level at Missouri State, but had to overcome a little adversity when she got there. On prom night, Cricket tried out for the Sugar Bears dance team, but did not make the cut.
“I didn’t let that get me down,” she said. “I thought college would be a new experience, so I went and tried out or the Diamond Girls [dance and spirit squad for the Bears baseball team], and I made that, so I was on that squad from my freshman to senior year of college.”
When she was a junior in college, Cricket said she went to a Bears football game, and even though it had never crossed her mind prior, she thought getting back into cheerleading would be a good experience.
“I tried out for the Chiefs cheerleading squad in 2009, and I made the finals, but did not make the team,” she said. “So, I finished the one year of college I had left, and in 2010, I tried out again, and this time, I made it.”
Each member of the Chiefs cheerleading squad has to try out every year. After her first season in 2010, Cricket was cut in 2011, but once again, she did not let that get her down.
“[Trying out every year] makes the process a little more stressful, because you always have to show more and prove you can grow to meet the Chiefs’ standards,” she said. “I did not let it defeat me when I didn’t make it in 2011, and I’ve been on the squad from 2012 to now.”
A typical game day for Cricket at Arrowhead starts bright and early, as she always attends the 7:30 a.m. chapel service for Chiefs players and staff.
“It’s a non-denominational service that puts me at ease and helps me find my center of peace,” she said. “After chapel, it all starts going pretty fast. We have a pre-game meeting, go through our rotations for each quarter and our routine schedule, then we head to the field when they take the tarp off to rehearse our programs. We do different routines every game and don’t repeat any.
“Then, we go back to our room for about an hour of downtime before we get ready to go out for the pre-game tailgating. Something new we started last year is the pre-game parade, which includes [the mascot horse] Warpaint, the Rumblers, the cheerleaders, KC Wolf and the Flag Warriors. Then, head into the stadium at 11:25 to start our intro.”
Cricket said once games begin, they go by fast.
“It’s really fun to be on the field, but with all the cameras and the press, we end up having to watch the jumbotron a lot to see what happened in the game,” she said. “But as soon as the team breaks from the huddle, we turn around and watch so we don’t get hit by anything.”
Being a Chiefs cheerleader part-time, Cricket also has a full-time job, and said any young cheerleader who may want to go pro one day has to work for it.
“I know it sounds cliché, but if you want something, if you have a dream, go for it,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to fail because failing does not define who you are, getting back up and learning from failure and changing because of it defines who you are.
“For me, baby steps and a lot of determination was how I did it. And, the Chiefs community and all we do for the Chiefs community is what keeps me going and keeps me scamming back to being a Chiefs cheerleader.”
Cricket is a graduate of Cassville High School and a graduate of Missouri State University, with a degree in recreation sports and park administration, with an emphasis on therapeutic recreation. She also minored in psychology.
[Cricket at KCChiefs.com]
Alicia spent two seasons as cheerleader for the Kansas City Chiefs
Goodbye, frigid Sunday afternoons in Kansas City. Hello, electric heat of the Pepsi Center.
After spending two seasons as a cheerleader for the Kansas City Chiefs, first-year Denver Nuggets Dancer Alicia is ready to make the transition to the NBA.
“I’m excited for the new opportunity,” she said. “I came out to Denver in March to verify that this was something I wanted to take on and do. It was a really neat experience. It was entertaining and high energy.”
Raised in the farming community of Marshall, Missouri (pop. 13,065), Alicia got her start in dancing when her grandmother enrolled her in a class when she was 10.
“She wanted to get some coordination in me,” Alicia said.
Grandma Carol knew what was she was doing. Alicia adapted quickly and eventually became a member of her high school dance teams and cheerleading squads.
While expressing her artistic side through dance, Alicia also began to think about her career path while attending Avila University in Kansas City.
Intrigued by the opportunities in technology, she transferred from Avila to ITT Technical Institute to pursue her degree. She then landed a job as a networking analyst for Century Link in Kansas City.
“I don’t fit the typical IT stereotype,” Alicia said. “I have a passion for what I do, and I take pride in how fluent I am in what I do.”
Because Century Link is based in Denver, she was able to stay with the company after moving from Kansas City. The biggest challenge will be juggling her work calendar with her Nuggets dance practice and game schedule.
“I’m pretty good managing my time,” Alicia said. “I can definitely say I don’t know what to expect with the NBA. The NFL was one home game every two weeks. Luckily my co-workers and staff are very supportive. They’re going to work with me on my schedule. My organizer is my best friend.”
Nuggets dance team manager Amy Jo Wagner was impressed with Alicia’s confidence and choreography during auditions in July.
“Without looking at her resume, I could immediately tell that she had performance experience.”
Though she’s an NBA rookie, Alicia brings a veteran presence to the team because of her two years with the Chiefs.
“She understands the pressure of dancing in front of a large audience,” Wagner said. “That will definitely help Alicia as she settles into a new town, new building, and new league.
“In the few shorts weeks we have worked together, she already has proven herself to be a valuable team member and a great role model for our younger dancers.”
[Alicia at the Nuggets Website]
Chiefs Cheerleaders visited military members and their families overseas
By Rachel Santschi
The Chiefs Cheerleaders recently visited five military bases throughout Germany and the United Kingdom. The Cheerleaders have a long-standing relationship with the military and are continually visiting local bases, assisting in hosting military personal at Arrowhead Stadium, or traveling overseas to support our troops.
This year, the group had a few unique opportunities to support the military, including multiple local base visits, a trip to a base in Nevada and a trip overseas. Six women were selected to travel overseas and tour the five different bases.
“One of the great things about being a Chiefs Cheerleader is spending time with our military,” Stephanie Judah, Chiefs Cheerleader Director, commented. “For these six girls to have the chance to travel overseas to thank the men and women who serve our country is an incredible opportunity that I know they cherished.”
Over the years, the Chiefs Cheerleaders have also traveled to Egypt, Germany and Japan. Each visit, they work in conjunction with that base’s Post Exchange to organize several activities, including youth cheerleader clinics, social outings, and visits in hospitals to meet wounded troops.
The girls spent 11 days touring Germany and the UK, while hosting events and supporting the military.
“The purpose of the trip was to visit with the military and their families and to give them a piece of home,” Krystal, 8th year Chiefs Cheerleader, explained. “Each day, we hosted a youth clinic for boys and girls ranging in age, from five or six years old to 18 years old, then a Variety Show performance, and a meet and greet session to follow.”
Each Cheerleader truly values these trips to the military bases, but for Krystal, this trip was special.
“These visits are extremely close to my heart, since both of my parents served in the military,” Krystal said. “As a kid, I remember saying goodbye to my dad and waiting for him to come back from tour. I remember how much I missed him, so being able to hang out with the children at the bases and give them a moment of joy and happiness, truly meant the world to me. Since I didn’t follow in my dad’s footsteps and join military, I feel like this is my way to contribute and give back. It has also brought us closer together as we have stories to share and bond over.”
When they arrived at each base, they were welcomed with open arms and beaming smiles. All of the girls were overwhelmed with emotions and very thankful for the response they received and the opportunities they had to impact these families’ lives.
“I have always had a special place in my heart for the military and I was overjoyed with each and every moment I got to spend with not only the soldiers, but the wives, girlfriends, and even children,” Kassi, 2nd year Chiefs Cheerleader and UMKC graduate, noted. “The responses and the reactions were that of gratitude and appreciation. It didn’t matter whether they were a Broncos fan, Raiders fan, or not a fan at all. They made a point to tell us thank you. The kids acted like we were celebrities, it was a great opportunity.”
The girls came back to the states with some incredible stories and memories they will never forgot and cherish always.
“It’s so hard to pick just one favorite memory, but I’d have to say that one of my favorite memories during our cheer clinics was teaching the kids and their families The Chop,” Leslie, 2nd year Chiefs Cheerleader and Mizzou graduate, said. “As I watched the families and their children participate, I witnessed the same feeling of pride and excitement as I get on game day watching our fans at Arrowhead. Whether they were Chiefs fans or not, they all came together to support us and our organization with such enthusiasm.”
The group also had the chance to tour the bases, learn the different jobs and responsibilities of the members on the base and get a behind the scenes look at what it’s like to be in the military.
“My favorite part of the trip was being able to tour the workplaces of our service men and women,” Hayley, 4th year Chiefs Cheerleader from Peculiar, MO, said. “We were able to see them in their element, hear about their pride in their work and really get to know them. It was eye opening to see the day in and day out work our military puts into such a large variety of jobs. It made me even more appreciative of these men and women and gave us a better understanding of the impact each individual has on the big picture.”
The girls returned with an even greater appreciation for these men and women and were incredibly thankful for the experience and opportunity to serve and thank these brave families.
“It didn’t matter who their home team was on Sunday afternoons or what color jersey they had in their drawer, we were a part of a bigger picture — a representation of the NFL and the USA, which brought a familiarity of home to the servicemen and women and their families,” Pamela, 2nd year Chiefs Cheerleader from Blue Springs, MO, explained. “Our brief time with them was a piece of home and I truly believe that we made a difference and touched the lives of these families and conversely they forever changed ours.”
These girls truly value their time visiting the military and were thankful for the chance to impact these men and women’s lives overseas. In turn, they had life changing experiences as well, learning a lot about themselves and caught a glimpse of life in the military.
“Nothing was better than getting to spend so much time with these military men and women and really get a different feel for what they do every day,” Brooke, 3rd year Chiefs Cheerleader from Liberty, MO, said. “The families were amazing and touched my heart to the fullest. It really put everything into perspective. All military men and women need to be thanked more often. They constantly put their lives on the line and we are so proud to support them and give back to them in this small way.”
In addition to these international military visits, the Chiefs also honor the troops locally throughout the year. The Chiefs Cheerleaders make annual base visits to local military installations such as Ft. Leavenworth, Ft. Riley, Whiteman AFB and McConnell AFB.
Click here for photos from The Press Democrat.
Gosh, I forgot how much prettier kicks are when the boots allow for pointed toes.
NFL Preseason is here! Click here to check out Sports Illustrated’s first NFL cheerleader gallery of the season.
The Chiefs have updated their individual cheerleader uniform photos. Click here to take a look!
By Sean Keeler
FOX Sports Kansas City
Rachel Wray, the former Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader-turned-fighter, is returning to MMA for the first time in more than a year. The Arkansas native tells FOXSportsKansasCity.com that she’s received an offer to fight on July 12, in Memphis, Tennessee, on a card put on by Attitude MMA.
“I was scheduled to fight in June in Mississippi but the entire show was canceled,” says Wray, who sports a 2-1 record. “My coach has been getting several offers for me to fight more of the big-name girls, title fights, et cetera. But he tells them while he does think that I could beat them, I haven’t fought in (more than) a year and I’ve only had three fights. So we need to wait and get some more fights under my belt before I accept a title fight or a more high-status opponent. We need to see where I’m at first.”
After her original opponent for the Memphis bout backed out, Wray says, she’s now slated to fight Jamie Clinton.
“She is a two-stripe white belt (as am I),” Wray says, “so I expect she will have some good ground game.”
The 24-year-old, who was on the Chiefs’ cheerleading squad in 2011 and ’12, bowed out of a bout with Bobby Bedard last August because of a weight issue.
Since then, everything in her MMA circle is new — new gym, new trainer and a new weight class.
“I was cutting way too much weight,” says Wray, who’ll fight at 130 pounds now after cycling between 115 and 125 pounds the last two years. “Fluctuating 20 pounds every couple months just isn’t healthy, especially for a girl. Ten years of gymnastics caused my body to be more naturally bulky and muscular. So I discovered that if I started lifting heavy and went up a weight class, I would feel 10 times stronger, more explosive and powerful.”
As to the latter, well, thank her new boyfriend, Geo, who’s also her strength and conditioning coach. The routine: CrossFit-style workouts at 6 a.m., followed by Olympic lifts and cardio circuits with fighting-style elements.
She’s also been fine-tuning her fighting style, having won gold at an American Grappling Federation tournament last fall, and two silvers at the NAGA World Jiu-Jitsu Championship last December in Dallas.
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“I have really been developing my fighting style and I don’t want to give anything away to my opponent,” Wray says. “But let’s just say what you see on YouTube is not how I fight anymore — at all.”
She’s teaching at UFC Gym in Fayetteville, Ark., and signing some autographs locally in June. But the bulk of the next two months is centered on training. Training and keeping a relatively low profile.
“All of my focus really is on getting ready for my return to the cage,” Wray says.
“When everyone first found out about me going from being a Chiefs cheerleader to an MMA fighter, there was a huge uproar with the media and caused sort of a frenzy. It was very stressful to me and brought many emotions that got in the way of my training. ‘Step right up, folks, see the amazing cage-fighting cheerleader!’ That’s how it all felt.”
Goodbye, pompoms; hello, Pedro Sauer Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Association. Next up: Wray plans on being tested for her blue belt in the mixed martial arts style.
“This has been my most important goal — more important than winning fights — since I first started fighting,” she says. “The reason why it’s so important to me is because it’s the best way to display my discipline and dedication to the sport.
“I also believe that it will force the MMA community to respect me. Nobody will be able to say that I’m ‘not qualified’ or ‘not experienced enough’ or ‘don’t deserve it’ or any of that stuff (that) I used to hear when I first started. Nobody can say that I haven’t put in the work, because I will have a great way to prove them wrong.”