She’s a wife, mom of two young children and an English teacher, but make no mistake, she can render an opponent helpless on the mat in 38 seconds flat.

She is Olivia Parker, Seymour resident, William Blount graduate, teacher at Heritage High School and mixed martial arts fighter. Parker has won the two cage matches she’s fought, and will be bringing her power to Maryville June 30 when she competes once more at The Shed. Her jiujitsu training is paying off in more ways than one.

Her story began three years ago, and Parker laughs every time she tells it. She had gone to the Knoxville Martial Arts Academy on Chapman Highway to try out a class but was having major second thoughts. Maybe she would just leave and no one would notice.

Wrong. As Parker turned and headed for her car, someone at the gym stopped her and brought her inside. Today, she’s lost more than 100 pounds, is happier than she’s ever been and counting the days until she can get in the ring and show everyone what she’s got.

“In the beginning, it was just going to be running and kick boxing to lose weight,” she said. “The whole MMA thing was never on my radar until it was on my radar.”

She won her first fight in a technical knockout and her second only lasted 38 seconds. She conquered her opponent with a rear naked choke. Parker barely remembers it. But she’s seen the video.

The fights are weight classes and for her first one, Parker fought at 235 pounds. For her second one, she got down to 195 and for her third, she will be at 170. As Parker explained it, there are more women in the lighter weight class so there are more opponents to take on. That’s motivation enough for Parker.

Getting in the cage with another female who wants to punch and kick her to the ground wasn’t the initial goal, but after getting a taste of the action, Parker said she is hooked. She played sports in high school and college. The competitiveness she thought she had lost came roaring back.

“I want to take this as far as I can,” she said. “I love it. It has become a large part of who I am.”

There are nine female fighters at KMAA. Parker said the sport is growing but there is room for more. Her group has become a sisterhood she said, MMA trained athletes who would like nothing more than to test themselves in the ring.

Fighters and friends

When the fight is over, it’s over. The fierce opponents come together in solidarity with a hug for each other and determination to come back and do things even better.

Parker’s goal will be to get herself into the 145-pound weight class because that is where most of the competitors are. That would be a weight she would fight at but not maintain.

She barely recognizes that scared person who almost ran away from the gym those few years ago. She said we can all make excuses why we can’t lose weight, get in shape, take on a major challenge. For some, it’s time, but Parker said she has to juggle like everyone else.

She has a husband and two small children. She has a full-time job. Just recently, she was coaching one of the Heritage High track athletes as he competed at state. Getting her master’s degree has been a tough road as well.

So Parker, during the school year, gets up and does a workout before work. She walks the track at school during free time and makes a commitment to her gym. “No excuses,” she said. “If you want it bad enough, you can make it happen.”

When she gets in the cage, Parker is one-on-one with her opponent, three rounds of three-minutes each. Three minutes may not sound like a lot, but Parker begs to differ.

“Three minutes isn’t a long time until somebody is punching you in the face. Then, it’s an eternity,” she explained.

At 35, this MMA fighter said she doesn’t know how long she will remain competitive, but she’s going for it to see how far it takes her. She could even go pro after she proves to her coaches she can take control of her weight and of herself in the cage. She’s in no hurry, just working every day to get better.

Getting in the right mindset

Positivity has been the tool she’s gained from her time at KMAA along with the technical skills. The trainers and other fighters are cheerleaders. It’s all about facing your fears and weaknesses with the right mindset.

“There are no setbacks, there are challenges,” this competitor said. “That person in the cage isn’t a threat. They are a challenge. When you see life that way, it changes everything.”

This former basketball player said some criticize what she does because she is a mom. She said the allure for her is being able to stand across from an opponent and win both the mental and physical game.

“MMA is like playing chess with your body,” she said. “When I played basketball I could just shut down my brain. You can never do that with jiujitsu. You have to be laser-focused on what you are doing.”

When she gave up playing sports, Parker said there was a void in her life. She admits to being very competitive.

“I think I missed that part of who I was,” she said.

Warning: If you happen to see Parker out and about, she might want to challenge you to a race, of almost any kind. Even when you don’t think she’s looking.

“If we are at Walmart and you are beside me pushing a cart, I am racing you,” she said with a laugh. “You don’t know it, but it’s a race. That’s just how I am, off the line first. That is my personality. That’s just how it is.”

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Melanie joined The Daily Times in the early 90s and has served as the Life section editor since 1993. A William Blount and UT alum, Melanie is generally the early arriver who turns on the lights in the newsroom.

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