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Local MMA Fighter Pioneers Sport For Women

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(credit: CBS) Mike Max
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Kelly Kobold’s a fighter. She’s been involved with Mixed Martial Arts for over a decade and is fearless in accomplishing her goals inside the cage.

Kobold knows her daytime job in real estate has definitely benefited by her passion for a very competitive sports world outside of the office.

“I think patience and discipline has definitely helped me in some situations here at the office; where it’s just maintaining composure, keeping cool, knowing when and when not to be aggressive in the business field,” she said.

That’s because Kobold’s all about taking care of business when it comes to training in Mixed Martial Arts.

“It takes a lot of time. When I’m in training for a fight, I’m at the gym 3 or 4 hours a day, multiple gyms, multiple days, 5 or 6 days a week. And I love it so I wouldn’t have it any other way,” said Kobold.

She’s the top-ranked MMA fighter in the state and ranked seventh in the country. But Kobold’s success hasn’t come easy. She started in the sport 10 years ago and a welcome mat wasn’t exactly rolled out for her.

“I am one of the pioneers of the sport for women. It was just a garage and a bunch of big, scary sweaty men with tattoos and stuff rolling around on the floor and punching each other,” recalled Kobold. “And I walked in and it was like jumping off the 20-foot diving board into the deep end of the pool and I couldn’t swim. Everyone in that gym looked at me like, why are you here? And I didn’t have an answer for them at that time just like I don’t particularly have an answer for them now except for no one is going to tell me I can’t do that.”

Mike Reilly has been working with Kobold as her trainer/manager since she started in MMA.

“When she walked in, honestly I saw this young 18-year-old girl and thought, ‘Oh baby you’re in the wrong place,'” said Reilly. “And it’s like I’m not going to slow down for you just because you’re a woman, if you want to fight you have to do everything the fighters are doing, you gotta be able to take it the way the fighters do. And after the first night, honestly, I never thought we’d see her again. And she came back the next night, and the next night, and the next night and it’s been 20 years.

Reilly believes she has what it takes to be a flourishing fighter.

“She is so fearless, if she had one natural trait that she brought with her was this absolute fearlessness, this willingness to get in there and fight, this willingness to go for it,” said Reilly.

It’s hard to rattle Kobold when she’s in the cage competing. She’s fought in 25 bouts as a pro and can’t get enough of the adrenaline rush.

“You’re very aware of the crowds right up until that point where the referee says go and then there is nothing else except you, that girl and occasionally a voice from your corner and that’s all you hear. It’s a very isolated event, the actual fight itself for the fighters,” she said.

There is a physical and mental strategy involved when Kobold’s competing.

“I’ve got to be stronger and faster as than that other person that I’m fighting, I’ve got to outsmart them, I’ve got to do things that they don’t’ expect in order to have that upper hand on them, in order to win,” she said.

Reilly and Kobold have developed over the last decade a mutual respect for one another that is the basis for their MMA partnership — like a father daughter relationship

“These are special people that come into your life and they touch you in a way that nobody else is going to be able to just by their unique position in their life and I just hope anyone who is lucky enough to have a person like this in their life, recognizes it and what a gift it really is,” Kobold.

Meanwhile, back at the office, she is well aware that she won’t be leaving her 9-to-5 job anytime soon. 

“I think I’m realistic in the knowledge that the sport has a long way to go and I will probably have aged out of my prime competitive years by the time it is common for any fighter, much less a man or a woman, to make a full and complete living doing just this,” Kobold said.

But she is living out her dream of fighting to the finish.

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