Fighter Girl: Latoia Smith

783_lgHer alarm goes off at 6am most mornings just like other working Americans as she rises to tend to her two daughters before her day begins at the office. After kissing her 4 and 5 year old daughters and husband goodbye for the day, Latoia Smith then works from about 8am to 5pm as an Assistant Manager at a local apartment complex in Oklahoma City, OK. So what is so unique about Latoia? After getting out of work, Latoia heads straight to the Academy of Martial Arts in Oklahoma City to train for about four hours in all aspects of mixed martial arts. “I always played sports in high school,” explained Smith on her passion about MMA. “I was looking for some competitive sports to get involved in when I saw the Ultimate Fighter television show and fell in love with it!”
Latoia began her training in July 2010 and on September 22, 2011 she had her first fight in Tulsa, OK for the XFL. Being the first female fighter to come out of her gym presented both excitement and its own kind of pressure. “When I saw the bright lights, my adrenaline was just pumping!” she related regarding that first official fight in the cage. “Once they shut the door, it’s just you, your opponent, and the referee.”

Smith’s fight went the full three rounds with her opponent out of Colorado and she eventually lost by a close decision. “My biggest challenge is controlling my asthma and not having an attack,” she continued. While most fighters have to deal with being properly conditioned and making sure their technique is refined, Latoia has had the added pressure of dealing with asthma for most of her life. “I realized the impact it had on me when I first started training. In the beginning, I would only be able to last a few rounds,” she explained.

Eventually however her endurance began to grow. Her coach would have her train in multiple layers of clothing to assist with the slow build-up of her conditioning and endurance, and this hard work definitely paid off. “I was proud that I could finish all three rounds of my fight without having an attack.” In fact, Latoia easily now trains her gym’s standard 15 minute rounds without an asthma attack. Quite a success story in one and a half short years.

Smith will be competing this February 25 when NAGA (North American Grappling Association) comes to Oklahoma City for the first time. She explained that she still has mixed feedback when it comes to her newfound passion of mixed martial arts. “My parents definitely support me, but my grandparents just don’t want to see me get hurt!” Smith’s daughters also sometimes attend the Academy of Martial Arts’ kids’ classes, making it a family affair. “My daughter just asked for a pair of boxing gloves for her birthday ‘like Mommy’s’,” she stated with a smile in her voice.

Besides fierce training 5-6 days a week, Smith’s coach also has her on a high protein diet with lots of fluids, primarily water for proper hydration. “I come to the gym straight from work and sometimes don’t even have time to take my make-up off before training,” Smith described when asked to expound a bit on the differences and thoughts on female fighters in general. “As a woman, don’t let anything stop you from trying out MMA,” Latoia passionately explained. “Don’t let the concept that you have to look a certain way stop you from at least trying out a class or a gym to see for yourself.”

With the future of Strikeforce still up in the air, the topic of whether women will ever fight in the UFC was also explored with this up and coming fighter. “Right now there doesn’t seem to be a lot of depth to the women’s weight classes,” Latoia accurately stated. “It’s not a lack of talent! If the weight classes were opened up and more added, you would see more women fighters.” Right now, the 135lb. and 145lb. weight classes for women are the most focused-upon divisions in Strikeforce and in many MMA events across the country.

As Latoia trains hard and progresses in her career as a fighter, she continues to be an inspiration, a role model, and a motivator for her family at home, and her family at the gym. “The Academy was the first gym I ever trained at and it’s really my family away from home! I know they want me to be at my very best.” The Fighter Girls community wishes Latoia luck on her upcoming competition at NAGA this February and will continue to watch for her in future MMA events.

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