MMA training takes a lot of time, passion, and sacrifice. Patience and skill is needed to prepare for anything; and the ability to adapt is crucial. For fighter Stephanie Webber, this can also describe her life with her two year old daughter Saphia. Webber, who is training out of Victory Athletics in Olympia, WA, started training for MMA shortly after the birth of her daughter and has grappled with balancing her family and her amateur career.
“Being an athlete and a single parent is a huge struggle. Every day is a race,” Webber says. “If my daughter gets sick, I miss out on a lot of training. I have to budget carefully because I work a minimum wage job just so that I can have the flexibility to train. I have to balance out her needs with training.”
Webber has been working at 24 Hour Fitness and was in pretty good shape before her pregnancy. Her father Jamie Webber, a trainer at Victory Athletics, has been trying to convince her to train to be a MMA fighter. However, her pregnancy put those plans on hold. But it didn’t stop her from thinking about training in the MMA ring. Only a year after the birth of Saphia, Webber began her dream of fighting. She saw this as an opportunity not only to prove she can compete even after becoming a mother, but other women can do this as well.
“To many people, especially parents and men, want to set limits on women or their children,” Webber explains. “Its extremely frustrating to see that kind of behavior. I can’t say anything to those people but I sure can show them.”
Being a busy mom, sometimes Webber takes her daughter to the gym. She admits she is lucky to have such a supportive team behind her.
“I am lucky to be at Victory Athletics, where my trainer and teammates help me out a lot. Mostly they are understanding and patient. I can bring my daughter to practices. That takes away a lot of stress of finding a babysitter.”
Being at the gym, little Saphia has gained fans of her own. The fighters there have accepted her as part of their MMA family. Webber’s training partner Miesha Tate in a recent interview on “SportsGeeks” described Webber’s daughter’s popularity.
“Everybody gets a kick out of (Saphia) being there. She is apart of the team in a way,” Miesha stated. “It’s funny. (Webber) will bring her little daughter sometimes to practice and her daughter is so cute. She just sits on the sidelines and just watches everybody.”
Webber adds, “The guys at the gym melt for her. They really melt for her. They call her ‘Little Teammate’.”
Tate also recalled it took a little while for Webber’s daughter to get used to seeing her mother training.
“And first she used to cry because she thought people were hurting her mom but she’s gotten used to it. She just brings her in and just like an open gym area, and she’ll play with her little toys in a corner and we practice and then she takes her home.”
Some people would think that becoming a fighter after becoming a mother would be too much of a hassle, but Webber sees her daughter as an inspiration to train everyday.
“I have a two year old daughter and she can do anything she puts her mind to,” Webber states. “If she wants to do MMA, dance, or be a rocket scientist; I want to show her that if she works hard she can do it. It’s not about what I want, it’s about her and her dreams for her future and lively hood.”