Before even stepping foot in the GLORY ring, Bekah Irwin has set a record in the organization - she is the youngest fighter ever to sign with the world’s leading kickboxing league.
Irwin, a Muay Thai prodigy from Houston, Texas, expressed interest in fighting for GLORY last year but had to wait until later in the year, when she turned 18, before she could enter contract negotiations.
When she then signed a GLORY contract shortly after her birthday, she set a record as the youngest fighter ever to sign with the organization, one which looks likely to stand for a long time.
Irwin was introduced to Muay Thai in her early teens, following her father into the gym. She had her first fight at the age of 15 and knew that she had found her calling.
The extensive Thailand connections of Michael ‘Chase’ Corley, her coach at Heritage Muay Thai, meant she quickly found herself fighting out there, where the toughest fights in the sport are to be found.
Her first visit to Thailand was in 2016 when, at the age of 16, she travelled to take part in the Youth World Muay Thai Championships. After that she says she was “constantly” traveling to Thailand - “Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Buriram, all over the country.”
Many kickboxing fans will be familiar with IFMA (International Federation of Muay Thai Amateurs), the leading international body for amateur Muay Thai competition.
IFMA’s mission is to ultimately see Muay Thai become part of the Olympic Games and to that end it has staged regular world championship competitions annually, giving male and female fighters the chance to represent their country.
Irwin won the IFMA World Youth Championships three years in a row (2016, 2017 and 2018). Also worth noting is that despite IFMA competition requiring head-guards, shin pads and body shields, Irwin’s destructive power saw her regularly scoring knockouts and stoppage wins.
In the 2017 tournament, for example, she stopped her Thai opponent with a head kick in the quarter-final stage then won a clear decision in the semi-finals. In the finals, a day later, she so overwhelmed her French opponent that the referee stopped the fight, declaring Irwin the winner by RSCO - ‘Referee Stops Contest: [Opponent] Outclassed’.
To be a consistent winner of IFMA competitions is a serious pedigree. GLORY light-Heavyweight champion Artem Vakhitov shares it, as did late Welterweight champion Marc de Bonte, plus UFC fighters Valentina Shevchenko and Joanna Jędrzejczyk and GLORY’s own Sofia Oloffson.
Now Irwin is following in their footsteps by making the jump to professional competition and looking to become an undisputed world champion. GLORY Kickboxing differs from Muay Thai in that clinching is prohibited; Irwin says that rule is a big attraction for her.
“GLORY is a big jump, it’s a big platform but I am really excited,” she says. “GLORY rules suit my style because there’s no clinching. I don’t like too much clinching. I am a hitter.
“It’s a tough division but I think I am going to do well. Fighters like Sofia Olofsson, who I have been watching since she was in IFMA, plus Tiffany van Soest and Anissa Meksen… I’ve been watching them all, I’ve been studying.
“I am looking for a quick rise. I want to climb the ranks as quickly as possible and I think I’ll do that. They have more kickboxing experience than me but I am very adaptable. I adjust very well and I find the right style quickly against my opponents.
“I’m smart and my coach Michael Corley is really good at game-planning. So I’m not rushing anything, but I think my rise will be quick.”
Irwin’s debut will take place at GLORY 63 HOUSTON on Friday, February 1 at the Arena Theatre. It’s another landmark for her as it will be the first time she has ever competed in her home city.
“I’m really excited because all my people are finally going to be able to come and watch me fight,” she says.
“People are always asking me, ‘When are you going to fight in Houston?!’ so this is a really big opportunity for me. Plus it’s the first time I don’t have to travel for a fight - I can sleep in my own bed!”
Irwin’s opponent has been confirmed as Stephanie ‘Scrapper’ Skinner from Colorado, USA, an Invicta MMA veteran who is also making her debut in this bout.
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