We had the opportunity to have up and coming mixed martial artist Kayla Hracho answer some questions for us before her upcoming fight on October 14th. Kayla goes in depth on her training camp, being a part of the American Top Team, training with some of her heroes, having Din Thomas as a head coach, and much more.
You can follow Kayla on Instagram and Twitter @kaylatherock and on Facebook.
You have a fight coming up on October 14th. How has your training camp gone in preparation for this bout?
I have basically been in a training camp since I walked through the front doors at American Top Team a year ago. I love to train and I’m surrounded by so much knowledge of the game. I’m addicted. Whether I’m 3 months from a fight or 2 weeks, I’m always focused on improving every aspect of my game and challenging myself to new heights.
This fight will take place in Panama. Have you fought out of the country before?
I fought out of the country once before, in Panama, in August. I am part of an amateur tournament in Panama City, Panama and am representing the United States against girls from all over the world. My fight on October 14th is the semi-finals and I’ll be facing a girl from Costa Rica.
Where do you train out of and explain how your fight camp has prepared you so far in you MMA career?
I train out of American Top Team headquarters in Coconut Creek, Florida which is considered one of the best (if not the best) MMA camps in the world. My training is also led and overlooked by Din Thomas, who is a mastermind of MMA. On top of all that, my everyday training partners include some of the biggest names in women’s mixed martial arts today. I prepare by training at the best, with the best, and ALWAYS giving my best.
Do you have any training camp or pre fight rituals?
I don’t really have any specific rituals. I have been fighting so often (every 2 months or so) that fight camps seem to overlap. I like to stay relaxed and focused on my game plan. I meditate and visualize exactly how I want the fight to play out. I visualize my hand being raised in victory at the end of the fight. Sometimes I even visualize myself eating victory pizza!
How would you explain your fighting style?
My background is in boxing and I have been training almost 4 years. Although MMA is new to me, I’ve been working really hard to develop all aspects of my game. With all the high level training I’m receiving at American Top Team, I am comfortable and confident taking the fight wherever it needs to go.
What is your athletic background? Did you play all types of sports growing up or did you mainly focus on martial arts?
I grew up playing basketball at the playground with the boys every single day. From grade school through high school, I played basketball, softball and field hockey. My first two years at California University of PA, I played rugby. I first walked into a boxing gym at age 22. I first walked into an MMA gym at age 25.
How important is it now for young fighters to focus on all aspects of MMA rather than just specialize on one particular fighting skill?
I believe it’s very important. The game is continuing to develop at a rapid pace (especially for females). It is getting a lot more exposure and you’re starting to see that the best fighters in the game are great at more than one aspect of fighting. That is part of the reason my team and I will NOT rely on “just my boxing” to get me where I want to go.
Who are some of your biggest inspirations in your life and how did they affect your decision to enter mixed martial arts?
First and foremost, I am inspired by my family. Although they don’t love the fact that I fight, they have been so supportive throughout my journey. It means the world to me.
I am inspired by my training partners. Before I even considered doing MMA, I was huge fans of Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Valerie Letourneau, Amanda Nunes, Nina Ansaroff and Tecia Torres. I then became their training partners and it was a dream come true. They are great fighters and great people. Not only them, but everyone in the gym inspires me. Every day I walk through the gym doors, I can’t help but smile and feel honored to train alongside such talent.
Lastly, I am inspired by my coach and mentor, Din Thomas. Din is the hardest working person I’ve ever met and also one of the smartest. He works from 6am-2am, never says no to an opportunity and is constantly doing things to better himself as a coach, actor and person. Din inspires me because he is relentless in his approach to setting and smashing goals.
What does it mean for you to be a fighter?
Being a fighter means everything to me. It makes you vulnerable and forces you to constantly reflect on yourself physically and mentally. This reflection allows me to always be improving myself in and out of the cage. Before becoming a fighter, I had no direction, lived my life waiting for the weekend, made excuses and was aimlessly floating through life. I have found something I’m truly passionate about and it’s extremely motivating. I wake up every day with purpose and am determined to be the very best I can be.
What life lessons can be learned from fighting?
The things I’ve learned through fighting are endless. A few include: doing things before you’re ready, discipline, sacrifice, learning through uncomfortable situations, a never-quit mindset, the benefits of taking risks and staying relaxed in high-pressure situations. I honestly feel that since I’ve fought in the ring and cage, I can handle anything that comes my way.
Are you the most critical person on yourself after a fight? Or do your trainers or family give you input even after a win?
I am extremely hard on myself, even in training. I expect a lot from myself and I’m never satisfied. My coach, Din, is also really critical of me but I know it’s because he constantly is evolving me as a fighter. I am never satisfied and therefore always hungry to learn. The support I receive from family and friends help to keep that balance. They remind me that I inspire people to follow their dreams and go after what they want. That, alone, is a big reason of why I do what I do and is a reminder to enjoy the journey.
What can we expect from Kayla Hracho in the future?
My plan is to compete with and beat the best. I want to be a world champion. I don’t exactly know where I’m going from here or what tomorrow will bring, but I can promise it won’t be boring!