By Michael Clifton
A nine to five desk job was never an option for New Zealand’s Michelle Montague. Instead, the 27-year-old athlete — ranked No.1 in the women’s lightweight division and No.3 on the IMMAF senior pound-for-pound list — knew from a young age where her passion lay.
“I have always been physical because I grew up on a farm, and helping on the farm was what I did,” Montague exclaimed. ” No desk jobs, that’s for sure, never “just a job.”
Montague is one of New Zealand’s most decorated amateur mixed martial artists. She aims to add more silverware to her trophy cabinet when she competes at the upcoming 2021 IMMAF European Open Championships in Kazan, Russia, and at the IMMAF 2021 World Championships in Kazakhstan.
The arrival of Covid-19 last year saw Montague, like many of her peers, undergo a period of lockdown, but she refused to let the pandemic interfere with her development. “
I was able to train pretty well through that [lockdown], we made a little dojo at home, and we were able to train.” The rising star took up MMA in 2015 after coming across Youtube clips and, with her interest piqued, decided she needed to discover firsthand what exactly the sport was all about.
“For me, seeing the takedowns and throws, the ways you can win, it’s not just that you can win by knocking them out or points; it was like TKOs, submissions, throws, so all of that. I was, ‘Wow, I need to learn this’,” Montague says regarding her initial introduction to MMA.
A quick google search of local gyms in her local area led her to Core MMA, and after her first lesson, there was no looking back for the newfound convert. “I loved the process. It was the mixed variety of it. I am always fidgeting, always thinking about stuff, and can’t really sit still, so for me, something that covers all these different areas in one, it was constantly learning, and you can’t get sick of it.”
For most people, competing in one sport is hard enough, but for the first two years of her MMA career, Montague was also playing rugby, a sport she had been involved with since she was four years old. “I used to play rugby games, then go to Auckland to do grappling competitions in the afternoon, drive two and a half hours after playing a full eighty-minute game. I just loved them both that much.”
Montague’s skills on the rugby field saw her earn regional representative honors, and a call-up to the national squad was on the horizon. Outside of her sporting success, she was also set to attend the Royal New Zealand Police College after excelling in her recruitment tests. However, two leg-breaks over two years forced her to decide precisely where her future lay. “It was kind of like I am either following that path, or I am following mixed martial arts.”
After making her decision to focus on MMA, Montague’s career has gone from strength to strength. The opportunities that MMA and IMMAF have given her, both personally and competitively, have been life-changing. ” Traveling in general, whether it’s for sport or not, you grow hugely. Whether it’s to be a hippy or not, you learn other cultures, you become more aware of other cultures and people. You just meet people from all walks of life, so for me, with this sport, it’s that but on steroids.”
Montague says. “I think that knowledge in that respect is priceless. The way we are going about learning it, by competing there and then being respectful afterward and dealing with an amateur federation that does drug testing. Everything is all so by the book, [it is] massive for mental growth and maturity as a person.”
Montague’s journey from MMA novice to the IMMAF’s top female amateur athlete is characterized by the Kiwi’s innate drive, and determination and her return to elite competition should generate feelings of excitement throughout the MMA community.
Michelle Montague – Key Facts
- She grew up on a farm in Matamata, New Zealand and began playing rugby at four, became a regional representative player for Waikato, and aimed to play for the New Zealand national team.
- She works at the family business of Viking kayaks which produces world-renowned fishing kayaks and she is a fan of kayak fishing.
- Passed the New Zealand Police recruitment tests and was set to go to Royal New Zealand Police College before deciding to commit to MMA.
- Montague has led all-female grappling seminars to help introduce women to the sport. Participants range in ages from young girls to older working women.
- Trains at City Kickboxing home to UFC stars such as Israel Adesanya and Dan Hooker.