By Jake Smith
It’s been a challenging few months for IMMAF 2019 World Champion Michelle ‘The Wild One’ Montague. Thanks to the Pandemic she was forced to compete at the IMMAF Euros alone and then was not allowed to travel home for four months. But the 28-year-old has kept a positive spin on her life.
Pure grit and determination to represent her nation at the IMMAF European Championships drove Montague to make the journey to Kazan, Russia alone. With no coach or teammates able to travel due to New Zealand’s covid restrictions, ‘The Wild One’ had to overcome some obstacles due to being the sole competitor to represent her Nation. She said: “The challenges I faced by going to the European champs alone was predominantly having my coach that has been there for every fight, in my ear, pre and during the fights. I found myself not fighting as I know I can/should in certain situations and this was for sure the biggest challenge.
“I managed to get my weight cut done fine as I had constant comms with Jordi Sullican (Her Fight Dietitian). The travel aspect itself was also fine as I am pretty used to travelling solo, but yes when it came to the actual fights I did feel the absence more.”
Montague admitted that she initially battled with the idea of competing at the Euros but the support of family and of the IMMAF, ultimately swayed her decision.
“The decision to head over to the Euros was difficult at first, however the IMMAF team really went out of their way to make the list of “difficulties’ ‘ a lot more manageable. I cannot thank them enough for that! Being away from family for 4 months, and even becoming an aunt for the first time in the last few weeks, is certainly a little heavy on the emotions at times, but the family back home are SO supportive of my goals and have never made it harder than it already is; in fact it was amazing to feel the support from back home with every opportunity I was presented with these past 4 months.”
Post championships, in which she collected European Bronze, Michelle visited the USA to train at the American Top Team gym. Whilst there, she gained invaluable knowledge under the tutelage of Mike Brown and trained alongside a plethora of ATT talent, including PFL Champion Kayla Harrison. “Training with the ATT girls was awesome and I look forward to getting more time with them in the future when I am in Florida again. The drilling and rounds with Kayla were always with Mike Brown’s supervision and being there under those two veterans of MMA/Judo was priceless. Myself, being a pretty similar styled fighter to Kayla made those drills and rounds even more valuable to me. The solid banter also made it a pretty good bang for the buck too!” said Michelle with a smile.
Following a successful trip to the USA, Montague switched things up and is currently training at SBG until she is able to travel back to New Zealand.
“I am in Ireland now and the two men I have to thank are the IMMAF President Kerrith Brown and John Kavanagh from SBG Ireland. They synced up, once Kerrith knew weeks ago that my USA visa would expire and with no World Champs in these 2 weeks, I had no place to go before NZ would let me get back home into the MIQ system for isolation. (It is a lottery system with specific dates of entry allowed, should you be lucky enough to get one).
“The team at SBG have been amazing and I am super grateful for the 2.5 weeks I get to spend here! I even managed some commentary action at a fight event which was awesome too!
“I will be back in NZ and out of Isolation on Dec 13th and 20th respectively, so I will be actually working in the family business Viking Kayaks in my build up to Worlds. I will complete my camp in New Zealand. New Zealand is also sending a big squad over to worlds, so we will have coaches and teammates this time!”
The sacrifices Montague has made to compete at IMMAF Championships during the latter half of 2021 are not only remarkable but extremely commendable. She explained her decision, citing the way in which IMMAF tournaments have helped her develop, as one of the reasons why.
“I have shown such commitment to the IMMAFs because they truly progress your skill-set and mindset like nothing else. Having up to 4 fights in one week with all different styles of opponents is so, so valuable. The IMMAF team has really had my back in these past couple of years too, and I am always going to have their back too!”
Assessing the last few months, ‘The Wild One’ has negated the obstacles she has faced exceedingly well and is extremely thankful for the support she has received.
“The last few months have been full of challenges and gains. The biggest challenge being the “unknown”. Not knowing if worlds would be cancelled until just a few weeks out from the date, not knowing which country I would be in next or even whom I would be staying with. The biggest lessons I have learnt would be to keep an open mind in these situations and to communicate with the right people that can help. I often try to do everything alone, but that is not going to help me over the long run! So having all of the support I have received is the most incredible part of the past 4 months.”