By Ross Patterson
For the latest instalment of our series focusing on the highly talented women working within the sport, we spoke to Kelly Staddon. A nutritionist for the English Mixed Martial Arts Association and an IMMAF European Championships hopeful. The SBG Manchester fighter is a Second Dan Black Belt in Judo, business owner and is challenging for the Cage Warriors Academy Belt in the coming weeks.
Having been involved at an elite level of sport from a young age, Kelly became interested in nutrition. She competed in Judo in the 48kg weight class, so she kept a close eye on her diet. Kelly eventually qualified as a nutritionist and now provides this knowledge to athletes in the EMMAA.
“The way I see it is to educate these guys and not just give them programmes or nutrition meal plans to follow, it’s more to build their education around it so they can go out and eventually be in a position where they can set up their own nutrition programme or even go on to help other athletes to set up their own programme. And to benefit themselves, for their performance, but also how they live on a day-to-day basis. Management of their body weight can get out of hand if you don’t know how to do it in a weight-based sport. So, yeah education all day.”
Life in Judo
Kelly started Judo when she was just four years old, eventually becoming a 5x British Champion. She is now a Second Dan Black Belt and helps younger athletes to achieve their potential.
“I’ve done Judo my whole life. I started when I was 4. And then got into the England team, the GB Team, and then I was the number 1. 48kg player, so they took me to the World Championships, Europeans, and I competed with Team GB at the full-time centre in Warsaw for about 6 years. Then I left when I was 24, had a couple of years not doing anything, then got into MMA.
I still do some work with British Judo athletes with the nutrition side of things because it’s quite a passion for me to help the younger ones coming through when I’ve been in that position. I want to give back in a way.”
Upon moving to Manchester, Kelly set up her own nutrition business but was forced back into office jobs following the pandemic. She has since restarted her business again to pursue what she loves.
In her business, Living Well With Kelly, she works with all kinds of people, from parents to Olympic medallists. Her business is a way to monetise her knowledge of nutrition and exercise while supporting her MMA training.
“I never thought I’d do MMA, but I like a challenge, so thought ‘let’s give it a go.’ It doesn’t matter how bad I am at it, I’ll just get better, so as long as I kept going every single day I’d get better. A few times I thought about stopping because I kept getting punched in the face, but I stuck with it and I think I’m getting a bit better now.”
Being a Woman in MMA
Mixed martial arts is a sport dominated by men. This is changing, but there is still a lot of work to be done, something Kelly agrees with.
“I feel like it was quite similar with Judo. It was seen as more of a man’s sport. But then you do see over time how quickly it can progress from being a predominantly men’s sport, and then once the momentum gets going you would sometimes have more women on the mat at a judo session.
When I started at SBG, it was just me and Levi. So just two girls. But as long as there’s a team environment, and everyone helps everyone, men train with us the same way they train with men.
Hopefully, the more women who get into it, it will just keep going up and up and up and there will be more women to train with.”
Her advice to any woman looking to take up the sport is positive and reassuring to anyone with doubts.
“I just wouldn’t say you can’t do something until you’ve given it a go. I feel like you’d regret it if you didn’t give something a go just because you didn’t think you’d be good. It frustrates me when I hear someone that I care about say ‘I’d never be able to do that’. Why? If you’ve got two arms, two legs, and they’ve got two arms, two legs, why can’t you fight them? It doesn’t even have to be fighting, it could just be going to train or do something you want to do but afraid you won’t be good at it. Just do it. Because no one’s good at it when they start. You’re terrible really when you look back, but you have to start somewhere to get good. So if you want to do it, and you’re worried that you might look stupid, just do it. Because no one cares. Everyone’s just looking at themselves or thinking about themselves.”
After being unable to compete at the most recent World Championships, Kelly hopes to enter the IMMAF cage in 2022 and compete at an international level once again, just like she had previously done in Judo.