By Erik Uebelacker
Lariah Gill (Youth B 115 lbs) made IMMAF history when she became a two-time youth world champion, winning gold for her second consecutive year at the 2022 Youth Amateur Championships. Gill went 3-0 in her matches on Thursday, submitting her first opponent and beating the final two by decision.
It wasn’t an easy road; Gill battled with injuries earlier this year that could have derailed her efforts.
“In January of this year, I hurt my shoulder,” she said. “I had to take about three or four months off training, so getting back into it was very difficult because my cardio was not as good as it used to be last year for sure. This year, I felt like I definitely have a lot of things that I need to improve.”
Gill admitted that she surprised herself with her ability to bounce back from this adversity. Her coach, California’s Richard Hernandez, wasn’t surprised in the slightest at his pupil’s resilience.
“She’s a natural, natural leader,” Hernandez said. “She never let anybody know that her shoulder was hurt, not because she was trying to [hide] it, but you couldn’t see it in her. That’s why all the kids in my school love her.”
Gill’s talent and potential in mixed martial arts is evident now. But in the beginning, the sport took some warming up to.
“When I started, I didn’t like it,” Gill said. I started in Jiu Jitsu, and I hated it at first. Then I started competing, and then I really fell in love.”
In hindsight, she sees the multitude of ways that MMA has impacted her life for the better.
“Before I started, I was a very shy and timid person,” Gill said. “Once I got into it, I got a lot more confident. Now, being able to travel out of the country and across the world to do this is just crazy to wrap my head around. I really love travelling.”
After winning back-to-back golds, Gill is hardly satisfied. She said she plans to return next year and become an IMMAF youth champion for a third time.
“She’s still not done,” Hernandez said. “I’m already on the second half of my life, already 47 years old. So, she is doing better than I am at her age. I look forward to her being successful. I succeed through her because I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for students like her.”