By Caoilte de Barra
Ireland’s Kerry Ann Vernon has had quite the journey in her MMA career so far. After starting out in the Wimp 2 Warrior program (now Train Alta), her career has since taken off at a blistering pace.
Her amateur debut came against Shauna Bannon before a quick turnaround at the 2021 World Cup, where she took home a silver medal. Kerry Ann then kickstarted the year in style by impressing at the World Championships before earning a national title, followed by representing Ireland at the MMA SuperCup in Bahrain.
MMA was not her first experience in combat sports, having trained in boxing. Coming from a family of boxers, Kerry Ann detailed the extent to which her family is involved in the sport in Ireland.
“I trained in boxing before. I come from a family of boxers. On my Mother’s side, my uncles would be coaches, and my cousins would have boxed. Then on my Dad’s side, a lot of my cousins would be Irish title holders.”
Combat sports have always been Kerry Ann’s passion, but until MMA, she never thought it could eventually become a career.
“I’ve always known that I love combat sports more than anything. I never really knew that the opportunities would be there for me because of my age.
“I was pushed more towards pursuing careers in my studies, I was studying in college here, and there has always been pressure put on to get this good academic job more than anything. So I was never really focusing on a career in combat sports. And then, by the time I had finished college, I was already in my twenties. I didn’t really get much attention in my boxing club, so I never thought of it going anywhere until I got to MMA, and my gym momma (Marlene Griffin) was like, ‘we’re gonna get you a career’. So, I never thought it was a possibility, and now that it is, it’s amazing because it is definitely what I am supposed to be doing. I love it more than anything.”
The bantamweight hopeful is now preparing for the European Championships, her third IMMAF competition just over a year after debuting in the sport, and started her preparations in Brazil. Quite the trek away from Cork City in Ireland.
An opportunity that came about after Marcelo Ribas contacted her, “he just reached out and said, ‘do you want to come train with Amanda (Ribas)?'”, Kerry Ann explained.
Soon plans started coming to fruition, and Kerry Ann seized the opportunity, travelling to Brazil to train amongst a group of athletes that included 2014 IMMAF World Champion and UFC star Amanda Ribas.
“I’m a very seize the moment type of person. I’m very passionate about living life to the fullest and grabbing every opportunity with both hands, so I made it happen. I got in contact, got to go over to Brazil, got to stay in an athletes house. It was fighters only living in the house. I got on with the girls there. I got to share the house with a couple of other professional fighters. It was amazing.”
“It was nice to just get away and train in an environment where life’s normal responsibilities didn’t come into effect. Also, the training conditions would be very different, and the coaching techniques. There was a language barrier as well. I learned some Portuguese though, so we didn’t worry about that too much.”
The SBG Cork City standout spent a month in Brazil, training multiple times a day. While there, she was pushed to the extreme, rolling with high-level black belts and getting rounds in with Amanda Ribas and the contingent of athletes in the gym.
Only a week out from the European Championships, Kerry Ann believes the trip over has helped step up her aggression and is eager to showcase her ability following her incredible experience in Brazil.
“I am so excited to get to the Euros because I want to show people that I can be a much more aggressive fighter, and also, whether we’re standing and banging or dropping and rolling, I really don’t mind. This training in Brazil has given me a new level of confidence going into the euros. It was a great way to start my fight camp.”