Pictured above: Courtney McCrudden throws a high kick against Fabiana Giampa in the Women’s featherweight final of the 2017 IMMAF World Championships – photo by Jorden Curran. By IMMAF.org lead writer, Jorden Curran For years, MMA has been pioneered by women: the escalating dominance of Brazil’s Cris Cyborg, Japanese icon Megumi Fugi, Gina Carano – the original superstar, and those who contributed as trailblazers of their national circuit such as Ireland’s Aisling Daly and the UK’s Rosi Sexton. At the 2017 IMMAF World Championships, 18-year-old Courtney McCrudden earned the silver medal in the Women’s featherweight bracket. Her thrilling performances and effort in the split-decision final against eventual champion, Italy’s Fabiana Giampa, were all the more incredible considering that it was her competitive debut in amateur MMA. For this grass roots product of Northern Ireland, it was contemporary superstar and one of the biggest contributors to MMA’s mainstream breakthrough – former UFC bantamweight champion and Olympic judoka, Ronda Rousey, who served as the inspiration for McCrudden’s transition to MMA as a teen. The World silver medalist started out in kickboxing and Jiu-Jitsu from the age of 5. Women’s MMA has since flourished at the top flight, and in the amateur ranks; last year’s IMMAF World Championships saw its highest female participation figures to date. However, at the local level, many communities in the sport are lacking female participation. McCrudden has been without high level Female training partners – something that she hopes to see steady development of as more recreational participants come forward. “Before [Ronda] became popular, I was in training because I literally love the sport and just can’t imagine my life without it. It’s always been me, the only girl and the boys,” McCrudden told MyNextMatch.com when explaining the lack of female representation at grassroots.” At the age of of 18, McCrudden represents the very latest generation of MMA competitor. It is these young athletes who will prove the impact of Rousey’s legacy, the long term effects of which we yet to see as the dust settles and new, inspired talent, like McCrudden, come of age and make their mark. McCrudden is part of rapidly growing local scene in Belfast, one which has proven the values of MMA within communities and in turn has recieved significant funding from Comic Relief and the Northern Ireland Youth Forum (NIYF). McCrudden is trained by long time coach Danny Corr – head coach of the Northern Ireland national amateur team, the ZKJ Dojo and Director at the Ulster Amateur MMA Association. “We have just started a new youth programme with NIYF where we are learning to become youth mentors for young people,” McCrudden explained. “From the experience of being in this sport from when I was five-years-old, I was always the only girl in a group of all boys and never had a female role model in my area to look up to, so I would really love to get young and older girls into the sport and become a mentor and a coach to them.” You can read the full interview with Courtney McCrudden at MyNextMatch.com.