MMA fighter and Buffalo Grove native Felice Herrig is on the Bellator card… (Courtesy of Bellator )
Next time you're at the spa receiving a soothing massage or facial, make sure you're nice to your esthetician. There's a chance that person knows how to kick your butt.
That's because esthetician-turned-mixed martial arts fighter Felice Herrig says the two jobs are more similar than you might think.
"You have to be aware of the body and the senses," the 28-year-old Crystal Lake resident said. "When I would give facials and massages, I would be in tune with the other person's body."
Of course, what she's trying to do with that knowledge is a lot different in her current job. She will face off against Patricia Vidonic on Friday night at The Venue at Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Ind., as part of Bellator 84.
"I think that's why I was good at what I did as an esthetician, because I knew what people liked I could sense that they didn't like this, this is making them uncomfortable," she said. "Now with the fighting it's like, 'This is making you uncomfortable; how can I make you more uncomfortable?'"
Herrig, a Buffalo Grove native, has been a full-time fighter for two years after years of working as both an esthetician and a waitress to support her passion.
"It was hard to get off work [as an esthetician] and everything because people would book appointments with me, so I just waitressed the last couple years so I could have my own hours and travel as I needed," she said.
Herrig defeated Vidonic by unanimous decision in their only previous meeting, back in April. Herrig also brings a lifetime record of 7-4 into Friday's bout, including a TKO and a pair of victories by submission. When stepping into the ring, she says her goal is to get out of her own head.
"I don't really think about it," she said. "It's just what I do. I just go in there and do my thing. I kind of have tunnel vision."
Herrig attributes the recent spike in MMA's popularity among women to an increase in the number of televised fights and the number of gyms where MMA training is now available.
"It takes awhile to get the ball rolling, and once it does, it just takes off everywhere," she said. "More shows are popping up everywhere. Now there's more gyms popping up and whatnot, it's easier for women as well. Now it's our turn."
And while the number of aspiring female fighters is growing, Herrig cautions that the road to full-time glory in the ring is neither easy nor glamorous.
"I think that your heart has to really be in it and you have to be OK with getting hit and putting in the work," she said. "People want the glitz and the glamour of it. Everyone wants to be a rock star, but nobody wants to pay their dues. You have to be willing to make a lot of sacrifices to get there."
Matt Lindner is a RedEye special contributor.
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