Michele "Diablita" Gutierrez has been out of the fight game for almost four years, but she's still haunted by the negative stereotypes commonly associated with the sport of MMA.
The Invicta Fighting Championships and BAMMA vet is on a mission to prove to casual observers that her normal, everyday life as a mother has nothing to do with her past work inside the cage. She's in for the biggest fight of her life, one that includes attaining full custody of her daughter.
This struggle is tougher and more draining than anything she had to deal with in her career in athletics. "Diablita" says her time as a combat sports competitor was recently used against her in court, after a heated custody battle with the father of her child turned uglier than anyone could have ever imagined. "He said in court I was a violent person because of MMA," Gutierrez explained of the dispute with her ex-boyfriend. "Fighters aren't crazy, violent people. We are athletes. MMA is a sport, where it's all about competition and our love for martial arts. It's not about hurting people.
"He's using my MMA career against me. I'm a kind person. I have never been violent outside the cage and my MMA career is behind me, anyways. I'm also 100 percent healthy."
Are MMA fighters violent outside the cage? Sure there have been incidents here and there, such as "Cyborg" punching Angela Magana at this year's UFC Athlete Retreat. But for the most part, MMA fighters are kind human beings who try to make a positive difference in the world. The sport is filled with people like Ashley Cummins and Rich Franklin, model citizens who double as teachers, police officers and EMS workers.
It's going to take some time and education, but hopefully people will soon learn more about the good deeds and positive side jobs that most MMA competitors are involved in. There are a few bad apples in the sport. However, the vast majority do their part to be positive contributors to society.