'Barrett tackles new discipline'
INWOOD — Krissy Barrett likes to fight, no doubt about that.
The 18-year-old Martinsburg resident has been scrapping since she can remember, right up into middle school and high school as a varsity wrestler at Musselman High School.
Martinsburg’s Krissy Barrett is off to a 3-1 start as an amateur flyweight in mixed martial arts. Barrett was a three-year varsity wrestler at Musselman High School. (Journal photo by Martin B. Cherry)
Facing boys was no big deal for Barrett, who had a winning record in three years of varsity wrestling for the Applemen.
Barrett had to sit out her senior year due to the birth of her daughter, Kelly-Beth, but that turned out to be just a temporary break from hand-to-hand combat. Just three months after the birth of her daughter, Barrett made her amateur debut in mixed martial arts as a flyweight.
She won, of course.
“It’s pretty fun to get in the ring and beat people up, honestly,” Barrett said. “You’re not going to get in trouble for it. Just fun, I guess.”
Four months into her new-found sport, Barrett is 3-1 and coming off a title-winning bout in Roanoke, Va. With a unanimous decision victory over Lindsey MacMhaolain, Barrett earned the World Kickboxing Association-sanctioned mixed martial arts flyweight championship. She’s currently the No. 1-ranked women’s flyweight (125 pounds and under) in the country by the International Sport Combat Federation (ISCF).
“She’s very strong and she just dominates in the ring,” said trainer Lionell Royer. “I get in there and spar with her and work with her, and she’s aggressive. She has lots of inner strength. She’s driven.”
Having a strong wrestling background helped the transition to mixed martial arts, a sport that Barrett describes as a mix of wrestling, boxing and jujitsu. Royer, who owns Inwood’s Squared Circle Gym, gave her the instruction she needed to become an effective striker with boxing lessons.
That left Barrett’s only potential weakness in martial arts, which she discovered in her second bout when she was beaten by jujitsu specialist.
“It wasn’t good,” Barrett said. “I was winning at first, but I got choked out. I learned from that. Whenever I was on top of her, somehow she did something where I was on the bottom — some jujitsu thing. Instead of staying on my back and working from submission moves, I went to my wrestling base. And because of my wrestling background, I got choked out there.
“I learned from that — never go to your base. And if you do, always protect your neck. So I don’t think I’m going to be getting choked out again.”
Barrett — whose brother Billy was a state wrestling champion at Musselman — hasn’t run into an opponent yet with her wrestling experience, nor one who can hit as hard as a puncher.
“It definitely helps,” Barrett said of her wrestling experience. “My hands got a lot better because of Lionell. But if throwing hands isn’t working, it’s always good to be able to take them down to the ground. It’s always good to have my wrestling background in case she’s better than me with her hands.”
Royer has been impressed by Barrett’s work ethic and adaptability.
“She’s well-rounded,” Royer said. “Her weakness was her hands but not anymore. You could say her weakest point was in submissions, but she’s got really good at that. You learn more from a loss than a win. She doesn’t stick her neck out anymore. She doesn’t rush anymore.”
Right now, Barrett is training two-three hours each weekday as she preps for another bout. But college is on the near horizon — Barrett plans to become a registered nurse.
But first, Barrett is in line to compete for a ISCF world title in April. The date and place are still to be determined, but Royer said she’ll be there. Beyond that, a career as a professional is a possibility.
“She’s building a fan base,” Royer said. “People ask about her all the time. They want to see her.”
— Jeff Nations can be reached at (304) 263-3381 ext. 134 or at firstname.lastname@example.org