After this weekend’s women’s MMA showcase at UFC 184 that featured females in the co-main event and main event, there is both excitement and questions about the future of women’s MMA. Ronda Rousey is the Mike Tyson of this generation and is an unstoppable force. She has proven that she can headline an event and is by far the biggest mainstream media crossover star in the sport. However, with the lack of a true rival to match her skills and the potential of a far more financially lucrative career in movies, you have to ask who will carry the torch after she retires.
One potential person that could become a star over the next decade in female MMA and grappling is a high school senior from the Philadelphia area named Amanda Leve who trains under Ricardo Almeida. She has become a Youtube sensation over the past few years by disposing of male opponents in very impressive fashion on the Grapplers Quest circuit. This past summer, she entered a 16-woman invitational tournament as part of the Grapplers Quest UFC Fan Expo event and defeated pro MMA fighter Rachel Cummins and reached the finals where she battled Cat ZIngano for 20 minutes before getting caught in a foot lock. There are indications from the Ricardo Almeida camp that Leve will start training for a MMA fight after she graduates from high school. Of course her choice of college and major might impact her decisions on whether she continues to train and her potential career options.
Grapplers Quest founder Brian Cimmins said of Leve:
“She is 16 or 17 years old, she has been winning every east coast Grapplers Quest there is. No one beats her on the east coast. She is a 2-time defending Beast of the East female absolute champion, beating brown and black belts in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This is really phenomenal. I look at her as the next level, next generation, female super athlete.”
While there are several female wunderkinds out there on the BJJ circuit, here are 5 reasons why I believe Leve has the potential for greatness in MMA and grappling.
She is only training part time: She is still in high school and she plays other sports in school. She is not even close to reaching her potential in grappling and is defeating pro MMA fighters in grappling matches that have far more experience and training time than she does.
She has a great set of coaches: Leve trains under former King of Pancrease and UFC fighter Ricardo Almeida. Almeida’s stable of fighters includes former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, WSOF bantamweight champion Marlon Moraes, and UFC lightweight Edson Barboza. Almeida’s team also includes high level grapplers such as Garry Tonon and Tom DeBlass. The team’s striking coach Mark Henry is considered one of the best MMA striking coaches in the business.
She is built like an athlete: When you look at Ronda Rousey and many other female MMA fighters, they are built like high level athletes. I once saw Gina Carano hitting mitts at my gym and she was built like a high level swimmer or track athlete. If you watch the Youtube clips of Leve, she has a very strong, athletic build that is ideal for combat sports.
Mental make-up: One characteristic that I have noticed about high level MMA fighters and grapplers is the mental toughness and confidence they possess. Leve is going into competitions against high level guys in her age and weight divisions and running through them. In order to do so, there is not only a high level of physical toughness and athleticism, but also a strong mental make-up to battle the fear and anxiety that comes with competition.
She had proven she can hang with high level competitors: She lasted 20-minutes in a grappling match against Cat Zingano. Zingano trains full-time, has years of grappling experience that is almost equal to Leve’s age, and is the number one contender in the UFC’s bantamweight division. When I was a high school senior, I couldn’t imagine hanging with a pro combat athlete for 20 minutes. Imagine how a high school state wrestling champion would fare against a NCAA D-1 All-American wrestler. She proved she has chops and potential.
Here are a few examples of Leve in action
Highlights of Leve vs. Cat Zingano from Grapplers Quest UFC Fan Expo
Leve vs Pro MMA Fighter Rachel Cummins from Grapplers Quest UFC Fan Expo
Recent Open Weight Finals match at AGL AC 15 vs. Whitney Castrano
Leve vs Wyatt Sellers
Leve vs Justin O’Connor