For Morgan-River Jones being the number-three-ranked amateur in the world is not as big a deal as it sounds, but for most Mixed Martial Arts observers, to achieve the high ranking in such a short time is indeed impressive.
Jones first began training with Pride Gym about three years ago, and since putting on the gloves she has gone undefeated in five bouts and has risen from relative obscurity to one of the best amateur female fighters in the world in her 135-pound class.
“She (Jones) has developed into a great fighter in a short time,” said Pride Gym trainer Glen Kalesniko. “She has, because she is the hardest working fighter, she is disciplined and self-motivated – a trifecta for being a champion.”
It didn’t take much convincing for her to cross the hall from Performance Fitness, where she had been working out, and take up kick-boxing at Pride. It was a natural progression and one that fit her perfectly.
“A friend of a friend had mentioned that Glen (Kalesniko) had always kind of hoped I would find my way in there just because I looked strong and liked the kind of work ethic I had in the gym,” said Jones. “I dragged my sister to a couple free (kick-boxing) classes and I had the greatest time from the first time I was in there and I’ve just never stopped.”
Jones has always been involved in sport. She grew up in Nelson, downhill skiing, dancing and sparring in a karate dojo.
A self-described Type A personality, Jones is naturally driven and competitive, and the constant and unrelenting workouts became one of the more compelling elements of MMA fighting for her.
“The intensity just really matched the way I liked to work out. I just picked it up really fast; the striking aspect is just something I got right away, that also helped me to keep doing it . . . I’m one of the few people that actually enjoys the whole process.”
Jones beat previously undefeated Robin Woods at Caged Rage 5 in Castlegar last October and will face another undefeated and highly touted foe in Jade De Haas from Texas at this year’s Fight Night.
After just five fights, Jones has developed rapidly and become accustomed to battling in the ring, but is somewhat modest when it comes to her world amateur ranking.
There are fewer female fighters, says Jones, so moving up in the rankings is not as difficult as it is for the men.
However, it does have its challenges.
The paradox of women’s MMA is an outstanding fighter like Jones can rapidly move up the rankings, yet it is also difficult to get the necessary matches that enable her to advance.
“It’s kind of a double-edge sword in that it can be really challenging to find opponents. I’ve had so many people back out of my fights, so it can be really frustrating, but the other side to that is that there is the opportunity to move ahead a little bit faster because there’s not as much competition and your name sort of gets out there a bit faster.”
A win in her upcoming battle with number-12 ranked De Haan will further solidify Jones’ status as one of the best amateur MMA fighters in the world, and there is no place she would rather do it than at home.
“I’ve been fortunate to fight in front of some awesome hometown crowds so it’s always a bonus when you can hear them cheering you on.”
In all, 15-fights are on tap with four main events featuring Pride Gym’s Brad Causey, Jordan Knippelbrg, and Jones with Stefan Fricta back to defend the title he won at last year’s event.
AM Ford Fight Night kicks off at 7 p.m. Apr. 14 at the Trail Memorial Centre, with weigh-ins going at the Crown Pointe Hotel at 7 p.m. on Apr. 13. Residents can check out the fighters and get primed for the biggest night of the year.
Ringside tickets go for $125, VIP tickets $80, $50 for floor seats and $30 general seating or pick them up at the door for $10 more.