Gladiator Challenge: Kaboom at the Sycuan Casino in El Cajon, California. Kristi trains at and represents 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu and Kings MMA. We recently caught up with the MMA fighter; registered nurse, adventure extraordinaire and sophisticated savage known as Kristi Lopez prior to her professional debut this Saturday for the interview below to learn a little more about her.
How did you get involved in MMA and how long have you been training?
-I started training MMA mostly with grappling about 5 years ago in Puerto Rico with a team called Puerto Rico Vale Tudo. I had just finished college with my first bachelor’s degree in Teledramatic Arts and was looking for an adventure and to get back into the medical field. I previously was an ocean lifeguard for 8 years and missed it. I then moved to Puerto Rico for two years and got my nursing degree there. I had always wanted to fight or box. My dad and my brothers were all boxers. Growing up I played other sports. I swam and received a water polo scholarship to Cal State Monterey Bay so my dedication went there. But the second I started MMA I knew it was what I had been looking for my entire life.
Where are you currently training, and what's a typical training week like for you?
-I train with Eddie Bravo at 10th Planet Jiu-jitsu at Tapout DTLA and with Master Rafael Cordiero at Kings MMA in Huntington Beach. I honestly couldn’t be luckier with training at those two gyms. I am so happy there and with my coaches, friends and training partners. A week for me is crazy! A LOT of driving and rushing to get it all in but it’s worth it! I train at Kings MMA 3 times a week but I live in Los Angeles and work even farther away so it’s a lot of driving! I train with Eddie and 10th Planet a couple times a week. I do strength and conditioning with my coach, Matt Olaya twice a week. In addition to work I also squeeze in running and yoga.
Tell us about your upcoming fight, who you're fighting and where?
-I’m fighting on January 18th at the Sycuan Casino in El Cajon, California for Cali Cage Wars, Gladiator Challenge. My opponent is Tyra Parker and it should be a great badass fight.
What is your best experience as a fighter? What is your worst?
-My best experience as a fighter is winning and seeing the look on my dad’s face and family’s faces after I win! But mostly the journey, the places I have seen and gone to, people and friends I have met is what makes this warrior’s life and journey so special. I always say I am living my dream while pursuing it. The best feeling is knowing I live a happy, untamed, fulfilled life and I have never held back from attacking my dreams and life with everything I got.
-I wouldn’t say I have a worst experience because all of those experiences I have learned from and turned into a positive. Painful lessons teach us the most but you have to have the outlook, patience and determination to find the positive. The worst thing you can ever do in life is to feel sorry for yourself. Without darkness we would never appreciate a sunrise or the light. Always look for the positive!
What advice would you give to other women who are reading this interview and want to get started in MMA?
-Start training today! If you are not sure what to do just start taking a martial arts class. Any type of action is better than none. Once you start the doors will begin to open. Work hard, earn respect and don’t let anyone bully you or make you feel inferior in training. Everyone started somewhere without knowing what to do. Know that fear and frustration is natural but don’t let it hold you back. Doing something while you are unsure or afraid is what will set you apart from the rest of the world and those who are not really living. If you are comfortable and feel safe all the time then you are not growing spiritually. Respect yourself, your teachers and training partners. No drama in the gym. Make it your sanctuary from the drama of everyday life. Martial arts will change your life, I promise. Even if you never fight, you will be amazed at what you learn about yourself and life. Not only that, you will make a lot of amazing friends.
What or who are your inspirations in MMA and life?
-My family is my biggest inspiration and I could talk for hours about how much I love them and how proud I am of them. My dad is the hardest working most honorable man I have ever known. From him I’ve learned what family and selfless sacrifice is. Not only that, he is one hell of a warrior and fighter. He can still move around with the best of em! My mom is a great supporter too and always there for some “girl talk’. She has always been the greatest loving mom. She's got my back! My brothers Matthew, Sean and Evan have given me unconditional support and love. My older bro Matthew is a hero with a couple medals of valor and when I hear about his day and what he goes through I know I can do anything. My talented bro Evan helps me with a lot of my fights and game plans even though he is busying pursuing his dreams of music. I always tell him he is also my cornerman in life. He is an amazing musical artist but always there for me and ready to help me with whatever I need. Listen to his music at www.evanlopez.com! My Aunt Sue was also someone who was always there for me even when she was going through hard times and I’m always grateful for her love. I have a lot of family and friends in the military and law enforcement and they always have my gratitude and respect. I always say that a lot of people are fighters even though they don’t ever get into the cage and my family is no exception to that and people who overcome everything and are still happy, loving and positive are the most inspirational to me!
Who are your favorite MMA fighters?
-All the guy and girl MMA fighters at my gyms Kings MMA and 10th Planet! They always take the time to help and support! The first MMA girl fighter I ever saw was Gina Carano so she is always someone I thought was inspiring. Lyoto Machida has always been a favorite of mine for his epic style and positive warrior attitude. Rampage is always entertaining. Liz Carmouche is another awesome fighter and wow wee she hits hard! I trained with her once and she took the time to show me some moves and answer my questions so I always support and root her on! I love watching Cris “Cyborg” Santos fight and her training videos are so insane!
How do you enjoy your free time when not training or fighting?
-I love the beach, surfing, laying out, and bonfires! I love camping, nature, hiking and road trips. I love to have fun. I’m an amusement park fan especially during Halloween; I love Disneyland, Magic Mountain and roller coasters! I like to relax, spa, mani-pedi time with my girls, hang out with my family and friends. I am always down to try new things. My favorite people are the ones that are mischievous and co-conspirators with me in having fun! I don’t ever really go out but when I do I like to dance and cause some ruckus!
For those who will inquire we have a couple questions for the male readership as well.
Are you single?
-It’s complicated but isn’t it always? :)
What do you look for in a guy?
-I like a man that is respectful, happy, honest, family-oriented, fun, athletic, loyal, loving, driven and passionate. I like a strong but still sweet badass with ambition but not a bad boy! There is a huge difference between the two. I can’t stand disrespectful or manipulative people in general. I think it’s cool when a guy is old school and chivalry is not dead! Especially when it’s coming from a tough dude. :)
What would you say is your best feature?
-My personality? ;-) I don’t know. I guess I get some compliments from guys on my eyes, smile and tan. My tan I give credit to my brown Puerto Rican side and that I love being outside.
Lastly before we let you go we would love to hear about your future plans and let you send some shout outs.
Any future plans or dreams?
-I plan to fight at 115 hopefully sometime in March and try out for The Ultimate Fighter in April. After that, become the champ! Get the belt. I want to do everything I can to inspire and help the future of the sport for women and girls of all ages. Continue to be happy in my journey of life and to always keep learning, growing and pursuing all my dreams with reckless abandonment!
Any shout outs you would like to make?
-I have to thank my family first, without them I would be nothing! They inspire and help me so much, all of them! Big thanks to Eddie Bravo and my family at 10th Planet for helping me for so long. Master Rafael Cordiero and my Kings MMA family for welcoming me last year with open arms and all my teammates there. Thanks to my strength and conditioning coach Matt Olaya of M80 roller. Thanks to Epok Agency for the support. Shout out to Jacob from American Liberty Bail Bonds, 1-888-bailguy for the continued love and support. My Furious brand family, you guys are so sweet and have the sickest coolest shirts. Check out EvanLopez.com and download some cool music, you won’t regret it! Thanks to Toots Skin Savants, Helmer Guidance and Perfectfitz for the support!
Thank you very much for your time Kristi and good luck on fight night! For more on Kristi Lopez please visit her website, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.