Northern Irish MMA star Leah McCourt will take part in a UFC showcase this week as she aims to become the IMMAF World Champion in Las Vegas.
Leah is the first female to represent Northern Ireland at the high profile event which will be attended by talent scouts from UFC.
Further down the line the Saintfield mum and mixed martial artist says she’d like go professional and join UFC, but for now she’s concentrating on winning another gold medal to add to her title of IBJJF European No Gi Champion.
The inspirational athlete trains full-time in a variety of disciplines including judo, Muay Thai, boxing and Brazilian jui-jitsu. Leah, who says her main priority is her five-year-old daughter Isabella, also dedicates herself to working with Mencap.
In a recent interview with UFC.com Leah said: “I’ve done judo since I was a kid. I’ve always loved martial arts and boxing. I loved watching it. I think the first fight I watched, my friend sent me Gina Carano and Cyborg and I just thought it was so great. I sort of got into it and started following it from then. I started training in a MMA gym after I had my daughter Isabella. After that, my coach Paul said, ‘You have a judo background why not try MMA?’ I just fell into it that way.”
While many have described Leah as an inspiration, she says her inspiration is her daughter, who is following in her mother’s footsteps and has just started judo. Leah said: “She loves watching me compete in the gym and she’s always asking, ‘Bring back gold medals.’ She’s my inspiration.
“I think judo is a fantastic sport for kids, for the coordination and confidence. There are great opportunities to compete. I wouldn’t force her to do MMA. If she wanted to do it later on when she was a bit older she could try it. I think having one foundation of martial arts and working through that as a child is going to be more beneficial and they will be practising it more frequently. As she grows up she’s going to want to do a bunch of different things. She may want to do MMA later on in her life.”
When Leah was asked what her ultimate goal was in her MMA career she said: “Obviously going professional, having it as my career. Being able to compete around the world but it’s obviously a financial concern as well. I have a daughter. She is my first priority. Down the road, I’d like to go professional and compete in the UFC but my main goal at the moment is to win this tournament.”
Ahead of her first fight in Las Vegas, Leah met up with director D3rk Matter to shoot part of a documentary called Empower. Here’s a taster…
The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation’s World Championships return as part of UFC International Fight Week. Leah will have her first fight on Thursday (June 7).