There are some fighters who will have five, six or even 10 pro MMA fights for regional promotions before getting called up into a national promotion. Then there are some who get to make their pro debut on a national stage. Felicia “Fee-nom” Spencer has worked all her life to become an overnight success.
Spencer started taekwondo as a young child with her older brothers at the age of four. She started Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at age 12. When she moved to Orlando to attend the University of Central Florida, she found The Jungle and started training Muay Thai.
“I was never into the more violent competitions as a child, but training Muay Thai, I got the bug,” said Spencer in an interview with Combat Press. ‘”I competed in jiu-jitsu from age 18-20. I was very active. But now that I am focusing on fighting, I don’t want to get injured.”
The time is right for Spencer to focus on MMA. She just competed in the Tuff-N-Uff tournament in the 155-pound weight class and, as the tourney winner, earned the right to make her pro debut at Invicta FC14. In the first tournament bout, she submitted Leanne Foster in the second round. In the finals, she secured the TKO in the second round against Jessica Eve Richer. However, the win did not come without some difficult tests for Spencer.
In the first round, Spencer and Richer traded blows and traded positions against the cage. Then Richer scored a takedown. Richer looked for submissions and flirted with side mount, but Spencer was able to toss her hips and gain full mount, which prompted Richer into a desperate scramble. Richer took Spencer’s back with a little over a minute left in the first round. With about 50 seconds left, Richer sunk in a rear-naked choke.
“My inner monologue was saying, ‘This is not supposed to be happening.’ I was thinking she was going to have to put me to sleep [because] there is no way I am going to tap,” said Spencer. “I’ve been in that position before. I’ve trained jiu-jitsu for 10 years, so it wasn’t the first time I’ve been in a tight choke. I kept calm even though it was really tight. I might have even made those involuntary gurgling sounds.”
Spencer twisted and fought her way out of the choke, but Richer was still on top and looking to do major damage with her ground-and-pound. Spencer tried to find an armbar, but then rocked Richer with a couple of well-timed and placed upkicks to end the first round.
“Whether it was the upkicks in the first round or the head kick in the second, I don’t know, she was either rocked or distracted. At one point, she was pulling her shirt down when I landed some hits. She just stumbled back. I knew from then it was just a matter of time,” recalled Spencer.
Richer was game. However, once Spencer’s second head kick connected, it was all Spencer. She scored a knockdown and Richer got back to her feet, only to eat more leather.
“Looking back at it, I think the fight could have been stopped earlier,” said Spencer. “What can you do as a fighter? I know I am not supposed to stop until the referee stops me. You see too many fights reverse when a fighter lets up. I don’t ever want to make that mistake.”
The win has led Spencer to think about her future.
“I think the win has made me look at this career as a professional,” admitted Spencer. “This is not just about athletic prowess. The fights are won by training. I am going to treat my body like a professional. I know I could do more with post-fight diet. There are so many opportunities now; I need to be ready to take advantage.
“I’ve been fighting at 155 [pounds] for a while. A week out and I know the weight cut is on point. I would like to fight at 145, but that opportunity hasn’t come up yet. Maybe the next fight, I don’t know. It could be the right fit, but you don’t know until you try. I would have tried to go down before, but the Tuff-N-Uff tournament was at 155. There is also so much more competition at 145, but there is also so much more opportunity.”
When Spencer isn’t training or fighting, she works as a math teacher, focusing on algebra via Florida’s Online School.
“I teach primarily grades 6-12,” explained Spencer. “It’s a flexible schedule with full-time hours. I can train when I need to. There are a lot of different students; some are home-schooled, some are virtual students, and some are credit recovery. I get to deal with all ages and also other athletes.”
And when she’s not working or training, Spencer can be found “Netflixing.”
“My best friend is my boyfriend,” said Spencer. “We hang out with friends, like anyone. But there isn’t time for anything else really but cooking shows and comedies — no dramas!”
The next challenge for Spencer is the stuff that dreams are made of. She makes her pro debut at Invicta on Sept. 12 against fellow debuting pro Rachel Wiley.
“She just fought about three or four weeks ago, and I am ready for anything,” said Spencer. “I can’t find a real specialty or niche; she is really well rounded. She is strong. I think she is a version of me in Kansas. I don’t see any way she can surprise and I don’t see any way she can beat me.
“My confidence in the fight is appropriately high, I think. I don’t want to ever be over-confident and I remind myself all the time that anything can happen. Standing or on the ground, I am excited to see what she is going to let me do to her.”