MMA is a hybrid sport in so many ways. Of course, it’s a hybrid of a collection of martial arts. But it also straddles the line between true sport and sports entertainment. It’s no stranger to controversy, to be sure. But the best parts of MMA — frankly, the best part of any sport — is the respect that two worthy opponents can give to each other. MMA is one of the purest forms of competition. One individual against another with no weapons, no teammates and no tools, just skill, determination and desire.
Yet, because MMA is also entertainment, it’s easy to get caught up in the drama. There’s the trash-talking between fighters, between fighters and fans, and even between fighter’s fans and other fighter’s fans. It takes a fair amount of ego to be able to step into a cage, but it takes a lot of discipline to keep that ego in check outside of the cage.
She has decided to break the chains that bound her to her foe and now refuses to take part in what she considers to be the negative part of the entertainment side of the sport.
Before we delve into Riordon’s present and future plans, here is a little bit of the backstory:
Riordon never planned on fighting. In fact, she was pretty much the opposite of a fighter.
One day in Colorado, she wandered into a kickboxing and sambo gym. She had never competed in sport, but she was looking for a fun way to get and stay in shape. Soon after, Riordon fell in love with the challenge, the rich traditions and the martial arts, especially grappling. She formed what she thought were fast friendships with her teammates and especially the few other girls in the gym.
While helping another fighter prepare for a fight, it dawned on Riordon that she was pretty much in fight camp and might as well take an amateur fight to see if she could do it. She could do it, and she loved it, too. She has gone on to compete in many grappling tournaments, amateur and pro MMA, professional kickboxing and boxing.
Training together creates a strong bond among teammates. If you’ve never trained in a martial art, you wouldn’t understand. It’s very similar to family. You watch each other struggle to learn techniques. You celebrate each other’s successes and encourage your teammates after losses.
But if your teammate — your sister — celebrates the loss? It hurts. It is betrayal. It is pain. And that is what led to a fairly lengthy and vitriolic feud for Riordon. Promoters, mutual “friends” and the media helped feed that feud. After all, it’s a great story.
However, the feud, that spiteful existence, is what Riordon will no longer take part in. In fact, she hated it so much that she decided to retire. Well, it was that, plus motherhood, coming into a fight overweight and PTS from a traumatic travel experience that combined to convince Riordon that maybe she wasn’t willing to commit to being a fighter anymore.
Riordon is not afraid to fight, nor is she afraid to take a fight in which the cards are stacked against her. So many thought it odd that she decided to retire even though many could understand the reasons behind it.
If you have followed Riordon’s career, you’ll know that she went to Thailand to train with Phuket Top Team. Her first martial art love was grappling. But as she has trained more and more, kickboxing has captivated her. After her professional debut in MMA, she boxed against a Golden Gloves winner with 45 amateur fights under her belt. Riordon has also competed professionally as a kickboxer and scored a third-round knockout of Brenda Rodriguez.
While in Thailand, the man she was dating got sick. He recovered, but then got in a moped accident and spent weeks in the hospital with internal bleeding and an infection that had the doctors puzzled.
“I left in August of 2015 and was only supposed to be there five weeks,” Riordon told Combat Press. Instead, she was there until the end of December. She was away from friends and family, including her two boys, for the holidays.
For weeks, her boyfriend’s life hung in the balance and the only family he had was Riordon by his side. Friends and family in the United States prayed and tried to support from afar, but that was hard to do. Riordon was a stranger in a strange land and barely understood the basics of the language. Understandably, it was a stressful situation.
Riordon’s boyfriend healed. He was released, and they both returned to the States. One was physically battered. The other, emotionally. Riordon announced her retirement. She had been separated from her two children for much longer than planned. She was still licking her wounds from lost fights, and she was still in pain from the past.
So, why is a combat-sports website writing about her? She is retired, right?
Well, they say a Marine never retires. Well, fighters are similar. It’s a warrior thing.
Riordon has decided to come back. She wants to replace bad memories with good ones in hopes that it will help her heal her soul. She was also supposed to take part in the most prestigious Muay Thai card, the King’s Cup. It’s a birthday celebration for the king. To be invited to fight on the card is a big honor that she was unable to fulfill while at her ailing boyfriend’s side. Now, she hopes there may be a chance to get invited again. However, the real reason she is actually fighting again has to do with her conversations with her kids.
“They don’t want me to retire,” said a smiling Riordon. “When I go to the gym, they come with me, so I thought it was just too much to ask of them. But it turns out that they like the fact that I can take them to school and pick them up. They told me that they don’t want a ‘normal mom,’ but they like the way our schedules have been.
“So we have decided to give this a try. I will go for five weeks again in August and then be back for the holidays. And then in January, maybe I will go again for five weeks and then over the summer they might come with me to Thailand. This is possible in large part because they have an amazing father who works with me and the boys very well.
“There is no guarantee that I will be able to make the King’s Cup, but I do know that I don’t want to end my career on such a bitter note. I announced retirement, but I am renouncing it. Muay Thai in Thailand is everything about the sport that I love. Honor, respect, tradition — the culture is what I fell in love with. It’s not like fighting in America, which is much more ego-driven. I don’t know if that experience with GLORY will ever stop being bitter, but I can’t let it define me. And it doesn’t have to be my last experience with fighting.
“And even if I never fight again, to be able to go to Thailand and work through the emotions and process the pain will be invaluable. A therapist suggested that the paths have crossed in my brain — that I now associate training with Chris’s illness and near death. If I can uncross them, it might make my training here in Colorado better, too. Overlaying good memories over the bad ones, I think.
“It will be great to see my friends and thank them for all their help, too. Good training, reunions, making peace — the experience will always be a part of my life, but I’d like to color it in a little better. Also, going over there and training full-time as a fighter and coming back to be mommy to my two boys will help me find a better balance, too, [between] mom time [and] fight time. If it works, maybe we can keep doing it for a few years.
“There are people in Thailand and also in the U.S. that never got to see me fight, and I hope to have the opportunity to give them a fight. My last MMA fight was in April 2015, and I still get messages and fan mail saying that I am their favorite fighter. People still feel connected to me, and I feel like my goal is to spread positivity and show my fan base that you can overcome adversity and that you don’t have to agree, but that you can always be respectful.
“We need more compassion and empathy in the world. I believe that if you hold a space around yourself that you can shine a light that shines on you and that shines on others and that will encourage others to shine. I want to continue to write, to speak, to inspire other people to live their lives with no fear and all the love. And the way that I can do that is to continue to fight. I don’t want to let that go yet.”
In the words of musician Kenny Rogers, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run.”
MMA is a hybrid sport. To fans and fighters who love it, the sport combines the best of the best of the martial arts. It’s one-on-one competition. It’s putting your skill, your will and your training against someone else. Who knows if Riordon will step back into a cage as a professional fighter again, but she is ready to train for it, to heal with it, and to be ready for anything.
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