The state of Missouri is home to some of the best talents the world of MMA has ever seen. Currently, UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley, as well as Shamrock FC star Johnny Eblen, call Missouri home. With the boom of women’s MMA, more and more women have been noticed by fans in the MMA world. One of those “bright” up and coming faces from the “Show Me State” is Sunni Shemwell.
Introduction to the World of MMA
As with many successful fighters, Shemwell’s love for MMA was a “love at first sight.” Shemwell told MMASucka she began watching Bruce Lee movies with her father as young as she was able to watch television. She also relived a story from the time she was five years old.
“By the time I was five, my dad taught me how to do a shoulder throw. That one day backfired, when he was on his back and my mom was mad we broke her figurines!” Her father seemed to be the first influence in her MMA career before even realizing it would become a path she would journey down.
“He taught me some kicks, a good stance, how to throw a punch, bits of wrestling, etc. On the weekends I would stay with my dad around nine. We would go rent UFC VHS tapes. I remember always being memorized.”
Persevering through the Tough Times
Being a beautiful woman in what many consider a “man’s sport” can cause roadblocks, as it did for Shemwell. Her love of combat sports continued to grow from her early days of learning with her father. Shemwell wanted to continue her journey by joining a boxing gym but always got he response, “you’ll mess up your pretty face.”
Shemwell recalls an incident to MMASucka of her first true roadblock on her MMA journey. “When I was 18 I went to a boxing gym anyway where I was stuck with a crap partner who had no clue what he was doing or teaching. I walked over to the coach who told me, ‘well you hit like a girl, but I think you’d make a good ring girl.’ So that was also disheartening.”
Sometimes roadblocks can open up to a wide open freeway. “As life went on I was working, going to school, raising my kid, and pretty much forgot a lot of things I learned at a young age,” Shemwell told MMASucka. “I took my daughter and enrolled her into a child’s MMA class. I wanted her to know that just because she was a girl didn’t mean she couldn’t be great in a man’s world.
Re-Introduction to Her Calling
When something is meant to be in life, it seems to find it’s way back to you. Shemwell took a small one-on-one session with her daughter’s coach which led to hitting pads and striking a bag again. “It felt so good, so I started training with my daughter’s coach when I was about 25. After awhile of that, I found BJJ Lifestyle Academy with coach Mike and couldn’t be happier to have found my gym family.”
Learning From a Champion
Shemwell is coached by “Brazilian” Mike Rethmeyer. Rethmeyer is a second degree black belt under Leonardo Pecanha and is a 16 time IBJJF medalist. “As far as mentally goes, Coach Mike, my teammate Orlando, and my family all try to help me. Mentally my issue is I’m aware I have a large tool box of skill sets, but my confidence sometimes prevents me from using all these tools. That is something I need to work on myself,” Shemwell stated. Not just in MMA, but in life in general, the biggest obstacle anyone can have is not realizing there is an obstacle. She is aware of her confidence as a young fighter which will help her develop at a much quicker pace.
“I accredit everyone for helping with my game. I’ve learned so much. I’m well aware I learn differently than others and everyone at my gym, coaches and teammates, have helped me. I’m just very lucky. My teammate Juan goes out of his way during my weight cuts to make sure I’m on a good track and am feeling alright.”
Learning from the Debut
Shemwell would take the first step toward her gym with her debut bout on the Cage Championships 58 card which took place on October 28, 2017, in Sullivan, Missouri. Her opponent for the night was the very tough American Top Team Atlanta product Kaia Lola. Though Shemwell took Lola the distance, she unfortunately was not able to get the nod from the judges. But if the mindset is right, much more can be learned from defeat over victory. Shemwell has the mindset and passion for the sport where she was able to turn this into a learning experience.
“After my first loss against Kia, even though it went to a somewhat close decision, I wasn’t sad at all,” Shemwell told MMA Sucka. “I was well aware going in she was a Rockstar. I was a little upset after watching the fight because I was seeing a lot of things I knew better than to do, but I chalked it up to it was my debut. My dad said something that resonated with me that night. He said, ‘hey as long as your next opponent isn’t as tough as her you’ll be fine.’ That was his way of saying, that one tough chick and I don’t have much to fear after taking on her. Regardless I was still proud of myself. I went the distance and even took a round. I think in that fight I was in a lot of positions where other may have tapped.”
Getting the First Victory
Shemwell returned to the next Cage Championships card, Cage Championships 59, taking place five months later in March 2018. Shemwell’s opponent for the night was Lacey Bryan. This time Shemwell’s hard work and dedication to improvement paid off, picking up her first victory. Shemwell will look to be back in action hopefully sometime in the spring of 2019. With continued growth, Shemwell will no doubt become a fan-favorite and work her way up to whatever organization she desires. “My style is constantly changing. I’m still at that weird state where you’re trying to figure out what works best for you. I want to grow as much as I possibly can and be the best at what I feel comfortable at.”