As a trainer, Carlos Martin fed Hannah Cifers combinations to hit into his sparring pads on a sunny Thursday afternoon inside Elite Athletics, Cifers stood firm, one fist covering her face, the other ready to drive into the pad. With a liveliness in her step, she had a focused and determined look on her face.
It’s the same look she wears in the octagon as an Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter. The look of a fighter willing to put her body on the line, and withstand bruising punches and kicks to win.
“I’ve put in a lot of work,” Cifers said about reaching the UFC. “It’s been fun, but it’s a lot of hard work. It’s a higher level of competition, so it’s a lot more work, but it makes me have to get better, I have no choice.”
Cifers, who is from Oxford, has an 8-3 record. She went pro when she was only 20 years old. Now 26, she’s getting ready to fight in UFC 235 on March 2 in Las Vegas against Polyana Viana.
The bright lights of the UFC will not bother Cifers. She stepped in on short notice to face Maycee Barber at UFC Fight Night 139 on Nov. 10 in Denver, Colorado.
It’s the culmination of years of long, tough workouts, diligent training and taking care of her body.
Now getting ready for the biggest fight of her career, Cifers is going through a rigorous training camp. She works on her conditioning, technique and strength every day. Then she wrestles, boxes, and works on her ground game.
According to Martin, she is a fierce competitor who never quits.
“She is the most unique person I’ve ever met,” said Martin. “She’s very special, she doesn’t want the attention. She doesn’t want to talk, she just wants to fight, and I’ve never met anyone like that, so I’m super privileged to work with somebody who the only thing she says when you correct her is ‘Yes, Sir.’
“I’ve been around a lot of good kids, but she’s always looking to improve, and she’s very loyal, and once she brings you in, she lives and dies on her team’s word. She’s the most coachable athlete I’ve ever met.”
When it comes to mixed martial arts, taking shots to the head and body is a given. Cifers is training to limit the amount of punishment she takes as much as possible, and she’s trying to make sure she lands more punches than her opponent.
“Hannah, her punch is unreal, but what I’ve brought to the table with her is how to land a punch, footwork and rhythm,” Martin said. “Some of the things we are going to see different is the confidence in moving, and not feeling like you fight so hard and take damage.
“She’s a very well-rounded martial artist.”
While Cifers loves to stand up and throw punches and kicks, she is also a purple belt in jujitsu.
When she’s not fighting, Cifers runs her own meat processing company, which she started when she was 15, she does mason work and can fix engines.
Cifers got into fighting after her dad took her to a self-defense class.
“I just fell in love with it,” Cifers said. “I like kickboxing, and I’ve also done a lot of straight jujitsu and wrestling, but I like MMA because it brings everything together.”
It takes a village to raise a mixed martial arts fighter, and with her team in place, Cifers will continue the steady climb, and hopefully, one day reach the pinnacle of the sport by becoming an Ultimate Fighting Championship champion. It’s the main reason why she fights.
Not for the money, or the adrenaline, but for the pure love of the sport.