EVERETT — It’s 11:15 a.m. on a sunny Friday morning and Miranda Granger doesn’t so much stroll through the front door at Charlie’s Combat Club, the downtown Everett training facility that overlooks the waterfront, as much as she’s led through it.
Granger, the mixed martial arts champion from Snohomish who is the The Herald’s 2018-19 Woman of the Year in Sports, is dressed for a workout — white t-shirt, black shorts, red sneakers and her long blond hair in a bun and held back by a grey headband. But the standout features are the taut leash protruding from her left hand and the dog bed she has stashed under her right arm.
Granger may be waist deep into her preparations for her Ultimate Fighting Championship debut, but it seems her little slate-grey French Bulldog Kala is just as eager to get the workout started.
“Yeah, she does whatever she wants,” Granger said with a laugh about her beloved pet, who not only comes to training sessions with her, but also accompanies her cross country for fights.
The 12 months from mid-June 2018 to mid-June 2019, the new time frame for The Herald’s Woman and Man of the Year in Sports awards, saw Granger rapidly ascend the MMA ladder. She won her first regional professional championship, the Dominate FC strawweight (115 pounds) title, in September. She made her first cross-country trip for a bout in December. And she won her first world championship in May, claiming the inaugural Cage Fury Fighting Championship women’s strawweight belt.
Now Granger, 27 and undefeated as a pro at 6-0, has reached the pinnacle of MMA fighting. She signed with UFC two weeks ago, and she makes her debut in the world’s premier MMA promotion Saturday morning when she faces Hannah Goldy in Newark, New Jersey, in a nationally-televised bout.
So what’s it like being an MMA star? Here’s a day in the life of an elite MMA fighter a week before a big fight.
A creature of habit
At 9 a.m. Granger’s alarm goes off at her Arlington home, and she has to hit the snooze button a couple times before she clambers out of bed.
Once she rouses herself, Granger has her morning cup of coffee and makes her standard breakfast consisting of coconut milk, unsweetened yogurt with coconut flakes, almonds and chia seeds. The breakfast is part of her paleo dairy-free diet, and because she’s fighting Goldy at 125 pounds rather than her usual 115 pounds she’s not having to worry about cutting weight, something that’s particularly important given this fight came on just two weeks notice when she usually has 10 weeks to prepare. While she eats she does her daily Bible devotions.
It’s the same morning routine Granger conducts every day.
“She’s a creature of habit, for sure,” Granger’s husband, Kaden Barish, said. “I read the hints now, if I stay home from work I make sure I go work out or go golfing. She’s not superstitious by any means, but she has her routine in the morning and throughout the day and it’s very habitual.”
Upon completing her morning routine Granger heads to Charlie’s Combat Club (C3) for the day’s training. She usually starts off her day with a run near home, but today she decided to get her running done around the gym, embarking shortly after 11:30 a.m. for a light 2.5-mile run down and back along Grand Avenue.
Once Granger returns at about noon it’s a quick change of clothes and then straight upstairs to the cage area at C3 for her session with trainer Charlie Pearson.
What follows is about an hour of non-stop high-intensity drills and exercises in one- and two-minute bursts. Her work on the pads is like an intricately choreographed dance as she punches and kicks the pads precisely where Pearson places them. The thunderous pops that emanate upon contact echo around the room and indicate the force the blows are exerting. Perhaps the most visually impressive of the drills sees Granger doing a squat thrust straight into a flying knee uppercut into a medicine ball Pearson holds at head height. It looks like a move straight out of a fighting video game.
By the end of the hour Granger’s shirt is soaked in sweat. She rates the intensity of the workout as an eight on a scale from one to 10, falling short of a 10 only because there was no sparring involved.
After a brief break Granger and Pearson head back downstairs to the larger room and spend another 30 minutes on technique work while grappling on the ground — with an off-leash Kala trying to get involved whenever she can.
In all, Granger can spend up to seven hours at C3 six days a week — Sunday is her off day — undergoing her own training and helping train other C3 fighters. It’s a schedule she’s maintained since long before signing with UFC.
“She’s been pretty much at the same training pace since she made her mind up to start fighting way back when as an amateur,” Pearson said. “She’s been in the gym preparing and putting in the same kind of hours. The training methods have changed a little bit, but her work effort has been the same.”
However, on this day her time at the gym is cut short. Once her workout is over at around 2 p.m. she heads home to get cleaned up for cornering duty.
Granger’s primary involvement at C3 outside her own training is helping with the gym’s female fight team, and Friday night she’s working the corner for a member of that team, 15-year-old Ashley “Floss” Altamirano, who is stepping into the ring for her first ever kickboxing match.
The event, Battle At Bellingham V, is a “smoker,” which is an unofficial event where the results don’t count on anyone’s record and typically takes place in a gym setting. Battle at Bellingham V features 17 bouts in various disciplines in front of a small crowd of about 50 at Bellingham Mixed Martial Arts. Granger is there not only to serve as cornerperson for Altamirano, but also to support training partner Becky Mertzig, who is competing in a grappling contest.
Altamirano’s bout is halfway through the card and scheduled for three two-minute rounds. As the cornerperson Granger’s role is to coach and shout out instructions, but Altamirano is doing so well that Granger doesn’t have to say much. By the middle of the second round Altamirano’s opponent has called it quits.
“She was just so cool and mellow about it,” Granger marveled. “I think I was more excited than she was.”
Granger and company left before the card was over. She got home about 10:30 p.m. and wound down watching TV before falling asleep around 1 a.m. And the television shows were no different from anyone else.
“We’re MMA fans, but unless it’s a huge fight card we don’t watch MMA at home,” Barish said. “We’ll watch the Food Network or whatever Netflix show we’re binging. We’ll talk about opponents, but really there’s not too much MMA talk at home. By the time she gets home it’s usually have dinner, hang out with the puppies (in addition to Kala, Granger and Barish have a Rottweiler named Rijker), watch a show and head to bed. There’s no conscious decision not to talk MMA at home, but usually it doesn’t come up. This is relaxation time.”
Reaching the major leagues of MMA
One of the notable things about Friday’s workout was its timing. Often the most vigorous portions of Granger’s workouts come in the afternoons or early evenings. However, Friday’s came earlier than usual. Part of that was because of her cornering duties, but part was also in anticipation of her UFC debut.
Granger’s fight Saturday against Goldy is part of UFC Fight Night, which is being televised live by ESPN. Granger vs. Goldy was the late addition to the preliminary card, and as the last fight added it’s scheduled to be the event’s first. That means it begins at 9 a.m. Pacific Time, prompting Granger and Pearson to get a jump on accustoming Granger’s body to functioning at an early hour.
Goldy, like Granger, is also making her UFC debut. The 27-year-old based out of Florida is 5-0 and coming off a unanimous decision over Kali Robbins in Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series in June.
But notably absent from Granger’s training session last Friday was anything specifically geared to a specific opponent.
“I’ve known about my opponent for a while now, so I kind of know her game,” Granger said. “I watched her last fight in the Contender Series. As far as preparing for it, I just kind of prepare for wherever the fight will go. She seems to do the same thing in all her fights.”
And if there’s anything Granger has mastered, it’s routines.
No doubt it was a special 2018-19 for Granger. But a win Saturday morning may just launch Granger into an even bigger 2019-20.