EVERETT — As a high school athlete, Miranda Granger was good enough to win 10 varsity letters in soccer, basketball and softball, and then go on to play basketball and softball in community college.
But Granger, today 23, also grew up competing in taekwondo and “was pretty much in the gym from the day I was born,” she said, on her way to earning a black belt when she was 12.
As much as she enjoyed team sports, the lure of one-on-one combat never really left her. It always felt “like I was missing my calling by not doing it,” she said.
So Granger ended up in mixed martial arts, and with six fights already under her belt — three in MMA, three in kickboxing, and all of them victories — she is hoping to rise through the amateur ranks and eventually turn pro in a sport that is, she admitted, “addicting.”
“Mentally, it’s like the most powerful thing in the world,” she said of MMA. “You’re locked into a cage with someone and it’s like your adrenalin spikes. I’ve never felt anything like when I’m in the ring. And once I got that (feeling), I just couldn’t stop.
“When you get your hand raised,” she added, “it’s like you’ve just won a battle. And for a few seconds you feel like no one can touch you.”
Granger trains at Charlie’s Combat Club in Everett, usually six days a week, sometimes seven, and from 4-6 hours at a time. She spars mostly with men, and no one cuts her any slack because she is a woman.
“At my gym they don’t treat you like a woman, which is a good thing,” said Granger, who lives in Snohomish and is a 2010 graduate of Glacier Peak High School. During sparring bouts “I’m getting beat up by 200-pound guys. But I feel like if I can take shots from them, then I can take shots from 125-pound girls.
“I love competition, and this is the only sport that has challenged me completely, both mentally and physically, beyond my limits. … You never stop learning. I’ve been going (to the club) for 21/2 years and I learn something new every single day. It never stops.”
Yes, she sometimes gets hurt. She has broken her nose four times — three times in training, once in a bout — and she also suffered a broken rib while sparring. And she is sometimes on the other end of injurious contact. Like the time she broke a female competitor’s arm with a kick; the opponent had tried to deflect the blow with a protective forearm.
When it comes to injuries, “I know there are huge risks, but it’s something I signed up for,” Granger said. “Even if you’re the best fighter in the world, you can break your arm.”
Of her six fights, which have all been in the last 15 months, she has won twice by technical knockout, once by submission and three times by decision, including two unanimous decisions.
“Miranda is doing fantastic,” said Charlie Pearson, owner and coach at Charlie’s Combat Club. “She’s obviously had some good success. She’s undefeated and she’s had some good matches that have given her challenges that she was able to overcome.
“Probably her No. 1 asset is her fighting spirit,” he went on. “She’s definitely a game-day player. … She wants to be out there. She wants to fight and she enjoys the competition. And when she gets out there to show her stuff in front of a crowd and to test herself against another athlete, she just thrives in that environment.”
Though Granger is still a ways from reaching the level of skilled pro, she “definitely fits into that category of fighter that’s going to have a great future in the sport,” Pearson said.
Granger, who is getting married in September, figures to fight for another year or so before turning pro. Though getting paid to compete has an obvious appeal — MMA stars Holly Holm and Ronda Rousey are making millions — “I don’t think that’s what draws me to the sport,” Granger said. “Obviously it’d be awesome if I benefitted financially. But even if I make nothing from it for the rest of my life, I think I’d still do it just because I love it.”
The coming months will have a lot to do with Granger’s MMA future. If she adds a few more wins to her unbeaten record, her potential will be promising indeed. Conversely, a defeat or two could derail or at least delay her professional dreams.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” she acknowledged. “That’s what so scary about this sport, but also so awesome. And I’m excited because I’m creating a path for myself.”