KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After months of planning, Rachel Wray has finally set a date.
Now all she needs is a dance partner.
Wray, the Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader-turned-MMA fighter, tells FOXSportsKansasCity.com that she’ll return to the cage Aug. 24 — and she’ll be fighting for the first time in her native Arkansas, at the Clear Channel Metroplex in Little Rock.
Mind you, the next part is the toughest: Sealing the deal with an opponent.
“So far the options are either way above my level or they’re too much of a beginner,” Wray says via e-mail. “(Trainer Kaleb Plank) always wants to make sure his fighters are properly and fairly matched, so if we don’t get an opponent, we won’t just do the last-minute desperate take-a-fight-against-anyone things. We just won’t fight.
“It kind of sucks, but I know ultimately that’s what’s best.”
Wray moved her training base from Kansas City to northern Arkansas in the spring. Her last fight was back on March 22, when she lost a unanimous decision in three rounds to Nadia “Knuckles” Nixon at Ultimate Blue Corner Battles 19.
In a perfect world, the former NFL cheerleader says she’d like a bout every one or two months.
But Plank, her trainer at Inferno MMA in Bentonville, Ark., says her rising fame and amateur status are a tough combination in terms of finding a “fair” fight — he doesn’t want to set her up to fail.
“The challenge is because of her star power,” Plank says.
“Everybody’s wanting to like throw title shots and the most experienced fighters at her, and people forget how little she’s been training … everybody forgets how new she is to the sport.”
Wray, a strawweight, sports a 3-1 record, with one win coming via forfeit.
“The problem is, you get girls that are about her level (and) they’re running from the aisle because of all the press,” Plank says.
But media attention has some upside, too. Plank says he was recently approached by Xtreme Fighting Championships (XFC) out of Tampa, Fla., about lining up Wray for a few amateur bouts in the Southeast, possibly as soon as this fall.
“You don’t want her to learn how to be a punching bag,” Plank says. “She’s not Ronda Rousey yet. But she will be.”
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.