KANSAS CITY, Mo. — To be perfectly honest, Rachel Wray doesn’t remember all the details. But the stuff she does remember, she sure as hell doesn’t want to go through ever again.
"I’ve been choked out many times before and none of them were like this," Wray, the former Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader-turned-MMA fighter, tells FOXSportsKansasCity.com. "This time was different. I was so scared. I felt like that was the same feeling as dying."
The Arkansas-based Wray returned to the mat for her first competitive bout in more than a year Saturday as the co-main event at Attitude MMA Fights II in Lakeland, Tenn., just outside Memphis.
It was over quickly.
Jamie "The Pretty Assassin" Clinton won Attitude’s 135-pound women’s title by submission in the first round — a guillotine choke that led Wray to black out.
"You just stop existing," recalls Wray, a member of the Chiefs’ cheerleading squad in 2011 and 2012. "As I started to wake up, that was the scariest part. I had no clue who any of the people were crowded around me. No idea where I was or why I was there. It felt like another dimension or something.
"I really can’t even describe it in words, but it’s not something I ever want to experience again. It was scary to the point of traumatizing me a little bit. I keep having these little flashbacks of that feeling, and it’s really scary."
You can see how scary for yourself, as Clinton posted a video of the bout — she’s the one in the light trunks, the one doing most of the kicking and punching — on YouTube this week:
In hindsight, Wray says, she wishes she hadn’t taken the fight, noting that she’d taken a kick under the eye in June, suffering a cut and a concussion in the process.
"Not that that’s an excuse for losing, but it definitely affected me," said Wray, whose amateur record dipped to 2-2. "I wasn’t used to getting hit that hard."
But the bad feeling — or lack of feeling, in this case — doesn’t necessarily end there.
Wray says she felt the referee waited too long to end the bout and was told by her camp that she might not have been properly handled while unconscious by Attitude MMA’s ring doctor.
"Everyone knows you’re supposed to put the person’s feet up first, to get blood flow to their brain," Wray says. "I was out for a long time. Almost to the point where I could’ve had brain damage.
"I’m sad I lost, yes; however, I am absolutely livid with how uneducated and unprofessional this promotion was, and their mistakes could’ve risked my life. I will never fight for them again, that’s for sure."
But Wray also understands that her take could be perceived in some corners as a case of sour grapes, and Attitude MMA made a point to deny there was any risk to her health during or after the event.
"Fighter safety is always a top concern of ours," Mike Kooistra, creative director with Attitude MMA, told FOXSportsKansasCity.com via e-mail. "And as with all of our fight events, we had experienced medical professionals on hand to ensure the well-being of our participants. (The physician) assessed Rachel after she was submitted and if there was any further need for medical attention, I assume he would have taken action.
"We hope nothing but the best for Rachel and her future endeavors, inside and outside the ring."