Ex-Chiefs cheerleader returning to MMA with new fighting style

Rachel Wray (left) won two silvers at the NAGA World Jiu-Jitsu Championship last December in Dallas.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — She’s baaaaaaaack.

Rachel Wray, the former Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader-turned-fighter, is returning to MMA for the first time in more than a year. The Arkansas native tells FOXSportsKansasCity.com that she’s received an offer to fight on July 12, in Memphis, Tennessee, on a card put on by Attitude MMA.

"I was scheduled to fight in June in Mississippi but the entire show was canceled," says Wray, who sports a 2-1 record. "My coach has been getting several offers for me to fight more of the big-name girls, title fights, et cetera. But he tells them while he does think that I could beat them, I haven’t fought in (more than) a year and I’ve only had three fights. So we need to wait and get some more fights under my belt before I accept a title fight or a more high-status opponent. We need to see where I’m at first."

After her original opponent for the Memphis bout backed out, Wray says, she’s now slated to fight Jamie Clinton.

"She is a two-stripe white belt (as am I)," Wray says, "so I expect she will have some good ground game."

Check out this gallery of Rachel Wray pictures.

The 24-year-old, who was on the Chiefs’ cheerleading squad in 2011 and ’12, bowed out of a bout with Bobby Bedard last August because of a weight issue.

Since then, everything in her MMA circle is new — new gym, new trainer and a new weight class.

"I was cutting way too much weight," says Wray, who’ll fight at 130 pounds now after cycling between 115 and 125 pounds the last two years. "Fluctuating 20 pounds every couple months just isn’t healthy, especially for a girl. Ten years of gymnastics caused my body to be more naturally bulky and muscular. So I discovered that if I started lifting heavy and went up a weight class, I would feel 10 times stronger, more explosive and powerful."

As to the latter, well, thank her new boyfriend, Geo, who’s also her strength and conditioning coach. The routine: CrossFit-style workouts at 6 a.m., followed by Olympic lifts and cardio circuits with fighting-style elements.

She’s also been fine-tuning her fighting style, having won gold at an American Grappling Federation tournament last fall, and two silvers at the NAGA World Jiu-Jitsu Championship last December in Dallas.

"I have really been developing my fighting style and I don’t want to give anything away to my opponent," Wray says. "But let’s just say what you see on YouTube is not how I fight anymore — at all."

She’s teaching at UFC Gym in Fayetteville, Ark., and signing some autographs locally in June. But the bulk of the next two months is centered on training. Training and keeping a relatively low profile.

"All of my focus really is on getting ready for my return to the cage," Wray says.

"When everyone first found out about me going from being a Chiefs cheerleader to an MMA fighter, there was a huge uproar with the media and caused sort of a frenzy. It was very stressful to me and brought many emotions that got in the way of my training. ‘Step right up, folks, see the amazing cage-fighting cheerleader!’ That’s how it all felt."

Goodbye, pompoms; hello, Pedro Sauer Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Association. Next up: Wray plans on being tested for her blue belt in the mixed martial arts style.

"This has been my most important goal — more important than winning fights — since I first started fighting," she says. "The reason why it’s so important to me is because it’s the best way to display my discipline and dedication to the sport.

"I also believe that it will force the MMA community to respect me. Nobody will be able to say that I’m ‘not qualified’ or ‘not experienced enough’ or ‘don’t deserve it’ or any of that stuff (that) I used to hear when I first started. Nobody can say that I haven’t put in the work, because I will have a great way to prove them wrong."

You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter at @seankeeler or email him at seanmkeeler@gmail.com.