Sara McMann: Self-confessed ‘fighting hippie’, wannabe surfer, sky-diver, Olympic medalist

Unmotivated by money or fame, Sara McMann fights for the thrill of battle.

It’s time to rejoice. We are blessed right now with a group of remarkable women in the UFC. I count myself privileged to have interviewed Sara McMann. In recent weeks, the murder of her brother, the death of a boyfriend in a car accident, the ensuing grief which accompanies those terrible and tragic events have been well-documented.

You couldn’t make it up. Yet McMann, mother, fighter, partner, athlete, is without doubt one of the most astonishing people I have ever spent time with in fight sports. It is wise for Ronda Rousey to meet McMann in an Octagon now, sooner rather than later. At her core is an iron will, yet a freedom to run with ideas, thoughts and her physique.

I don’t even want to keep my medals. I don’t do it for the medals – I do it for the experience. If I do have money I’ll invest it in going to where my family came from and having that experience.

Listen to McMann. “For some reason I am not money or fame driven. I don’t know why. Everybody treats me like I’m crazy or whatever but I think I gravitate towards very philosophical things. If you listen to wise sayings, every one of them guards you against the pitfalls. Being free and not married to money is a very different independence. I don’t even own a house and I don’t even care. I will always live like this, I’m here temporarily and I’m renting this space either way. Buy a house, and my kids won’t want to live in their house they’ll sell it and live their own lives. I rent a house. My friend lives in a yurt in Alaska and I think that’s the most awesome idea ever. I would love living in a yurt. Why not ? We’re here for a short period; we don’t own anything. This is going to be here for long after we’re gone. I don’t even want to keep my medals. I don’t do it for the medals – I do it for the experience. If I do have money I’ll invest it in going to where my family came from and having that experience. I would go surf in Hawaii; I would go skydiving in Europe. That’s what I live for.”

The power pours from her. Yet she sounds like “a fighting hippie”. Or at least that’s what I suggest to her. “Yes I am! I totally am. My parents were hippies and I completely have that influence.”

“I’m very much like my dad. I desire less. They both don’t work. After my brother was murdered, they’re on psychological disability. They took it in an extremely difficult way. I guess we’re a very strong family and they were a little older and he was murdered and they didn’t catch the people for like over 5 years and ‘America’s Most Wanted’ was involved and it was extremely traumatizing to them. My dad tried to continue to work. He did construction his whole life. He just was making mistakes that were going to hurt people and cost people things. I don’t know if I could survive if something happened to my daughter and I had to think about this before I had a child. I was like can you handle, cause there’s a 50/50 chance either she’ll go first or I’ll go first and that is just the way it goes, can you handle that? And I basically just decided that the joy that I would get from being a mother and raising a child was worth every bit of the pain that I would suffer because of it. That’s like people saying don’t fall in love cause you’ll get your heart broken. You live and you put it all out there and you put it all on the line and even with fighting you put everything on the line, my pride my ego everything is out there for the whole world to shred if they want to. But I would still rather do it.”

My first wrestling match a thought ran through my head and I thought ‘I will sell my soul to the devil this minute to get out of this’. I was terrified.

This is the girl who started wrestling aged 14 in High School. “I was the only girl competing against guys so I became acclimated to that pressure immediately. There was never a time when people weren’t watching me and expecting things from me.”  

“My first wrestling match a thought ran through my head and I thought ‘I will sell my soul to the devil this minute to get out of this’. I was terrified. It was just such a terrifying experience to compete, the strange thing is I was a theatre major in college and that’s what drew me in. I was in seventh grade and all we had to do was get up in front of the class and read a paragraph about ourselves and you could hear the paper rattling but anything that produced that adrenaline response in me I’d be like I’m doing that again. I’m an adrenaline junkie.”