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Cage fighter preparing for next test

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Former Upminster schoolgirl Stacy Hayes hopes to take another step towards her dream of becoming a top cage fighter in America when she takes part in a first-ever women’s mixed martial arts (MMA) bout in Essex.

The 29-year-old will look to further her reputation as one of the UK’s best prospects when she takes on Italy’s Annalisa Bucci in a three-round, featherweight contest in Southend in July.

Hayes, who grew up on the Hacton Racecourse Estate in Central Drive, Hornchurch, says a win will move her closer to her dream of a lucrative deal with the USA-based Invicta Fighting Championships.

“They know who I am in America and they’ll be waiting to see how I do in this fight,” said the former Gaynes School pupil.

“Bucci will bring a great stand-up game because she’s a Muay Thai fighter, and she’s Italy’s number one.

“But I don’t think she’ll be ready for my strength and I think I’ll stop her. I’ll be surprised if I don’t stop her in the first round.”

West Ham fan Hayes, nicknamed ‘The Hammer’, won her first amateur MMA bout at Liquid nightclub in Romford in April 2011, and now has a large fan base in Havering.

She took up the sport after friends said she’d be good at it, but admits she caused quite a stir when she first walked into the MMA Clinic in High Street, Romford, and said she wanted to train.

“At first they were not sure what to make of me, but when I started throwing the men around they took me a bit more seriously,” she said.

“I was a foster care kid and that meant I had to fight a lot because of situations I found myself in.

“Now what I’ve done is taken that negative experience and channelled it into something positive with my MMA.”

Hayes has previously trained at the Origin gym in Rainham and Lions Den Gym in Romford, and at the start of this year she moved from her home in Romford to Loughton to be closer to her new boxing training base at the Hilleastside ABC in Buckhurst Hill.

She also works on her wrestling skills with Titan gym in Edmonton, and trains with experienced MMA middleweight Valentino Petrescu at the Ministry of Martial Arts gym in Rayleigh.

“I have an all-round game: I train in Muay Thai, wrestling, BJJ (Brazilain Jiu-Jitsu) and MMA,” said Hayes, who gave up jobs as a dog trainer and an IT specialist to become a full-time fighter.

“Giving up work has meant a loss of income, of course, but I’m doing what I really want to do.

“I’m the only professional female fighter in Essex and I hope what I am doing will give rise to more women on fight cards in this area.”

Hayes, who fights in support of the Woodford Green-based Havens House Children’s Hospice, will be walked down to the ring by actor Alan Ford, a family friend who famously played Brick Top in cult British gangster movie, Snatch.

After a pro debut defeat to Lisa McCallam and a non-contest with Chloe Hinchcliffe in her second outing, Hayes will be looking for a convincing victory in this bout, which is part of the line-up on the Ultimate Warrior Challenge 23 event at Garon Park in Southend on July 13.

Bucci, 30, is nicknamed ‘No Fear’ and boasts a record of three wins and two defeats in the pro ranks.

The show is expected to attract a sell-out crowd of 1,800 and will feature a headline fight between UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) veteran Simeon Thorsen from Norway and South London’s Wendle Lewis.

For more information visit www.ultimatewarriorchallenge.co.uk.

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