The popularity of mixed martial arts has grown extensively in the last few years, thanks to the popularity of the UFC and fighters under that particular banner.
For one Kingston University student though, mixed martial arts means a lot more than just the joy of taking part.
Gita Walkup, who hails from Indonesia and fights in the ONE Championship, says that a difficult past made her want to compete.
She said: “What made me compete was the feeling of hopelessness after surviving an abusive relationship. It was hard for me to speak before but it gave me the courage to grow as an independent woman and fight for myself and my son.”
Walkup said that her experience of an abusive relationship made her want to show others that there is a way out of these situations.
She said: “To have my voice heard, if I’m recognizable and have my own platform, I can fight for myself and can show that a woman and a victim of an abusive relationship can have hope and nothing is impossible.”
Walkup made her professional debut in 2017. She currently holds a professional record of one win and one defeat from two fights. She currently fights in the strawweight division.
She says that taking up other martial arts, such as kickboxing, have been useful to her professional MMA career, where a range of skills can be used.
She said: “I originally started my athletic career from Muay Thai and transitioned to K1 while competing in China. Getting into MMA these skills are really useful too and it’s a pretty easy transition.”
Preparation for an MMA fight does have its drawbacks. Walkup went on to mention that the extreme nature of the training, coupled with family priorities, mean that it’s been difficult to be sociable with friends during this period.
She said: “The training is pretty intense, especially when I am also battling for custody of my son. This almost gave me no chance of a social life. I train five days a week, two times a day , two and a half hours per session.”
Walkup studies sports science at Kingston. She says that her lecturers have been very supportive towards her during a difficult period.
She said: “It has helped me a lot especially during the Covid-19 lockdown. Also helping me with my personal side where my course leader has been a great help to me through this difficult time.”
Walkup’s story is one that shows that through hard work and determination, anything can be achieved.