Lisa Spangler has been bleeding from her nose since the beginning stages of round No. 1 – the end results of some well-placed jabs by her opponent.
It’s not bad, certainly noticeable though, but hardly cause for much concern for Spangler. She barely gives it a second thought and keeps moving forward, eventually she starts to connect with numerous hard shots of her own and almost ends the contest twice in the second round.
When the final bell sounds, two things stick out more than anything else. The first is the enormous grin on Spangler’s face. She just spent the last three rounds fighting an all-out war inside a cage with opponent Kelly Clayton, and it appears she just had the time of her life.
This is where she belongs.
The other noticeable thing? The entire sold-out crowd at the Emerald Queen Casino has exploded to their feet, showering Spangler and her opponent with applause. The much-deserved standing ovation inside the Tacoma venue is deafening.
No other fight on the card that night would draw as much fanfare.
Spangler soaks it all in. The smile on her face grows bigger as she is announced as the winner. The loss of blood has been more than worth it.
Spangler is a professional MMA fighter. At CageSport 52 on July 21, she remained undefeated, notching career win No. 2 following her victory by majority decision.
Currently, the Vancouver, Washington native is the fourth-ranked pound-for-pound female fighter in the Pacific Northwest, an area with a rich history of producing top-flight female fighters over the years. Included on that impressive list is former UFC world champion Meisha Tate and current world title contender Juliana Pena.
Both Tate and Pena started their successful careers fighting at CageSport before parlaying it into the UFC.
Spangler appears to be the next Washingtonian headed down this path.
A 2014 graduate of Fort Vancouver High School, Spangler has always gravitated towards more contact-related sports. She played football all four years in high school, the final three as a starting linebacker for the Trappers and wrestled three years at Fort Vancouver, placing fourth in the 145-pound division at state her senior season.
It marked the first, and so far only time, a female member of the Trappers’ wrestling team has placed at state.
“Female wrestling definitely blew up my junior year and Washington had the third most female wrestlers in the country that year so that was pretty amazing,” Spangler said. “I had already been training at an MMA gym so I figured wrestling would help me more if I ever decided to fight.”
It was mid-way through her senior year of high school when the thought of turning MMA into a career started to gain some momentum. As graduation approached Spangler was more focused on a scheduled kickboxing match the day after she received her diploma than the ceremony itself.
The fight, ultimately, fell through, but for four months she was training every day after school in preparation for it. Even after the fight was scrapped, the workout schedule stayed the norm and has remained so to this day.
“If we had any assignment in school where you would have to choose a career I would say MMA every time,” Spangler said. “It was around the time the first women’s fight in the UFC happened so I thought I was in the perfect time frame to get into the sport.”
She was dominant in the amateur MMA ranks, posting a stellar 9-1 record, winning her final seven fights before turning pro on May 4. Fighting on the undercard of Invicta FC 29 in Kansas City, Missouri, Spangler defeated previously unbeaten Sarah Kleczka by decision to score her first career victory.
“It was all a bit surreal, but every time I got a little nervous I just reminded myself that I’ve done this 10 times before,” Spangler said about her pro-MMA debut. “As soon as I got in the cage I felt really comfortable.”
Despite the thrilling win, she labeled her performance in her second fight “sloppy,” after a flare-up of a food allergy impeded her breathing.
“It was a fun fight though. It was definitely a crowd pleaser,” Spangler said. “We were just trading the whole time and it ended up being a really exciting brawl and if you have followed my career at all you know I’m not new to brawls.”
Training 5-6 days a week at Gracie Barra Portland, Spangler now has her sight firmly set on two things.
“My short-term goal is always to win whatever fight is coming next,” Spangler said. “For long-term goals, I want to make it to the UFC and be successful enough to make an impact on the sport and take care of my family. I’d love to be the bantamweight weight champion someday.”