Las Vegan Emily Whitmire was always aware of how much she had accomplished just by becoming a productive member of society, let alone making it to the UFC.
She just had a difficult time fully grasping how much of what she was holding on to from her past was affecting her present.
It took tragedy and a brief reconnection with her estranged mother to see the light, and it has started to pay off in the cage.
The 28-year-old strawweight seeks her third straight win when she fights Amanda Ribas on Saturday on the UFC on ESPN 3 card in Minneapolis.
Her recent success extends far beyond the cage, as she has finally come to love her destination instead of hating the journey.
“I had to start looking at who I’ve become, not what I used to be,” Whitmire said.
She left an unstable home at age 15 and spent time on the streets, living out of a backpack and bouncing in and out of juvenile detention centers, eventually ending up in Las Vegas and landing a job as a waitress. She took up fighting but struggled at times as an amateur.
Much of her problem was self-doubt. The slightest mistake would be compounded by frustration and anger with herself, along with feelings of not being good enough because of where she came from. She experienced the same thing at her job when she would forget a drink or be slow to deliver a check.
Tragedy struck in December 2017 when her coach, Robert Follis, killed himself in Las Vegas. She went to Portland, Oregon, to attend the memorial, but never made it because someone had spotted her homeless mother, a schizophrenic, bipolar drug addict, living on the streets in the area.
“I ended up finding her,” Whitmire said. “We hadn’t spoken in years. She doesn’t know I’m in the UFC. I don’t even think she knows what the UFC is. She’s homeless, and she has a lot of problems. Just seeing her crawl out of that tent was a big deal. I was just able to let go of it. It breaks my heart still just thinking of her like that. I haven’t talked to her since I went home and figured all that out. But I was able to appreciate all of that. Instead of hating the way I grew up, I was like, ‘Wow, I survived that.’”
Whitmire realized that if her life was a movie, she would like and admire her character. It enabled her to find a new level of confidence.
“I just realized who I am is actually really awesome,” she said. “I had to learn to appreciate that. When I did that, it was beautiful. The way I’m able to live my life day in and day out now has changed dramatically, and I think you’re seeing that in the cage.”
Whitmire will fight on the preliminary card, which starts on ESPN at 3 p.m. The main card, featuring a heavyweight contender headliner between Francis Ngannou and Junior dos Santos, begins at 6.
White wants Jones loss overturned
Anybody who watched UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones fight Matt Hamill in 2009 at the Palms knows Jones was clearly the better fighter.
Yet Hamill was declared the winner after Jones was disqualified for an illegal elbow.
UFC president Dana White wants to change that. He said he will petition the Nevada Athletic Commission to overturn the result almost a decade later. White told ESPN this week that the referee for the fight, Steve Mazzagatti, wasn’t qualified to be in the ring.
Jones will defend his title against Thiago Santos in the main event of UFC 239 on July 6 at T-Mobile Arena.
Green charged in fatal crash
UFC veteran Desmond Green faces 20 charges, including DUI manslaughter, in connection with an August vehicle crash in South Florida that involved five cars and killed two women.
According to the Sun-Sentinel, the 29-year-old was arrested Wednesday and is being held on bonds totaling almost $200,000. Green reportedly lost control of his SUV and veered into the path of a tractor-trailer on a freeway about 6 a.m. Aug. 18.
Green suffered minor injuries. He tested positive for drugs and alcohol and was driving on a suspended license. He is 2-1 since the accident.
Saturday: UFC on ESPN3 (ESPN), Minneapolis
July 6: UFC 239 (ESPN/ESPN Plus PPV), T-Mobile Arena
July 12: Bellator 224 (Paramount), Thackerville, Okla.
July 13: UFC Fight Night 154 (ESPN Plus), Sacramento, Calif.