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Jenn Wolstenholme of Fort Macleod ready for Rumble in the Cage 51

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Jenn Wolstenholme of Fort Macleod will fight in Rumble in the Cage 51 on Oct. 2 in Lethbridge. Jenn Burnett Photography.

Two minutes and 50 seconds into her first mixed martial arts fight, Jenn Wolstenholme found herself on the mat with her arm painfully twisted by her opponent, when she came to a heartbreaking realization.
She would have to tap out.
“It sucks,” Wolstenholme said of being forced to submit by opponent Jamie Herrington. “Your heart breaks before you have to tap.”
The painful lesson in the cage failed to deter the 33-year-old Fort Macleod woman from continuing her education in the school of hard knocks.
Rather, the loss served to spur Wolstenholme to continue training at the Canadian Martial Arts Centre in Lethbridge for her next fight.
“I remember coming out of there feeling like I wanted to get another fight booked right away,” the five foot five, 135-pound Wolstenholme said last week. “I learned what it was like, I learned that I was capable.”
Wolstenholme’s next fight is on the card of Rumble in the Cage 51 on Friday, Oct. 2 at the Servus Soccer Centre in Lethbridge, where she will battle bantamweight Sierra Dinwoodie of Kelowna, B.C.
Climbing into a metal cage to engage in one-to-one combat with another woman is not something the mother of two would have considered as little as three years ago.
Growing up in Raymond, Wolstenholme favoured the arts — music and drama — over sports. She was more likely to pick guitar than pick a fight, to tickle the ivories than pound an opponent.
Three years ago, Wolstenholme did not share husband George’s enthusiasm for mixed martial arts and the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
“I hated it,” Wolstenholme said of the UFC pay per view fights George and many of their friends would watch. “I was seriously turned off by the whole thing, hated it when George watched it. I thought it was so barbaric.”
That all changed when, as a dutiful, supportive relative, Wolstenholme went to watch her cousin Brandt Dewsbery fight on a card in Lethbridge.
Rather than being repulsed by the aggression and combat of mixed martial arts, Wolstenholme found herself enthralled with the athleticism and the strategy of the fighters.
“It changed my attitude,” Wolstenholme said. “It’s not just a brawl and wanting to beat on someone. It’s wanting to outsmart them and out-manoeuvre them.”
Wolstenholme came away determined to give the sport a try, and signed on with coach Lee Mein at the Canadian Martial Arts Centre in Lethbridge.
That decision, while unexpected, did not shock husband George or Wolstenholme’s other family and friends. They are used to her tendency to try things that are unconventional.
“I went into it with the idea that I would go as far as my body would let me,” Wolstenholme said. “That meant if I was capable of fighting I would go that far. It was about challenging myself.”
The first training session had Wolstenholme wondering if she could meet the challenge.
“It was so hard. I couldn’t move for the first three days afterwards.”
Wolstenholme didn’t tap out, instead persevering through three days of training a week to the point that she is now in the gym six days a week.
“I hate rest days.”
Wolstenholme’s first taste of competition was in the Canadian National Amateur Tryout tournament in Lethbridge in May.
Wolstenholme was the only fighter registered at 135 pounds so she wound up matched with a fighter 10 pounds heavier.
“That was scary,” Wolstenholme said of waiting as the tournament progressed for her first match. “That was the first moment when I doubted that I really wanted to do this.”
Wolstenholme drew Herrington, who fights out of Fort St. John, B.C., and who had national wrestling experience, for her first opponent.
“She was fantastic,” Wolstenholme said of Herrington, who earned the right to compete at the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation world championships at Las Vegas, where she won gold. “We spent the whole first round on the ground.”
Despite tapping out just 10 seconds before the bell went to end the first round, Wolstenholme earned a compliment — “You’re one tough (expletive)” — from Herrington, along with some confidence.
“The fact that I could hold my own for as long as I did against someone as tough as her felt good. As tough as that was, I did all right.”
Wolstenholme doesn’t know much about her next opponent, Sierra Dinwoodie, whose coach works with people fighting in the UFC, but she knows it will be a tough fight.
After all, Coach Mein warned her at the start, “We don’t take fights we know we can win. We take fights that are going to get us experience.”
Wolstenholme is fighting on the same card as her cousin, Brandt Dewsbery, who battles Christopher Boisvert in a pro fight.
Although she doesn’t want to set limits for herself, Wolstenholme isn’t counting on a big UFC payday as the end goal of this pursuit. The MMA training is already paying more immediate goals.
“It’s been huge for me to learn what my body is capable of, and to see myself be in such good shape,” Wolstenholme explained. “I think even bigger than that, being part of a team has been huge, and so rewarding.”
Although Wolstenholme climbs into the cage alone, the other fighters from the Canadian Martial Arts Centre provide encouragement and support.
“They’re pushing you. They’re seeing you at your best and at your worst. You don’t get anywhere without a good team drawing out the best in you . . . We’re definitely a close-knit family.”
Wolstenholme’s other family, the one at home in Fort Macleod, is also close-knit and supportive. Daughters London, 6, and Avery, 8, are proud of their mom.
Serving as a role model and teaching her daughters to set goals and work for them wasn’t Wolstenholme’s intention when she took up mixed martial arts, but it gives her pleasure.
“That’s a byproduct of what I’m doing. I don’t do it for that reason but I hope that encourages them to do what they love and to push themselves, and not let doubt and fear and worry hold them back.”
Advance tickets for Rumble in the Cage 51 are available at www.rumbleinthecage.com.

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