SAN DIEGO – She’s just 13 years old, but this Escondido teen really can pack a punch.
Last weekend, Lariah Gill won gold in the 106-pound weight class in the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation Youth MMA World Championship in Bulgaria. Gill was one of 17 medalists for the United States — and one of six Americans crowned world champions — for her efforts.
“I couldn’t process it through my head at the time because of all the adrenaline,” Gill told FOX 5,” but once we got back to the hotel, I posed in the mirror. Like, it hit me.”
Finishing behind Gill in her weight class were Kristina Morozova of Russia, Olivia Babiarz of Ireland and Sofiia Filimonova of Ukraine.
Gill began training in jiu-jitsu when she was 9. Initially, her father enrolled her in the sport for self defense. Although she admits she didn’t enjoy it much at first, she eventually fell in love with the sport and with that she started winning competitions.
“I think because I met more people and I started to get the hang of it,” she said.
The teen says she trains about two and a half hours a day, five days a week. Balancing her sport, school work and friends can be tricky, but she says she’s been able to make it work. And though her friends don’t always grasp the magnitude of her accomplishments, she says, but she still appreciates their support.
“They just think it’s like softball or something little that’s just like a hobby,” Gill said. “I tell them and they’re like, ‘Oh, yeah! Cool!’”
Gill wasn’t just representing her country when she went to Bulgaria, she was representing her family – the same people she says help her get through the hard times.
“Sometimes before a fight, I think okay, ‘[My sister] Cheyanne’s watching me right now, I have to do good for her,” she said. “It’s awesome to think that I am a female role model to other females.”
Gill hopes to compete in the UFC one day.