Walking into W4R Training Center in Tomball only provides a slight relief from the sweltering Texas heat. In the gym, multiple ceiling fans don’t so much cool the room as keep the steamy space from being too stagnant. About 15 students, all dripping with sweat, work on Brazilian jiu-jitsu techniques on the large mat.
Tonya Evinger, nicknamed “Triple Threat,” is in the corner stretching and chastising a mouthy young student because he didn't wear shoes in the bathroom and then brought the nastiness out on the mat. She is constantly engaged in playful trash talk, but the joking carries a barb of seriousness.
She grapples with strong training partners under the direction of Jeremy Mahon. Explaining to the UFC cameraman who was also present at the gym, she says that the "only way to get them is to be smart." Finding and creating openings means being persistent and pestering, a filthy fighting style.
On Saturday night, the Houston-based Evinger will fight the most dangerous woman in combat sports on the biggest stage. But even with the increased media attention, and the fact that few believe she will win, Evinger couldn't care less. The self-proclaimed "bad bitch" has a chip on her shoulder the size of the Houston Ship Channel and plans on showing the belt off at Pearl Bar next week.
Her opponent, Cris Cyborg, has not displayed any noticeable weaknesses in her game as she's been undefeated in mixed martial arts for more than ten years. Even though Evinger has won the Invicta Bantamweight title and is riding a ten-fight win streak, she heads into the fight as a big underdog. Las Vegas sportsbooks have Cyborg as a 5:1 favorite — an Evinger win would be among MMA's greatest upsets.
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Her head coach, Aaron Pena of AP Boxing/Kickboxing, knows that the Triple Threat will bring the fight to Cyborg. Evinger's world-class wrestling and tenacious and grinding style could be the key to dismantling Cyborg.
Evinger's gold star athletic supporters and casual fans will be at Pearl Bar on Washington Avenue at the official watch party to cheer her on during the fight Saturday night. The win streak of one of the fighters will soon come to an end.