Upstate MMA fighter wins world championship

Hannah Rokala from Greenville is one of the best young mixed martial artists in the world.
Published: Apr. 14, 2022 at 11:39 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - Hannah Rokala is one of the best amateur MMA fighters in the world, but she says not everyone can see it right away.

“I fight for a living. I do MMA, I’m a cage fighter and they’re like what and they look me up and down and they’re like no, you?” she said.

Hannah “The Rock” Rokala from Greenville has been fighting for the last six years.

“I think when I realized that she was probably going to be something special was actually her first MMA fight,” said one of her MMA coaches Cody Freeland.

Freeland has known Rokala for close to a decade.

He was with her in Europe recently, when she won three fights in three days to win a GAMMA World Championship.

Athletes from over 50 countries traveled to Amsterdam for the tournament put on by the Global Association of Mixed Martial Arts.

“This is my first world championship, one of many to come,” said Rokala.

Rokala has the determination and drive to match her skill, training six days a week for three to four hours a day.

“I’ll do anything to come out with the win and I show that not just in my training but also in the cage,” she said.

Rokala says she loves every aspect of mixed martial arts, with an emphasis on arts.

“I’m the paint brush and that’s the canvas and I get to create my art piece when I fight,” she said.

It’s a sport that can be misunderstood by some.

“Try to explain the smell of a rose to somebody. You know, it’s like everybody has smelled a rose so if you ask somebody what it smells like I understand that, but if you try to explain it to somebody that had never smelled a rose it’s almost impossible,” explained Freeland.

Above all else, Rokala says it boils down to respect.

“Besides the punching and that part, it’s not like a brutal sport like the mentality isn’t that,” said Rokala.

Currently one of the top ranked amateur fighters in the world, how far does Hannah and her team think they can take this?

“All of us working hard together and being consistent, sky’s the limit,” she said.

Rokala has another fight on April 23, 2022 at Thomas Creek Brewery.

She will be facing off against the number two ranked fighter in the atomweight division.

Rokala and her team say the hope is to turn pro in the near future.