Rising UFC star Casey O’Neill says she was “kicked off every football team” as a kid for starting fights but is now channelling that aggression to make her mark in the octagon.
The Scots-born 23-year-old flyweight made it two wins from two UFC bouts in Las Vegas last month, choking out Lara Procopio.
After seven straight MMA victories, her debut came in February with a second-round TKO of Shana Dobson.
“There’s no stopping me in my head,” she told BBC Scotland. “I know that every fight gets harder but I also know that I get better with every fight.”
Brought up in Kilmarnock before a move to Australia, O’Neill explains that she “hated school and loved sports” and her early passion was football.
However, her combative approach to the beautiful game got her into trouble once too often.
“We played football every day after school and my dad would take me to kickboxing,” she recalls.
“I kept mixing the two, I started fighting people on the pitch. Even in Australia, when I got here and went into a team I got kicked off every football team in driving range for fighting. So my mum just decided we’d can the soccer and just stick to fighting.
“My slide tackles would be like spikes in the back of the legs, pulling on hair, it was bad, I admit that, but, hey, I found my calling.”
‘I want to clean out the division’
Her father began running an MMA promotion from their Gold Coast home and her first amateur bout came at the age of 15.
“I started by working the door for my dad and told him I was going to fight,” she says. “He told me there was no way that was going to happen and then two years later I had my first fight for him. Now that’s all I do.
“I want to fight everybody and clean out the division from the bottom to the top.
“I’m only 23 and I’m on the lesser end of experience compared to most of the girls. I’m looking at fighting again in October. I wouldn’t mind another fight similar to the ones I’ve been having – evenly matched where I can showcase my skills.
“I even like a bit of adversity. That first round against Procopio was probably the first round I’ve ever lost in my seven professional fights. Coming back from that was a new experience. I’m excited to get all of those experiences out of the way before I end up fighting in the top 10.”