Sarah Bonney: Becoming a National Champion

In November 2017, I moved to Virginia for a new job. I wanted something to do after work, so I decided to check out a few boxing classes at a local fitness club. Within a couple of weeks, I was hooked.

When I first started boxing, I was 260+ pounds. Getting through each class felt like a marathon, but I was determined. I went from attending three classes a week to five classes to seven to twelve.

Photo Credit: Lara Jefferson

In April 2018, I joined Kaizen MMA, an internationally renowned mixed martial arts (MMA) school founded and run by Sensei Nima Mazhari. At Kaizen, I started boxing under Coach Gustavo Abel Tutera, and I sparred weekly with amateur and professional fighters, usually as the only woman in the room. In addition to boxing, I began training in kickboxing, karate, and grappling (jiujitsu).

In December 2018, I had my first fight at Urban Boxing in Washington, DC. While I had trained hard, I knew that my opponent had an advantage - Urban Boxing was her home gym. She trained there, she knew the referee, and she had the crowd. I was in enemy territory.

The bell rang, and we touched gloves. Three rounds later, we stood in the middle of the ring with the referee between us. And then he raised my arm. I had won!

Photo Credit: Paul Love King

In March 2019, I left my career in government contracting to train full time with the Kaizen MMA Fight Team. Fights and competitions came quickly after that. I fought in the 2019 Golden Gloves amateur boxing tournament and won multiple gold medals in three grappling tournaments.

In August 2019, my coach Sensei Nima Mazhari called me into his office. "I'd like you to compete at the WKA National Championship. It will be a great experience for you."

When my old trainer, now teammate Alex Ruthless heard I only had three weeks to prepare, he offered to coach me through the event. He provided personal training and coached me through each of my fights.

At WKA Nationals, I weighed in at 165 pounds. In less than 2 years, I dropped 100 pounds.

I won first place in the K1 Kickboxing division and became a National Champion!

After becoming a National Champion, I accepted an offer to fight at Thai Championship Boxing in November 2019. I continued training and sparring with my team; Alex Ruthless and I began training again.

On October 24, after finishing a training session and while still at Kaizen MMA, I got a call from my family. My younger brother had suffered a medical emergency and was in critical condition. Two days later, he passed away. My family and I were, and still are, devastated.

When I came back to training a few days later, my coaches asked me, "Do you still want to fight?"

I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I didn't know if I had the strength to fight. But I also knew that if I let my coaches and teammates know how I felt, they would encourage me to pull out. "Yes," I answered. "I want to fight."

On the night of my fight, I was overwhelmed. I still wasn't sure if I had enough strength to get through. But I put on my gloves and stepped into the ring.

I won by TKO in the second round!

I've now been invited to join Team USA at the WKA Asian-Pacific Championship in March 2020. This event will take place in Thailand, and I will be staying to train and compete for almost three months. This is an incredible opportunity, and I couldn't be more grateful! The journey is just beginning.

Photo Credit: Paul Love King


  • Leesh

    This is awesome! I’m a true believer that hard work pays off and here is proof of that. Keep fighting, training and inspiring!

  • Eireann

    I am so inspired I cannot contain it. You are a warrior queen and I am so proud of what you accomplish with hard word, dedication and passion.

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