Monday, March 17, 2014 | 9:57 p.m.
This is the extraordinary story of Kari Lichtenwalner, a TSA agent turned mixed martial arts fighter who used to weigh nearly 200 pounds and is now competing in the ring at 125 pounds.
She’ll be fighting fit and turning heads this Sunday at the Downtown Beatdown at Golden Gate. In addition to policing security at our McCarran International Airport, this remarkable young woman also is studying to be a personal trainer.
Kari told me: “It’s not easy waking up at 3 a.m., going to work, coming home to get homework done, household duties, studying and still managing to put in a solid two to three hours at the gym. I take power naps like a champ and have a great mom and friends who help me out a lot.
“I don’t have the best MMA record, but I have fought for two Tuff N Uff titles, I’ve fought many undefeated fighters and have fought in Utah, Colorado, Hawaii and Nevada. I’ve received numerous medals in grappling tournaments and have only lost one Muay Thai fight to date.
“All of this is an accomplishment to me because this all started when I was pushing 200 pounds and wanted to get in shape. That’s what got me into Muay Thai. There was no martial arts background, not even a desire to fight.”
Kari wants to put on a great show and prove to the Las Vegas sports community what she can achieve.
“I expect to win and show this city what I can do and how I continue to evolve and improve with every fight. My favorite part about fighting is just that — fighting! the training isn’t always fun; it’s hard. MMA is a hard sport. It’s painful. It’s tiring. The fight is the reward.
“We put in so much blood, sweat and tears in and out of the gym, and we do it for that moment that we get to put all our hard work to the test in the cage. The feeling of every emotion you can imagine all built up into one moment. It’s a great moment, and not many get to experience that.”
Kari, a driven single mother, trains full time at UFC legend Randy Couture’s gym Xtreme Couture.
On Sunday, the best amateur MMA fighters from the Las Vegas region face off in the WFC 19 World Fighting Championships at the Golden Gate. Expect sharp kicks, harsh punches, ruthless grappling and strong ground games as the valet lot is transformed into a 1,500-guest arena.
WFC has 30 of the best men and women pitted in 15 exciting matchups, including the headline welterweight title bout between undefeated Las Vegas native Justin Driggers and 170-pound champion Anthony Browder from Bullhead City.
Our thanks to Rich Castro for his photo gallery of Kari Lichtenwalner.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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