Jordan McDonald: From Law Career To Tuff-N-Uff Title FightJordan McDonald’s path to success in mixed martial arts may not have been a conventional one, but the former South Carolina native is currently one of the top amateur prospects in the sport. Foregoing a career in law, McDonald moved to Las Vegas and is now preparing for her biggest fight to date.

As she trains with some of the best camps and fighters in the United States, McDonald believes that she has never been more ready for a fight. She will face Liz McCarthy on August 26th for the Tuff-N-Uff 110-Pound Women’s Championship and discusses her unique journey towards the title fight.


Growing up in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, Jordan McDonald learned to stick up for herself at a young age. The diminutive, self-described tomboy was picked on due to her size and admits to getting into “a couple” of recreational fights as a youth. It did not appear that a future in fighting was in the cards for McDonald, however, as she began surfing competitively in her early 20s while working her way through college, with a plan to attend law school.

Things changed in 2009 when McDonald had her first mixed martial arts fight. Though she suffered her first and only loss to date, she was immediately drawn to the sport. McDonald fought four times in 2010 and chose to make a big change in her personal and professional life by moving to Las Vegas, Nevada earlier this year, and will now fulfil a goal of competing for a prestigious Tuff-N-Uff championship.


Starting Out

McDonald seemed destined for a traditional career path as she worked her way through school; majoring in political science and minoring in psychology with every intention of attending law school upon graduation. When not in the classroom, McDonald surfed competitively and was featured on the cover of a local surfing magazine, but viewed the sport as a hobby and saw limitations in her future.

After graduation in 2005, McDonald began to shift her focus away from the water. She joined a non-profit law firm in 2007 and worked in environmental law. Things appeared to be falling into place.

When three-time world Muay Thai champion Maurice Travis opened a dojo in the nearby city of Myrtle Beach around the same time, McDonald’s friends encouraged her to come and train. Liking the new challenge, McDonald stopped surfing competitively and continued to train off and on in Muay Thai for the next 18 months; allthewhile working for the non-profit firm. At the behest of a professional photographer friend, McDonald also began modelling and did photoshoots in her limited spare time.

In 2008, with the support of friends and most of her family, McDonald sought out her first Muay Thai fight. However, aside from one kickboxing rules match, she was unable to find any opponents and soon began entering jiu-jitsu tournaments to develop new skills. One of McDonald’s opponents on the grappling mat, future Tuff-N-Uff champion Jenny Yum, was in a similar predicament and was struggling to find fights in her blossoming mixed martial arts career.

Striking up a friendship, McDonald and Yum decided in late 2008 that since they could not find anyone else to fight, they might as well fight each other. Six months later, they faced off in what would be both McDonald’s MMA debut and also a catalyst for her career and future in the sport.


First Fights

McDonald encountered a number of obstacles in preparation for her amateur MMA debut against Yum. Not only was she facing a considerably larger opponent, she also found herself without a local gym to train at. Maurice Travis had moved back to Los Angeles and his dojo had closed. McDonald was forced to drive over two and a half hours north across state lines to Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina to train.

The contracted weight limit for the fight was moved up twice shortly before the bout was scheduled to take place. McDonald fought on anyway and battled Yum to a Unanimous Decision loss on April 25, 2009. The defeat only motivated McDonald, however, as she had found a new passion. She began training more diligently and put word out that she was looking for fights.

McDonald would not compete again in MMA for nine months, but when she did, her new skills were evident. Knocking out Crystal Parrish in just one minute, McDonald was thrilled to not only win but do so in front of her hometown friends and family. The event was the first sanctioned mixed martial arts event in the state of South Carolina and took place in Myrtle Beach, just minutes from McDonald’s home.


North American Allied Fight Series

While training north of the border in Wrightsville Beach, McDonald made contact with a number of other female fighters including Rachel Dovidio, a veteran of the highly-respected North American Allied Fight Series promotion in Ohio. When a fighter dropped out of an April 2010 NAAFS fight, Dovidio contacted McDonald to see if she would be willing to fill in on the card. McDonald jumped at the opportunity and earned a second-round rear-naked choke submission victory over Jessica Dinch on April 24th. She was immediately embraced by the company and invited back.

McDonald returned to Myrtle Beach for one more fight in early June, scoring another quick knockout victory in the first round. On the back of three straight wins, McDonald travelled back to Ohio and the NAAFS promotion for what would prove to be her biggest and highest-profile bout to date.

On September 18, 2010, NAAFS held its first all-female fight card. Headlined by promotional star and recent Bellator signee Jessica Eye, the event streamed live online and provided 26 talented amateur and professional female fighters with an opportunity to showcase their skills in one of the premier promotions in the United States. McDonald was matched up against Summer Artherton, who had just picked up an 87-second knockout victory two months earlier.

In one of the most action-packed fights on the card, McDonald and Artherton battled back and forth throughout the opening round. McDonald managed to take the fight to the mat, but Artherton threatened with guillotine chokes and swept McDonald late in the round. With mere seconds remaining, McDonald impressively spun into an armbar that forced Artherton to submit right as the bell sounded.


Looking To The Future

Following her second NAAFS victory and fourth straight overall, McDonald decided that a change was in order. She looked west to Las Vegas this year and decided that mixed martial arts was her calling. Foregoing law school, to the chagrin of some family members who questioned her motives in wanting to fight for a living but supported her nonetheless, McDonald moved across the country to a new world.

“This is just considered as the place to be for fighting,” she says. “I had been to Las Vegas a couple of times with a few friends of mine and a couple of them actually moved out here before I did. So, for one, this is one of the best places to come for fight training and to network, but I also had friends out here that had a place for me to go and stay at. I don’t know if I will live in Las Vegas forever, but this is definitely a great place to jumpstart my career.”

Upon arriving in Las Vegas, McDonald quickly began testing the waters with many of the top MMA gyms in Nevada and nearby California. Wanting to soak up as much knowledge as possible from her teachers and new training partners, McDonald visited well over half a dozen gyms before finally settling on the Drysdale Jiu-Jitsu academy. There, she trains in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under decorated world champion black belt Robert Drysdale, who recently awarded her a second stripe on her BJJ blue belt.

“Robert Drysdale just gave me my second stripe and it was quite a surprise,” McDonald says. “Since I moved out here to Las Vegas, the level of fighters is much higher. That’s not to take anything away from anyone in South Carolina, but [Las Vegas] is just the epicentre of fighting. Back in South Carolina, I rarely got tapped out in jiu-jitsu training. I could hold my own pretty well. Now that I’m training with people who are at the top of their game, training sucks! It’s great, but I get tapped out much more and I’m going up against much tougher people.

“Sometimes, in your head, you feel like you’re not getting any better because you’re losing to these people who are so much better than you every day, but really, that’s what you want. You want to be getting beat up in training and working with people who are much better than you. I wasn’t feeling really great that night, but when he gave me my second stripe, it made me feel a lot better.”

McDonald has not neglected her striking game, either, as she trains in Muay Thai under Mark Beecher at Drysdale’s and also makes trips to the Xtreme Couture gym to drill boxing with Gil Martinez. She believes that the only things missing now are training partners who are similar to her in size. It is an issue that she has faced since her early days of training in South Carolina. Despite this, she has never been better prepared than for her upcoming Tuff-N-Uff debut.


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(Photo Credit: NAAFS)

  1. Ill. Be routing for you. Stay on track.