The Jackson-Wink MMA representative was part of the first card back following last year’s pause in the schedule as the global coronavirus pandemic brought activities around the world to a halt, squaring off against former champion Carla Esparza.
Down the stretch of the close, competitive affair, Waterson let off the gas a little, believing she was in control of the fight and on her way to a decision win, but while one judge agreed with her, scoring the fight 30-27 in her favor, another submitted the same score for Esparza. The third official also had the bout for Esparza, awarding her the final round and the victory.
“I had an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach when I walked away from that split decision with Carla and I know it’s because in my mind, I thought I was winning and I didn’t push the pace because I thought I had it in the bag,” said Waterson, who carries a 6-4 record inside the Octagon into her bout with Rodriguez on Saturday evening. “That’s my fault —I let that fight slip through my fingers.
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“I’ve never felt that way. I’ve never walked away feeling like, ‘Dang — I thought I really had this decision’ and I didn’t know whether I should be disappointed in my performance or if I should be upset with the judges about the decision. But at the end of the day, I lost, and I had to take inventory of that, see what it was that the judges saw that made them think that I lost and fix those things.
“And that’s the hardest part as a fighter — to have those introspective thoughts and continue to force yourself to fix those things.”
In addition to making technical changes and vowing never to let off the gas again, Waterson also adjusted her general outlook to her career and each individual fight.
A pro for more than 14 years, the perennial contender admitted there were times when she was so fixated on reaching the top of the mountain that she didn’t stop to appreciate the view from the various heights she’d already reached.