A Las Vegas woman has become the first professional Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter with autism. In November, Serena DeJesus participated in her second professional MMA fight in Kansas City, Missouri, after winning her first fight by unanimous decision.
According to a report last month by Wqad.com, DeJesus said being bullied as a child taught her the importance of physically fighting back. She said the MMA community has accepted her without judgment, adding that many of the stereotypes surrounding autism are untrue, and that those with autism are not always easily identifiable.
“That whole, ‘you don’t look or act autistic,’ I get annoyed by that,” DeJesus said. “So far I’ve been accepted by the MMA community for fighting. No matter who you are or where you come from, if you work hard it’s OK.”
In addition to representing those with autism in the octagon, DeJesus and her brother Brandon run self-defense clinics for children with autism at the Syndicate MMA gym in Las Vegas. DeJesus says she is committed to ensuring that children with autism do not experience the bullying she endured growing up, and that they are equipped to defend themselves if they do encounter hostility.
Prior to last month’s fight, DeJesus emphasized her determination to continue fighting, no matter the outcome.
“Win or lose, I’ll fight my butt off!” she said. “A woman on the spectrum pursuing their dream.”