"She's learned so many life lessons just being able to watch me come up the ranks, win, lose, get injured," Waterson says
Michelle Waterson is an accomplished MMA fighter on the UFC circuit with a large fanbase – including her six-year-old daughter.
The 31-year-old brings her little girl, Araya, with her to every fight – a decision she defends against those who argue she’s introducing her daughter to violence.
“If you tell somebody that fighting is violent then they’re gonna think that fighting is violent. You know?” Waterson told MMA Junkie at a UFC on FOX 24 media luncheon this week. “It’s all in the perception, it’s how you raise them. She doesn’t think fighting is violent.”
Waterson says that for Araya, her daughter with husband Joshua Gomez, “Fighting is martial arts. Fighting is something that I do for my career. Fighting is something that I do to stay physically fit.”
And having Araya ringside is helping her learn and grow, Waterson insisted.
“She’s learned so many life lessons just being able to watch me come up the ranks, win, lose, get injured,” she said, adding, “I just think having her around is giving her a whole different outlook on life than a lot of children get to experience. To her, dreams, and ambitions and goals are going to be something that is expected.”
Waterson’s life was recently profiled in 2016 documentary, Fight Mom. In the 80-minute film, she often addresses balancing motherhood with her career.
“I’m still trying to figure out how to get in the zone as a fighter, and then come home and be the mom I need to be,” Waterson said.
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Waterson will fight against Rose Namajunas in Kansas City, Missouri, at UFC on FOX 24 this weekend. She did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for additional comment.