Brooke Mayo made her professional MMA debut back in February at Bellator 172. While she was unsuccessful — she lost via doctor’s stoppage TKO late in the third round — making it to the Bellator cage was an accomplishment in itself.
Mayo was not originally a fighter. She was, rather, a Division-I soccer player. She loved running up and down the field, and she enjoyed being one of the fastest on her team.
But then, the pain started, and life as she knew it began to change.
"I started feeling excruciating pain in my calves, pain that had never been there before," Mayo stated in a piece she wrote. "I remember sitting in class and dreaming about chopping off my legs. The pain was so bad that I’d rather just not have legs — a runner, not wanting legs! That’s how uncomfortable I was. My running times went from the highest to the lowest, seemingly overnight."
Mayo was diagnosed with chronic exertional compartment syndrome, a rare, exercise-induced disease that causes pain and swelling in muscles in the arms and legs. Her doctors did not necessarily know how to treat the disease, so they began trying to help alleviate her pain. In fact, she needed 25 shots in her legs at one point to help her.
Eventually, however, Mayo underwent surgery to open up her fascia, the tissue surrounding the muscle, to allow the affected muscle to keep growing.
"I was incredibly upset; it seemed that my soccer dreams were slipping away," Mayo wrote. "I wasn’t able to run and do other things that were routine to me before. I felt there was no hope for me to ever become a professional athlete."
That’s when a friend recommended her to start taking Brazilian jiu-jitsu classes. About three-and-a-half years later, and she stepped foot inside a professional MMA cage for the very first time.
While Mayo hopes this is just the beginning of a long and enjoyable MMA career, she has to take care of her body — possibly even more so when compared to other fighters.
"I have to avoid putting on too much muscle, so I can’t do much running or heavy lifting in my camps, and I avoid eating too much red meat," she wrote.
Nonetheless, while she did not expected life to take such a drastic turn, Mayo is blessed and happy she overcame her obstacles and found the MMA avenue.
"I never saw my life going this way, but I am happy that I didn’t give up when things got hard," she said. "I hope that if you are dealing with something similar, you will look for other options — nothing is completely hopeless."