Beauty and a beast: Alternative model Micol DiSegni's journey to UFC doorstep wasn't pretty

On Tuesday night, Micol DiSegni will attempt to become the first Italian female strawweight in UFC history when she competes at Dana White’s Contender Series 25. But getting here wasn’t easy. She’s been doubted all along the way, even by her parents, first as an alternative model and then as a fighter. But as DiSegni puts it, “I feel the prettiest when I’m in the cage.” She’d feel even better with a UFC contract.

Micol DiSegni has swam against the tide for as long as she can remember.

A self-described “rebel” growing up in Rome, DiSegni (7-2) always has enjoyed being unique and expressing herself – even when her methods weren’t approved by those around her. Whether by means of body piercing, tattoos, or physical fitness, DiSegni has set out to find her true self.

Suicide Girls

When she was 14, DiSegni found an image of two tattooed women on the internet. From that moment, she knew what she wanted to do. Shortly after her 18th birthday, DiSegni joined that very website, Suicide Girls.

Not long after she jumped on board, alternative modeling – and in particular Suicide Girls – took off in Italy. Quickly, DiSegni gained notoriety online under her alias “Eden Von Hell.” Despite her ambitious delve into the industry, she battled negative misconceptions from people around her. The pushback only made DiSegni delve deeper.

“I was like a little rebel,” DiSegni said as she laughed during an interview with MMA Junkie. “I was like, ‘Oh yeah? You don’t like that? I’ll do it.’ It was motivating more than anything. It’s the same thing with MMA. Everybody was like, ‘Oh, you’re a girl. You’re a model. Why would you want to do that?’ I was like, ‘I don’t care. I’m going to do this cool thing, and you guys can’t stop me.’”

‘My father thought I was a porn star, and my mother thought I was going to be a junkie’

The disapproval from her parents didn’t hinder DiSegni’s self-compass. As she sat in the courtroom and listened to her father’s accusations, DiSegni didn’t feel down on herself.

Her parents divorced when she was 12, so the only time she’d see her father were in situations like this one. DiSegni was familiar with being doubted and criticized for her hobbies. So when her father accused her of being a “porn star,” she wasn’t phased.

“One day, I went in court, and I realized he was not willing to give the paycheck to sustain me,” DiSegni recalled. “He claimed I was working in the porn industry, talking about my pictures in a tattoo magazine. He was sued for that, because it was straight up lying. It was not porn. I was just modeling. This gives you an idea of how this was perceived.”

Her father wasn’t the only one who had doubts about the modeling path. Her mother was concerned about DiSegni, as well, and voiced disapproval of her body modifications. She’d rather her daughter be a lawyer or a doctor than a body piercer.

“I wanted to work with tattoos, and I was a body piercer,” DiSegni said. “I’ve been a body piercer for 10 years. My mom was like, ‘Oh no. What’s going to happen to you? You’re going to be like a junkie.’ Tattoos were not seen in a good way. And tattoo models? Oh my god.

“My father thought I was a porn star, and my mother thought I was going to be a junkie, so everybody was really concerned about it.”

Over time, DiSegni’s family began to appreciate her success. After appearing in GQ and Men’s Health, DiSegni finally got the approval from her mother. Her grandmother even became one of DiSegni’s biggest supporters and hung large, framed images of her granddaughter’s work throughout the house

True beauty found in MMA

(Cage Warriors)

In order to advance her modeling career, DiSegni aimed to improve her fitness. But all of the workout programs seemed a bit monotonous. DiSegni struggled to find physical activities she enjoyed.

Eventually DiSegni was invited through the doors of an MMA gym. One of only two females, DiSegni quickly fell in love with the inviting nature of the facility.

After she won her first amateur fight via first-round knockout, DiSegni was invited to train with the gym’s men’s team. In 2014, she won bronze alongside fellow countrywoman Lucrezia Ria at the IMMAF world amateur championship. Once again DiSegni found her calling, yet she faced pushback from those at home.

“I was like, ‘You know what? I’m actually good at this, so I’m coming back next year. I’m winning gold,’” DiSegni recalled. “Everybody laughed at me because they were like, ‘Oh, you decided this thing like last year. What are you doing? You’re short. You’re chubby. You’re never going to do this.’ The next year I went there, and I won gold.”

Beautiful violence

(John Morgan-MMA Junkie)

It might seem strange that someone would walk away from the flashing lights of photoshoots to pursue a career of getting punched in the face. Not only does DiSegni feel self-accomplishment through fighting, she feels a sense of direction like never before.

“I knew I wanted to be a pro MMA fighter when I was willing to quit everything I had,” DiSegni said. “Because MMA gave me a purpose. It makes me feel so proud of myself. There’s nothing else in the world I wanted to do. I gave up everything I was doing. I was 100 percent in – all in.”

From Day 1, DiSegni never has felt like fighting is a man’s sport that women try to emulate. Instead, she finds it a women’s sport in which she is free to be herself.

“I always felt really feminine and powerful when I was fighting,” DiSegni said. “I feel the prettiest when I’m in the cage. I always felt pretty when I was taking pictures. But then I started fighting, I was like, ‘Oh my god. This is my true self.’

“Being able to express myself through Suicide Girls gave me a chance to be myself in those pictures. But I feel like I’m even more myself in a cage. These are two things that make me express myself for how feminine I am. I feel beautiful, powerful, and empowered both when I’m modeling and when I’m fighting – more beautiful when I’m fighting.”

The 31-year-old strawweight now sits at 7-2, having competed for notable promotions such as EFC and Cage Warriors. She credits much of her success to her female teammates at Jackson Wink MMA, who have inspired her to become a well rounded martial artist.

“I’ve been really lucky I’m training with ladies who are such an inspiration,” DiSegni said. “Like Holy Holm, Michelle Waterson, Jodie Esquibel. They’re all really feminine women. They showed me that you can be a woman, you can be attractive, you can be feminine, and you can be better in the cage.”

The loss of a friend, on the verge of a dream

(John Morgan-MMA Junkie)

DiSegni set out into MMA competition with one goal in mind – to become the first female Italian strawweight in UFC history. On Tuesday night, she will have the opportunity to do just that when she takes on Mallory Martin (4-2) on Dana White’s Contender Series.

“There’s just one Italian girl in the UFC, and she trains in America,” DiSegni said. “I started training in Rome, and I split my camps between Rome and Albuquerque. The thing is, the gladiators were slaves. I want to fight for the pride of my country. I want to feel more like a Roman empress.”

DWCS 25 will mark the third time DiSegni has been asked to compete on the series. After the first two opportunities fell through, news of the third came in the middle of one of the most emotional periods of her life. When she reflects on the difficult weeks, DiSegni feels the timing couldn’t have been better.

“I had a dog for 14 years, and it was my best friend,” DiSegni said. “The day she died, I went in the gym, and I was like, ‘OK, now I have nothing else to focus on. I’m going to give everything I have for this fight. All of my focus is on this.’ I felt like I was having a chance of being reborn.

“I was like so broken, so desperate, and so concerned for losing my best friend. I didn’t know what was going to happen to me. I realized I actually have a chance to invest everything to make my life better – to live my dream.”

If she reaches the UFC, DiSegni believes she will not only serve as an inspiration to Italians, but to females around the world – especially anyone who’s been told they shouldn’t pursue their dreams.

“I’ve been facing a lot of adversity, and being here right now is the proof that dreams can come true,” DiSegni said. “I started this sport when I was 28. My body wasn’t at all fit to this, and I’m here, and I’m doing it. And I’m living my dream. So, if I can do it, anybody can do it. Just go out there and do whatever makes you happiest. Be proud of yourself.”

Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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