For the first time, UFC strawweight Kay Hansen feels ready to open up publicly about some of the challenges she has overcome. In an exclusive interview with Bloody Elbow, Hansen discussed what it was like leaving a toxic environment, rebuilding her team and more.
Hansen describes her childhood as unstable and filled with pressure put on by her family. She was raised by mother, alone, until she was seven. That’s when she met her father for the first time. After this her mother began working full-time while her father became a stay-at-home dad.
As a young student Hansen blossomed with high grades and elite-level potential in sports, namely softball.
“I grew up with a 4.3 GPA or above and had aspirations to play college softball at any Ivy League school,” Hanson shared. “I started playing when I was ten and I played competitive travel softball until I was 16 years old. My dad was very hard on me early on and I felt like I was treated as a mini pro athlete at age ten. That is no exaggeration.”
When she was 16 Hansen’s parents separated. She recalls the experience as being “pretty traumatizing”.
“I left with my father,” she said. “I found martial arts at that time and I fell in love and dove deep into it immediately. I dropped out of high school around the same time because I wanted to be the UFC champion.”
Early on in Hansen’s MMA career, her development as an athlete was heavily influenced by her father. It’s only now that Hansen is able to reflect back on this and see the damage it caused.
“I think the biggest negative impact was during training he would watch, and I could win 4:40 minutes of a sparring round and lose 20 seconds and I knew I’d get chewed out on the way home.
“It made me fear failure and fear making mistakes and it translated to my fighting. Ever since I’ve removed that, I’ve noticed I regained a love and passion for everything I do. Being a perfectionist is cool, but it’s dangerous as well. I’ve been trying to find the balance of this in my career, but I also do this because I love it.”