Queen of the Cage: 'I want the big gold belt'

Queen of the Cage: 'I want the big gold belt'

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - Testosterone flows inside the doors of the Northwest Training Center in Springfield, but a little estrogen never hurt anyone.

"Girls are the underdog and I kind of want to make it awesome. I want to get on top and be the best female fighter."

Shellby Connelly, a 16-year-old junior from North Eugene High School works the heavy bag so hard six days a week that her feet turn about as pink as her gloves.

"This isn't badminton or yard darts, this is punching, kicking, slamming and choke holds," says her coach and owner of NTC, Gerald Strebendt. "There aren't a lot of Navy Seals because they are elite. There are not a lot of female cage fighters, there just aren't."
    
In her third year under the tutelage of Strebendt, a former Marine Corp sniper, Shellby has grown into a quick study in Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai.

"Sometimes I am really underestimated by the guys and they have come up to me after and been like, 'wow, you are the toughest girl I have ever competed against before,' Connelly admits.

Strebendt adds, "We have full grown men that come in here and have never trained and Shellby puts the beat down on them when they first come. Chokes 'em, beats 'em, and some of them don't come back they are so embarrassed."

Shellby's favorite class in school is Culinary Arts, which is currently tough for the 120-pounder who actually needs to cut weight, down to 115 for her kickboxing bout against a 24-year-old woman in Portland later this month.

"I prefer to go against guys because I feel there is more competition in that."

Shellby's big goal? Jumping into the cage for her first MMA match on her 18th birthday.

"All I want to do is win and I want the belt. I want the big gold belt!"

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