As dozens of established and aspiring fighters pounded on punching bags and practiced their techniques, Angel Rios stood in the middle of them all.
In about an 8-by-12-foot boxing ring that serves as the epicenter of the Top Notch mixed martial arts gym in downtown Greeley, Rios shuffled her feet, with gloves on, throwing jabs at her eldest and most experienced coach, Mike Alirez Sr.
Only one thing seems slightly out of place. Rios is a wrestler, not a boxer.
Then again, nowadays Rios is all about leaving no stones unturned in her quest for competition, her pursuit of gold medals, and, of course, her ultimate desire to one day represent her country in the Olympics.
Just a month ago, that pursuit took her to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she won a gold medal at the Cadets Pan-American Championships, dominating an all-female bracket with a trio of pins and a technical fall.
At just 16 years, she’s already been wrestling for 13 years. She’s also trained in judo.
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She’s been training at Top Notch seven days a week for just more than a year. She’s worn those aforementioned boxing gloves for about four months, as she has expanded her tireless regimen to include MMA training.
Standing shy of 5 feet and weighing just around 100 pounds, she packs a lot of punch in her petite frame.
One of Mike Alirez’s two sons, Mike Alirez Jr., already sees a potential MMA star in her.
“I think in MMA, she can be great; she’s destined to be great,” Mike Jr. said. “We need to focus on wrestling first, and college, and all that good stuff. She already has her college picked out.”
Though still a couple years from being able to sign with a college, Rios said…
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