If you ask 2019 GAMMA World Champion Laura Sanchez, she never expected her life to revolve around gloves and cages. Up until college, her constants were always a ball and a basketball hoop.
But as she makes her much-awaited Professional Fighters League (PFL) debut on 6 May against Genah Fabian, the American plans to continue making the most of her second passion.
Adjusting to mixed martial arts was initially hard for Sanchez, especially since she had major aspirations of becoming a professional basketball player following an NCAA Division I career at Western Carolina.
But after being forced to take a detour, she discovered that sometimes the greatest opportunities come from unexpected paths.
“My hardest obstacle was when I realized that I wasn’t able to continue playing basketball at the professional level and had to figure out what else I was going to do. That was a heartbreaker. I played ball since I could remember and planned to go overseas and have a life doing what I loved,” Sanchez says.
“The hardest part was that I put my best foot forward to be the best ballplayer I could be. I put in extra work almost every day, working on my skills outside of classes and team practices. Up until we were leaving the campus for the conference tournament, I was in the gym until it was time to board the bus.
“At the end of the day, my basketball career didn’t turn out the way that I dreamed, but I have no regrets because I was able to walk away knowing that I did everything I possibly could.”
The detour in Sanchez‘s sporting career brought her to Roufusport Gym, where she met four-time Kickboxing World Champion Duke Roufus.
Roufus eventually convinced the young athlete to compete in mixed martial arts, and after sharpening her skills at the famous gym in Milwaukee, she found herself headed east to compete in the week-long GAMMA Singapore: World Championship.
Suddenly, the competitive fire was burning in her again.
“I was at Roufusport one day and Duke just approached me and said, ‘I got you into the World Tournament in Singapore,’” Sanchez recalls.
“I was excited. I knew it was an amazing opportunity to show the world who I am. The experience was unforgettable.”
In Singapore, Sanchez showed the world who she truly was. The American phenom defeated Irina Pytsik and then finished Sabrina Philippe in the final to earn the title.
While things may not have worked out in Sanchez‘s original chosen sport, the rejection she faced ultimately led her to even greater heights.
“Since I was drawn to fighting, I took the opportunity to make it happen when I was done playing basketball and I just loved it,” she says. “This is one of those times in my life where I realize that everything does happen for a reason.”
The talented American has now found a home at Roufusport, and after her incredible success in GAMMA, she could be on a path to stardom in the PFL.
“You may not understand it then, but you will soon. If I was a pro ballplayer, we have no idea how things would have turned out. Would I have actually been happy? Who knows?” Sanchez adds.
“But I absolutely love MMA, I am now a World Champion, and currently signed to PFL with an opportunity where I can and will change my life. I love where I am in life right now.”