BANGOR — While other eighth graders play video games after school, 14-year-old Jayda Bailey dons boxing gloves and pounds away at men much larger and heavier than herself.
And this experienced mixed martial arts student would not have it any other way, even when the competition punches back. After all, in MMA, “you can’t take the punching personally,” Jayda says with a smile.
Jayda, who lives in Levant and attends eighth grade at All Saints Catholic School in Bangor, “started taekwando down at the [Bangor] Y” when she was 5 years old. By age 12, “I felt like it was too formal for me,” she says. “Mixed martial arts is much more loose.”
Her father, Jassen Bailey, checked into local gyms that offered classes in mixed martial arts and jujitsu. He contacted Young’s MMA, where owner Chris Young teaches mixed martial arts and black belt Eduardo Benjamin teaches jujitsu. The Baileys “came and the checked the place out,” recalls Jayda, who holds a yellow belt.
According to Jayda, mixed martial arts is “almost everything in one,” with the sport incorporating boxing, kick boxing, grappling, wrestling, and jujitsu. She took quickly to MMA and soon advanced from a child’s class to an adult’s class, where she practices mixed martial arts with adults twice her age.
Jayda relishes the sport’s physical activity and diversity. “I like to workout and feel like I’ve accomplished something at the end of the class,” she says. Jayda trains five or six days a week; dropped off at Young’s MMA at the end of each school day, she does her homework before starting her training. Some MMA fighters who are in college occasionally tutor her.
On Tuesdays Jayda trains in “striking or boxing. It’s my favorite [class], honestly,” she says. “I am strongest in boxing and kick boxing, so I can take out my frustrations.”
On Mondays and Wednesdays, Jayda trains in a jujitsu class where students wear their gi’s; students wear their street clothes in a Friday jujitsu class. On Saturdays she takes either a fitness or striking class. Jayda also helps teach classes for children and teens. Except for the last two classes, Jassen attends Jayda’s other classes.
And Jayda enjoys the camaraderie at Young’s MMA. “She’s out here training with the professional fighters,” says Chris Young after putting Jayda through her boxing paces.
“These people are like all my big brothers,” Jayda says during an interview in the gym’s small office. As they come and go, older fighters exchange greetings with her. She knows them all on a first-name basis.
“Everybody here is so close. I can talk to them about anything,” Jayda says. “They treat me like I am one of them; I’m not treated any differently than the rest of them.
“This really is my true family,” she says. “I love being here more than anything else. Any emotion that I have, I can take it out here.”
Besides training at Young’s MMA, Jayda competes regularly in grappling tournaments sponsored by the North American Grappling Association. At the New England Grappling Championship held Jan. 25, 2014 at the West Warwick Civic Center in West Warwick, R.I., she participated in five matches and won gold or silver medals in each match.
“You have to face beginners and intermediates,” Jayda says. “I’ve also fought in multiple weight classes above me.” During most NAGA competitions, she faces women, but during wrestling tournaments, every competitor she has faced has been a boy age 14-16.
Belfast-based Kill Their Will Clothing Co. sponsors Jayda, known as “Lil Killah” when she competes in matches. She received the nickname at Young’s MMA, where she has set her goals high.
According to Chris Young, the gym has “about 15-20 guys I would call my ‘fight team’ that compete regularly.
“Jayda will be one of them eventually,” he says. “She will be matched with other women.”
“I want to make a career out of it,” Jayda says. “I intend to be a fighter when I turn 18.” She cannot fight in a cage until she reaches that age.
Young indicated that when Jayda turns “pro,” she could potentially earn more money because there are fewer MMA fighters. “Other women train here, but not at Jayda’s [skill] level or not at her level of commitment,” he says.
Headed to Hermon High School next fall as a freshman, Jayda plans to attend college. Between now and her high school graduation in 2018, she intends to continue honing her MMA skills at Young’s.
“You come in here and experience something like you’ve never experienced before,” Jayda says.
For more information, check out the Jayda “Lil Killah” Bailey page on Facebook.