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Mullins headed toward stardom

“Though she be but little, she is fierce.”

Those are the words of playwright and poet William Shakespeare. At 10 years old and 65 pounds, Riley Mullins is the epitome of a young warrior.

After a few minutes of getting to know her, one can tell she is wise beyond her years. Like every kid she has big dreams. Unlike most kids, Mullins is already an accomplished martial artist in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. In the future, she looks to take her talents to the cage in mixed martial arts.

Mullins practices Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a form of martial arts that focuses on grappling and ground fighting.

She trains with MMA fighter Justin Ramer at the 10th Planet Gym in Atmore at least twice a week.

To stay in shape, Mullins does jumping jacks, pushups and sit-ups.

The Brewton native’s journey began a little over a year ago, when she joined 10th Planet Gym.

“My older cousin, Tony, was doing jiu-jitsu,” Mullins said. “He told me I should try it out in Atmore. Now I just love learning new techniques and pushing myself. I have fun competing.”

Mullins’ mom, Ashley Griffith, was surprised of how well her daughter picked up the techniques.

“She was very good,” Griffith said. “She was a natural from the beginning. Her first week there she was impressive. I couldn’t believe that was my child.”

Mullins trained for three months, then competed at the U.S. Nationals in Orange Beach.

“There was a novice category which allows no submissions, just take downs and points,” Griffith said. “She didn’t want to do that. She wanted to do submissions. So she went up against kids who’ve been training for six months to a year. She ended up winning first place.”

From there, Mullins racked up four more first place finishes with her most recent coming at U.S. Nationals back in July. In October, she’ll travel to Nashville, Tenn., to compete in the North American Grappling Association Tennessee Championships. It’ll be the first time she will compete as an intermediate.

Mullins said her matches usually last under 30 seconds. Two of her fastest matches lasted nine seconds.

“I’m excited right before we start,” Mullins said. “I don’t try to smile, but I can’t help it. I am nervous but I want to try to finish fast. I’m focused.”

Mullins favorite move is called the Guillotine chokehold, which is a technique that will cause pressure on the opponent’s neck until he or she taps out.

“Usually referees will go ahead and call it so the kids don’t get hurt,” Griffith said.

“A lot of her fights only last a few seconds because as soon as they try to grab her legs, they expose their head and it’s over.”

Mullins said her greatest strength is her competitiveness.

“I’m really competitive,” she said. “I’m working on not being a sore loser. It’s hard for me.”

Griffith said she is very emotional and nervous watching her daughter compete.

“I’m just nervous for (the kids),” Griffith said. “At these competitions there are a lot of people there watching, and you never know how the other kid trained and what all they know. It’s nerve racking. Riley is really competitive, and she’s really hard on herself. If she comes in second she’s devastated. She wants first place.”

So what do Mullins’ friends think of her martial arts skills?

“They think it’s pretty cool,” Mullins said. “One of my friends wanted to really get into it, so she’s doing taekwondo.”

Griffith said the response from Mullins’ friends and school staff at Pollard McCall Jr. High School has been very positive.

“I post all Riley’s stuff on Facebook or Instagram,” Griffith said.

“When we went to meet the teachers, kids came up to her in the hallway and said ‘Riley I seen when you won first place, congratulations!’ They’re really supportive.”

Mullins looks forward to one day making it to the UFC to compete in the cage.

Mullins said Ramer, Tori Applegate, and Holly Holm are fighters she looks to as inspiration.

“Their moves are all unique and special,” Mullins said.

As candid as Mullins is about her dreams, she is as optimistic about the future of females in MMA.

“I think more girls are getting into martial arts,” Mullins said. “There is no limit to what we can do. We can do anything that boys can do.”