Michelle Waterson returns this weekend after a year long absence from the octagon. ‘The Karate Hottie’ is half Thai and will be returning from injury to take on Amanda Lemos.

Waterson, whose mother is from Thailand, has not fought since May of last year and pulled out of her most recent fight due to injury. But the exact nature of that injury remains a closely guarded secret and she was not giving anything away in an interview with UFC.com,

“It was probably a combination of both (old injuries and a a new injury), any time you get an injury, it’s kind of that way. When you’re an athlete, you always try to push through small injuries. It’s inevitable that you’re going to run into little bumps and bruises, but this was one that needed to get taken care of and addressed, otherwise it was going to affect my career.”

Dangerous place

Despite having been out of action for over a year the 36 year old says she never contemplated retirement,

“I don’t think there was any consideration of that and if there was I don’t think I should be fighting. If those thoughts are entering my mind it’s a very dangerous place to be as a fighter, being one foot in, one foot out.”

In fact she says taking time out to get treatment for the undisclosed injury will increase her longevity,

“This was one of those things where I could continue to try to push this, walk into the octagon compromised and then really have it be the end of my career and I didn’t want that. I still believe I’m in the prime of my career as a fighter, I’m only 36 and still competing against the best of the best, and I know I’m just one fight away from fighting for that championship belt, so it’s important to take care of my body; to give it the healing time it needs and deserves.”

Five rounders

Just like Loma Lookboonmee, who is the only Thai fighter on the current UFC roster, Waterson was competing as an atomweight and had to move up a division when she was signed by the promotion. She held the Invicta FC 105lbs title and thinks the experience of competing in five rounders gives her a competitive advantage heading int o15 minute fights,

“I’m a champ at atomweight and I still live a championship lifestyle. Every time I go into camp, I go into camp with the expectation that I can go five five-minute rounds with the best of the best. Every time I think about it, I guess I just never realized what I have accomplished, and I’ve been able to accomplish a lot.”

During her UFC career she has faced the likes of Carla Esparza, Joanna Jędrzejczyk, Rose Namajunas. All three have held the strawweight title but for Waterson at this stage of her career it is just about enjoying the moment,

“It’s that moment, it’s that high that you only get when you get your hand raised  that’s what we chase.  We chase greatness, and I want those moments. I want those moments where everything clicks and I’m flying, having fun and I’m in the zone.”

No regrets

While she would love to eventually become a UFC champion Waterson will not look back on her career with any sense of disappointment or regret if she never realizes that ambition,

“I think it’s important to have goals, but it’s also one of those things where sometimes you have goals and you don’t hit them, and you get so down on yourself, but in doing that, you don’t realize all the progress that you’ve made,” she said.

But while Waterson was in contemplative mood she has not lost any of her hunger. The 36 year old is able to see the big picture but she desperately wants to get her hand raised in Long Island this weekend,

“In the big scheme of things, this is a drop in the bucket because life is so expansive and beautiful and humungous but, at the same time, I want to win. I want to win so badly because I’ve put so much time and effort and energy into it.”