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Ashley Yoder, UFC Strawweight, TUF 23 Alumna, Team Quest

Less than three years into my professional MMA career, I’m finally making my UFC debut, this Friday, December 9 at #UFCAlbany.

It’s an amazing honor to fight on the second UFC card in New York and take on Justine Kish, a fellow alumna of #TheUltimateFighter. And while all fighters would love time for a full training camp, I’m fresh off a win at Invicta 20. The timing couldn’t be better, and it’s pretty indicative of how my entire career has played out thus far.

When I first started training MMA, it was a passion of mine, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. And before I had any stand up or Muay Thai in my arsenal, I had already fought current UFC fighters like Cortney Casey and Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger on the amateur circuit.

Following those fights, I moved from my home in Indiana to Temecula, California to train with Dan Henderson at Team Quest. I knew I needed to take my training to the next level, and Team Quest is really where I started to become well-rounded.

Training alongside UFC fighters like Dan and Sam Alvey, and my coaches Gustavo Pugliese and Pantcho Feliciano, I finally earned a couple of wins as an amateur. That’s when I decided it was time to turn pro.

Well, that’s just part of the story ...

Going pro wasn’t necessarily a decision I made. It was more of an impulse.

The UFC had just announced that they were going open up a 115-pound division and were considering doing an all-strawweight season of TUF. They would eventually acquire a big chunk of the Invicta strawweight roster for the show, but knowing that there was a slight chance that I could try out of for the show and make the UFC, I immediately turned pro.

I never knew when the opportunity was gonna come again, and I didn’t even think I was ready to go pro, but I kind of just did it. And, it was a good decision on my part because I was starting to fight professionally -- getting paid to punch people in the face was way more appealing than paying for people to punch me in the face.

Regardless if I was ready or not, I took a huge chance, and that became a huge catalyst for my development as a fighter. And even though I didn’t make it onto The Ultimate Fighter 20, I did earn my way into the TUF house this year. That certainly helped me get on the matchmaker’s radar, especially for a short-notice fight.

And that’s really what matters here. Staying ready, and being ready is really what got me to where I am. Now, I’m just hoping Justine and I can put on a Fight of the Night and win that bonus.