New Zealand's only professional female mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter will be making her debut in the octagon at the tender age of 31.

Whangarei's Renata Poa has been intensely training for her bout against fellow debutant Brazilian Ellen Rosa on August 26.

The smiling assassin said she's barely had time to bat an eyelid while getting ready for the fight of her life.

"Preparations have been tough. It's been a bit of a struggle balancing full-time work, family and training commitments. Like where do you have time to sleep?"


Poa is sports co-ordinator at Te Kapehu Whetu but still finds time to pursue a career in MMA.

Being in the female heavyweight division has its difficulties though.

"Being a heavyweight it is hard to find fighters my weight so it's pretty hard to get consistent fights.

"Last year I had a year off MMA but then this Poland fight came up thankfully and I jumped right into it."

Poa's affair with the ring began when she took up mau rakau, a traditional Maori form of martial arts that utilises a taiaha.

"I really loved the discipline and the hand-eye that you get with it," she said.

"I snapped my Achilles and needed to find something to do so I sat on a chair and basically punched a bag and loved it.

"After a while I got a bit bored with boxing so I decided to give MMA a go. Lion's Den were the first people I found and I've been with them ever since."

Lion's Den is a training facility in Whangarei which uses mixed martial arts to build a community feel.

Poa said it's like a second family.

"What they do here not only for fighters but the community is something I really believe in and want to be a part of.

"Anytime I've had a fight come up I've got them on the phone and they've been right on board."

Poa will be joined on the flight to Poland by Lion's Club board member and Shuriken Fight Series middleweight champion Ezekiel Wetere.

Wetere is a big proponent of Lion's Den, who offer free training to youth.

"The reason we do it free of charge is because we are about the community. We started about four or five years ago with a youth group at Te Ora Hou," he said.

MMA fighter Renata Poa, left, will be joined in support by Lion's Den's Ezekiel Wetere in Poland. Photo/John Stone
MMA fighter Renata Poa, left, will be joined in support by Lion's Den's Ezekiel Wetere in Poland. Photo/John Stone

"We asked Ryan Anderson [head coach at Lion's Den] to teach a few of his MMA skills and he got on board. From there, we saw a need.

"Young people love to express themselves in fighting. Usually it's a negative thing but we made it into a positive. They come here and learn how to control themselves and learn discipline.

"We've had people come in and think they're all macho and now they're humble. The whole idea is looking after and giving back to the community."

Poa and Wetere agree on the purpose of Lion's Den: getting young people active and living healthy lifestyles.

Poa, with the help of Lion's Den, has been training daily to get ready for her professional debut. This has involved a lot of time behind the wheel.

"I travel down to Auckland twice a week to train for three hours with Steve Oliver. I've been doing this since the end of May," she said.

"I'm down at Lion's Den every Monday. I also do CrossFit as well as train at the pool and also at Anytime Fitness if I have any after-hours stuff I need to do. It's every day."

Poa is incredibly grateful for all her sponsors who helped her on her journey to Poland, particularly Far North CrossFit.

Now she has her eyes on Poland armed with a fresh set of equipment.

"I had given away all my gear last year because I thought I was done. I gave it to people wanting to get into MMA," she said.

"I had no gear but SportClub came through and said, 'You do so much work, here's some gear.' And they gave me a lot.

"I actually just gave some more away, you only use what you need anyway."