I remember being introduced to Emily Jones during her first few months of training for Rock 'N Rumble VII when I was a newbie at EverybodyFights. She walked into the gym with a quiet confidence that so few can exude. It’s almost intimidating as a fellow fighter, let alone to someone who is coming to a new gym. We chatted about her training for Haymakers in May, and as a H4H alumni, I told her what it was like to fight under the lights, and what she would want post-fight. She looked like she would easily and very willingly kick my ass, but she greeted me every morning with a welcoming smile, “Hey Sam!”

Fast forward to the day before her midpoint sparring session in March against her Haymakers opponent, and Emily faced one of the most heartbreaking things that could ever happen to a fighter. In a rugby match (yes, she’s that badass), she dislocated her kneecap and completely tore her MCL along with her medial patellofemoral ligament, which attached the kneecap to the femur. For common folks like myself, it’s a lot of fancy words for saying Emily’s knee was a disaster and had to deal with the worst news that could come to a fighter. “I was in shock. I knew it was really bad... [but] I didn’t think it was going to end the fight for me. I didn’t realize what a terrible thing I had done.”

Handling adversity is what Haymakers for Hope is about. We fight for the ones who can’t, because they are going through treatment or worse, because they lost in the ring with their opponent named “Cancer.” But the fighters go through their own hardships, emotions, and adversity too. Emily faced just that when she realized she couldn’t fight in May. “I cried and ate Chinese take-out for 3 weeks.” This was more than just a fight; this became her life for the duration of her training.

You see, training for Haymakers and fighting under those lights, in front of 2,000 people takes courage, sacrifice, and an enormous emotional toll on yourself, more than one would expect. “It’s a really transformative experience… I’ve never done something so immersive… it impacts all of your day-to-day decisions, ‘Is this going to make me better on fight night?’ I should know- I did it twice. While I was heartbroken for Emily when I found out the news, I was honored to take her place on the fight card in May.

My 6-week training period was worth it to fight again, but especially to have Emily in my corner. When I asked her what it was like to corner me, she practically implied that being in the corner completely changed her outlook of the event too, “I thought I was chill, then I got in the ring and I was like, whoa, no chill.” You’re right Emily, no chill, but at least you have a slight idea of what to expect when you walk into that ring on October 5th for Belles of the Brawl, or at least how to calm your nerves before the fight.

Anyone who gets the pleasure of watching Emily train in the gym can see the drive and passion behind the fighter. To see her get a second chance and the opportunity to fight in the upcoming Belles of the Brawl V, while rehabbing her knee, anyone can see that she is one tough lady. I’ve gone through days where I say to myself, “I don’t want to spar Emily. She hurts too much.” In fact, I’ve said that days before I know I’m going to spar her, but then I realize she’s making me better, whether I’m staring at her from the other side of the ring or seeing her in my corner. Her athletic ability and work ethic are commendable, but it’s her perseverance and character that makes her more than the average fighter.

Training for an event like Haymakers for Hope is a story in itself, but coming back from a major injury the way Emily has is what makes a story an epic one, and she’s not even done writing it. “Anything that adds a little bit of humility and ass-kicking is good for you.” Emily may have been talking about training for October 5th, but that’s what I tell myself every time I have to spar her.