SIOUX CITY, Ia. – Marissa Solis pounded on a punching bag before giving it a swift kick.
The fighter in training punches up, and then punches down with the look of steely determination on her face.
Marissa, 10, is a Sioux City Liberty Elementary School fifth-grader who enjoys hanging out with her friends and playing with her dog Bullet when she isn?t practicing mixed martial arts at DeVall MMA & BJJ.
?I do judo, boxing and kick boxing, but I like MMA the best,? she said.
Marissa and her sister Jazlynn Solis, 11, enjoy combat sports.
?When I grow up, I want to be as tough as Ronda Rousey,? Jazlynn, a West Middle School sixth-grader, said. ?Actually, I want to be tougher than her.?
?As soon as we get out of school, we?ll start training,? David, a West Middle School seventh-grader, explained. ?Sometimes, we?re not done until 8:30 at night.?
?It?s pretty cool,? Eddie, a West Middle School eighth-grader, said. ?We get to train and learn how to protect ourselves.?
Listening to his students, John DeVall can?t help but smile.
Now a veteran mixed martial artist and owner of DeVall MMA & BJJ, he remembered being bullied as a child. He said that adversity gave him the motivation to become a fighter.
?I want to empower kids,? DeVall said inside of his fourth-floor Benson Building gym. ?The kids may never pursue a career in combat sports but they will have the confidence and self-discipline needed to do anything in their lives.?
DeVall glances over as Marissa Solis sparred with one of her instructors.
?Marissa and her family are the real deal,? he said in admiration. ?They have the determination to do whatever they want.?
And what Marissa wants to do is fight.
?I like punching,? she said. ?That?s my favorite things to do.?
As he took a swing at the heavy punching bag, Eddie Solis said the best part about combat sports training is spending time with his family.
?If we weren?t inside a gym, we?d be outside doing something together,? he said. ?We like staying active.?
Jazlynn Solis takes a breather following a strenuous workout.
Nicknamed ?Jazzy? by family and friends, she said her favorite subjects in school are science, math and reading.
However, Jazlynn said she feels most confident when engaging in her MMA training.
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