A fighter’s record in mixed martial arts can be a seriously misleading piece of information. For every legitimate, undefeated prospect, there are dozens of others that have feasted on less experienced foes to inflate their worth.
In contrast, there are numerous veterans of the sport who have stepped up on short notice or moved up in weight just for an opportunity. These fighters have records that are the most misleading of all.
Take 27-year-old strawweight Lacey Schuckman, who began competing in combat sports nearly a decade ago. When the Colorado native was getting her feet wet in the cage, amateur MMA wasn’t even sanctioned in Colorado or Nevada. Schuckman ended up facing fighters far more experienced, sometimes on just a week’s notice.
“In the early days it was really hard to find competitors; it’s why I ended up going pro so quickly,” explained the fighter of her short amateur career. “Now that there’s such an influx, I wish I could go back and do it all over again. But I definitely learned a lot through the whole experience.”
Since turning pro in 2009, Schuckman has been in the cage nearly 20 times. Amongst the names on her resume are three current or former Invicta FC champions: Carla Esparza, Michelle Waterson and Ayaka Hamasaki.
“I wouldn’t say I have any regrets,” said Schuckman with a laugh. “I’ve learned a lot and it’s helped me to get comfortable where I want to compete. It gave me an opportunity to fight a lot of women that not many people can say they fought. I think some of the fights would have been smarter later (or earlier) in my career. Things like that maybe I would change, but I learned so much. That’s the reason I am where I am right now.”
After nearly three years away from the promotion, Schuckman returned to Invicta in 2015, scoring a first-round stoppage of Jenny Liou at Invicta FC 12. But it is one of her previous Invicta appearances that she credits for helping her improve her fight game.
“I took [the Hamasaki fight] on two weeks’ notice, so I wasn’t able to prepare as I should have. But it really showed me what I need to improve on. I thank her a lot for helping me become the new and improved Lacey,” said Schuckman.
Schuckman’s performance against Liou was one of the most dominant of her career. It was a testament to the hard work she’s put in through the years. Instead of waiting for her opponent to attack and looking to counter, it was pedal to the metal for the Colorado fighter.
“I really wanted to go out there and prove to people that I belong in Invicta,” she declared. “I’ve been in this sport so long. I was there before a lot of these girls thought of MMA. I tried to recapture who I was when I first started fighting.
“We really emphasized sticking to the basics. It made me feel really good. I’ve become such a defensive fighter, but in that fight I played my cards for once. It was a blast.”
One of the keys to Schuckman’s success has been her unique training environment. Unlike most fighters who train in large gyms with groups of other combatants, Schuckman and her husband, Randall, operate in a grassroots environment.
“Since Randall and I have made this our profession for the last five or six years, the only way we were able to train and fight was to train other people to support our living costs,” revealed Schuckman. “We started our own smaller gym and started bringing in individual coaches. The reason we stand apart is that we are invite-only. We get to pick everyone that we train with. Since we have individual coaches, we get private lessons every day for each individual art.”
Further aiding in Schuckman’s development has been the longtime relationship with her husband. The pair met at 12 years old and Randall has served as Lacey’s coach throughout her MMA career. The closeness of their marriage carries over to fight preparation and keeps the fighter disciplined.
“I can’t ever cheat on my diet,” joked Schuckman. “And I always have to get mitts in, even if it’s at midnight. He’s always thinking of things. When you live with your coach, they’re always like do this or do that. It’s definitely very hard, but it helps me a lot because I’m always under the scrutiny of my coach.”
The dedication and hard work that Schuckman has put in through her lengthy career helped her gain the respect of her peers and many in the sport. So when she called out Japanese young gun Mizuki Inoue, it came as no surprise that her request was obliged for Invicta FC 15 on Jan. 16 in Costa Mesa, Calif.
“I’m really excited for this fight because me and her match up very similarly,” said Schuckman. “We’ve both fought some of the toughest competition in our weight classes and we both started very young.
“I have the age and experience on her, which plays to my favor. She’s got a karate background; I’ve got a karate background. I think stylistically, we’re going to match up well. She’s a tough enough challenge that people are casting me as the underdog.
“Hopefully people will get to see what I can do and join my side for once. It’s going to be a striking war. We’re going to throw some hands.”
With a career that has had its fair share of ups and downs, multiple weight classes, short-notice fights and the likes, Schuckman has been through more than most fighters could ever imagine. Through thick and thin, she’s fought through and persevered to get back to the sport’s highest level.
“It’s very exciting to be on the main stage and be featured on a promotion like Invicta,” she said. “I always hoped and always dreamed big. I always hoped I’d be a part of it.”
Although her record might be misleading, Schuckman has earned the right to be someone else’s anyone, anywhere opportunity.
Lacey would like to thank her head coach and husband, Randall Schuckman, her BJJ professor Joaquin Baca, her boxing coach Steve Mestas, her wrestling coach Mike Laurita, her Muay Thai coach Don Lee, all of her teammates at Team Goonies, her sponsors: 90 Degree by Reflex, Martial Arts Life Apparel, Fighter Girls, Grit Mouthguards, MMA Roadhog Racing, Mass Destruction MMA, Qalo Rings, Eyefight Sports Nutrition, Tan Time, Smokin’ Photos, Oral IV, Dr. Jessica Riechert, DC and Xionx Maximum Performance Bands, her manager, Rosa at White Buffalo Fight Management, and last but not least, all of the private and gofundme donors.