While most young girls are spending their summer break watching reruns of iCarly and listening to the new Justin Bieber album, nine-year-old MMA fighter Courtney "The Dragon" Cardoza is keeping busy by traveling the globe competing in Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) tournaments while racking up more awards and accolades than most fighters do in a lifetime.
Enter The Dragon
Cardoza, who also goes by the nickname ""DrewJitsu" as a little play on her elite BJJ skills, has competed in over 50 martial arts tournaments since 2010.
She notched first place in the North American Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Advanced Tournament in 2011, took second in last year's Grappling X tournament in San Diego and went home with gold medals in the gi and no-gi events in several other competitions over the last 22 months.
At the tender age of nine, Cardoza is a three-time kids and teens world champion, and she already racked up a hearty list of sponsors that include Tussle Fight Gear, Fighter Girls, Matrat Sports, House Cat MMA, Grit Mouthguards and others.
"Cyborg" Is Her Bestie
Cardoza also had the opportunity to rub shoulders with one of her heroes, Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos, and Tito Ortiz briefly served as her wrestling coach. Evangelista Santos, a veteran Strikeforce fighter, was one of her MMA coaches.
"The Dragon" also has a Facebook fan site with over 650 fans who "liked" the page, and she recently signed with Addison Sports Management and Media, a company that represents professional women's MMA fighters like Alexis Davis, Elaina Maxwell and others.
Cardoza trains five to six days a week as part of the A-Team Kids Competition squad, and she recently took first place in the 2011 No Gi Best of the West tournament.
Not bad for a nine-year-old.
"DrewJitsu" Makes Her Mark
So why has the MMA community taken notice of Cardoza, you ask?
There are numerous videos available on YouTube, where Cardoza displays BJJ skills and talent well beyond her years. At the UFC 148 Fan Expo, Cardoza grappled with a boy and easily notched a takedown and moved into side control, eventually transitioning beautifully into an armbar that would make Ronda Rousey jealous.
With the current knock on women's MMA being that it's "not deep enough in talent" to compete among the ranks of the UFC, the future of the sport hinges on the development of young fighters like Cardoza, which is why the MMA community is so excited about her skillset.
Keep on fighting, Courtney. A world championship in BJJ is much cooler than iCarly.
Eric Holden is a lifelong UFC fan. He has been covering youth league and high school sports since 2009. Follow him on Twitter @ericholden.
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