USCS Amateur Spotlight: Heather Bassett Finds Passion Inside of the Cage
Heather Bassett never planned on becoming a fighter. But that was until she had the opportunity to watch one of her best friends, Samantha Maki, compete for King of the Cage in Lac du Flambeau. That day changed everything.
"It was the first time I had ever been to a fight and I just remember sitting there and feeling all that adrenaline and thinking to myself, what is this," Bassett told US Combat Sports. "At that point I didn't really admit to myself that eventually I would end up doing it, but inside I knew that someday I'd be the one in the cage."
Flash forward to nearly five years later as Bassett has made the progression from intrigued onlooker, to someone who was only going to try jiu jitsu, and is now one of the brightest amateur prospects in the Midwest.
Beginning the early part of her training under Dave Sixel, Bassett eventually made the transition to Unified Martial Arts in Fond du Lac. Along with being an easy drive from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, where she ran track and cross country, the gym was also recommended to her by UFC veteran Eric "Red" Schafer for the fact that it served as fight camp to fellow female pugilist Christina "Machine Gun" Domke.
"I was really excited to not only find a gym that was serious about training, but also to have a strong female to train with," said Bassett. "It was a really big thing for me to have another female to bounce ideas off of, especially when you're going through your first fight, first weight cut, and all of that. It was really awesome to have another woman that had already been through it all before."
Alongside Domke and other teammates such as Lenny Nelson and Morgan Sickinger, Bassett trains under four-time USCS Coach of the Year nominee Mike Biddle.
"I think we all know that Mike Biddle is crazy, but he is also one of the most passionate people within the sport that I have ever met. He wants the best for all of his athletes and he's one of those coaches that will call you on a Friday night and ask you how much do you weight right now. He definitely likes to be involved, have that personal aspect of it, and he's very knowledgeable so it's a perfect fit for me."
Making the Jump
It wasn't long after making the move to Unified Martial Arts that Bassett came to the realization that the next step in the process was to put on the gloves and step into the cage.
"It really didn't take very long at all to make the decision to fight. I knew from the beginning that I loved jiu-jitsu, but being in a gym and being around people that are fighting makes it so easy to get sucked into it because it's just so addicting."
Bassett's amateur career began in exciting fashion as she earned a unanimous decision win over Moriel Charneski in her debut and a second round stoppage of Leina Luelf her second time in the cage. But it was her fight against former Roufusport prospect Rose Namajunas that would solidify Bassett's love for the sport.
"I clearly lost that fight against Rose but I took so much away from it being that it was my first loss. It was an all-out war and those are the kind of fights where you make that decision whether this is something you want to do or not. And after going through three rounds of crazy all-out fighting it was reassuring to me that this is what I want to do. Win or lose I want to fight."
Following the entertainingly brutal battle with Namajunas, Bassett took on another top-notch opponent in Evva Johson. And although the fight wasn't one that she was particularly proud of, it allowed her the chance to measure herself against stellar competition.
"Fights like those helped build confidence because I know I have fought these tough girls. I've been kicked hard, I've been hit hard, I've been submitted, and I now go into fights thinking everything that could happen already has happened. Facing tough opponents like I have in my amateur career definitely helps build confidence and keeps me going forward."
Earning the nickname "Hand Guns", Bassett returned to her winning ways earlier this month with a unanimous decision victory over the hard-hitting Esli Kilponen. The victory moved her amateur record to 3-2 and supplanted her as one of the more intriguing female prospects in the area.
While nothing is yet planned, Bassett hopes to return to the cage in late summer or early fall. Still within her first year as an amateur there is no timetable on when she would like to join the professional ranks. But as she proved throughout her young career – and even this weekend by taking a short notice kickboxing match – the Unified Martial Arts fighter has truly embraced the warrior spirit.