Nevada City nurse takes to MMA ring |

Nevada City nurse takes to MMA ring

Rebecca Sperling is a registered nurse by night and a Muay Thai fighter by day.

The Nevada City resident began her sporting career as a Junior Miner cheerleader – her mother signed her up – but it was not long until she set her pom-poms down for kung fu.

She was 8 years old when she began her martial arts journey and 19 years later, on Nov. 22 in Sacramento, she won her first amateur full-contact fight by unanimous decision.

“First I hurt ’em, then I heal ’em,” Sperling said of her RN and fighter status. “I create job security for myself.”

The 27-year old, 110-pound fighter, who works at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, was introduced to full-contact Mixed Martial Arts cage fighting by her father, who enjoyed watching very early video tapes of the sport.

“I saw a few tough man contests and MMA fights when they were illegal here in the States,” said Sperling. “I told my dad I was going to do that when I grew up.”

Sperling attended Nevada Union High School 1996-99, until she and her father relocated to Douglas, Wyo., where she attended high school for her senior year.

She returned to Nevada City and went to work at Meadow Manor in Grass Valley, then became a certified nurse’s assistant in 2001. At this point, she realized she wanted to become an RN and enrolled in Sierra College’s nursing program and graduated in 2009.

The 5-foot, 5-inch fighter has been training for one and a half years at Powerhouse MMA and T5 Boxing. In her debut, she went toe-to-toe with a 107-pound fighter from a Bay Area gym with a good reputation for training fighters.

The first round was a chess match, with neither fighter getting an advantage on the other, Sperling said.

The second round began by Sperling throwing a straight right hand into the chin of her opponent and within the first 10 seconds and she hit the mat. The woozy fighter did manage to get to her feet before being counted out of the fight by the referee and survived the round.

Sperling kept the pressure on for the third round and final round. And when the bell rang, she had her hand raised in victory, making what she had told her father many years before a reality.

“A California Athletic Commission representative said it was the fight of the night,” the 1-0 fighter said. “I wanted to become a nurse and a fighter. Now, I have to keep doing it.”

When Sperling is in a fight, she does not need to look far for a familiar face – her husband is in her corner, literally. Cornerman Nick Sperling, a graduate of Bear River High School class of ’98, met Sperling in the ring.

It was love at first fight.

Sperling said she does not yet have a date set for her return to the ring, although she continues to train and discuss options with her promoter.

Scott P. Hopper is a sports writer for The Union. Contact him via e-mail at or by phone at 477-4231.

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