There is an intriguing parallel stemming from Auttumn Norton’s words following her professional debut.
Finding herself the wrong side of a split decision to Erin Harpe at Invicta FC 36, the Bantamweight talent stated “I have to say I feel sorry for my next opponent”.
Her next opponent would be Shaianna Rincón, at Invicta FC 38. Taking the bout on two weeks notice, Norton matched up with then undefeated Rincón at Featherweight, heavier than her usual 145lbs.
Not only would Norton hand Rincón her first professional defeat, Norton would be Rincón’s last opponent; Rincón is now retired.
Perhaps this turn of events is simply one of coincidence.
Nevertheless, it provisions a remarkable vignette to introduce an exceptional talent in Auttumn Norton.
However, that matchup with Shaianna Rincón in November 2019 was Norton’s most recent professional bout.
Whilst a bout was set against Brittney Cloudy in September 2020, an undisclosed positive COVID-19 result meant the matchup fell through at the eleventh hour.
Thus, when Norton makes an eagerly anticipated return against Maria Djukic July 20th, at Invicta FC 48 in Denver, Colorado, it’ll be her first professional bout for 993 days; not that Norton has any concerns.
“I didn’t realise it’s been that long honestly!” Norton admits. “Even in my amateur career I went through long periods without fighting for a while. I would come back, and it would be a dominant win. I grew up pretty crazy and use to fight a lot; fighting is just who I am. I’m not nervous about the whole ‘ring-rust’ thing, or anything like that. I’m just excited”.
Norton openly admits that there had been some adversity behind her hiatus.
“Life got a little shaky for a little bit” Norton reveals. “I wasn’t in a good environment to train in, and also just with life and stuff, it was just kinda unfolding. Fighting is a sport where it is all or nothing. If you are not able, or [not] in a position to give it your all, then you don’t do it at all; it takes pure focus”.
“You’ve got to have the right people around you” Norton continues. “I’m getting older now, [and] I’m starting to realise what is more important in my life than a lot of other things. Like knowing who to keep around, who to watch out for; I have a pretty good eye on good people now”.
Amongst the adversity, however, there was positive change; Norton changed gyms, and now calls MMA Gold home.
“My old gym, things just didn’t work out” Norton admits. “They just kinda unfolded badly. I’ve known people with MMA Gold for over 10 years now. I’ve always cross-trained with them; I’ve known them for a really long time, so I figured I would go there. It’s a better environment for me, better coaching”.
“I’m getting really good, direct focus from my coaches” Norton continues. “Sometimes, if you have a big gym, you don’t get a lot of attention. But, [MMA Gold] have a pretty small team, so it works out. World class coaches. It’s just a positive environment; I’m all about positive environment, and having good people around me. I have that now”.
“We have a really great wrestling coach, his name is Justin [Durham]” Norton says. “I like the style he teaches; it’s for little people. There’s big guy wrestling, and little guy wrestling. I learned a lot, and I have great teammates, great people, great bodies in there to train with. My wrestling is definitely improved, and I’m excited”.
For Norton, there is certainly a clear resonance between the positive changes she has introduced, and her mindset looking forward.
“I’m feeling great” Norton says. “I feel like I haven’t missed a step. I’ve been training the whole time. I’m in a really good place in life right now, and I’m just excited to get back in there for sure”.
With her eyes now firmly locked on her July 20th matchup with Maria Djukic, Norton’s confidence is sky high.
“I’m not underestimating her; I’m not looking past her” Norton says. “Just the way I’ve done things for this camp, the last six months or so, you can really put anyone across the cage from me on July 20th, and it doesn’t matter; I’ll beat them”.
Whilst not one to look past her opponent, Norton is certainly focussed on being more active following her return.
However, for Norton the opportunity to continuously enhance her skill set is just as much of a priority.
“I’m not feeling pressure, but I do want to stay active after this fight; I have some time to catch up on” Norton admits. “In the environment that I’m in right now, I’m in a better position now to where I can stay active, and stay training”.
“Right after this fight, I’m going to get right back in the gym, and work on everything” Norton continues. “I want to get better every day. I’m a student of the game. I’m obsessed with it. Even during practice, I’m always asking questions, and having my coach break things down; I love learning this stuff”.
That innate desire to continuously develop as an athlete is ingrained into Norton; after all, it’s a large reason for her nickname, ‘The Natural’.
“I’ve been super athletic my entire life” Norton reveals. “I played soccer for like 16 years. I played every sport. I played volleyball, basketball; I played softball for a few years. I’ve always been super competitive and super athletic. Sports honestly just came very naturally to me. I catch onto things very quickly, and I’m just super athletic”.
Despite the savagery and brutality associated with combat sports, however, there is something poetic in the way Norton views competing in MMA.
“There’s nothing like fighting” Norton says. “There’s nothing that even comes close to it. Fighting is very soul-baring. If you wanted to learn who you are, go under those lights. I’m telling you, it will show you the truth of who you are. I think that’s why I love it. You really have to lay it all out there, leave your heart in there”.
Something special returns July 20th in Denver, Colorado; a Bantamweight talent from California named Auttumn Norton. Yet despite the magnitude of this moment for Norton, there was just one thing she wanted to shine a light on before her return:
“Thank you to my teams and coaches, because they work very hard for me”.