(Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
(Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Before she steps into the ring for a fight, Jessica Ehrnreiter puts in her earbuds and listens to music. She relaxes, but tries to stay loose. She watches some of the fights before her and does a little bit of punching and rolling.

In the weeks leading up to a fight, she, her coaches and teammates do extensive research. They look for her opponent's weaknesses to exploit and strengths to overcome.

That strategy is paying off. Ehrnreiter, an undefeated mixed martial arts fighter, is a rising star in the local MMA scene.

Ehrnreiter has been fighting and training for about eight years. She has a black belt in Shaolin Kung Fu, a Chinese form of martial arts, and a blue belt in Ju-Jitsu, a Japanese fighting technique that uses grappling and throwing.

She was introduced to the sport by her ex-husband, who currently works as one of her coaches. She got into fighting as a means for self defense and as a stress reliever.

"Originally, I never thought about doing fights," she said.

One night, while watching a UFC fight, she became interested in the idea of fighting.

"I thought, 'You know what, that'd be interesting,'" she said.

From that moment, she added mixed martial arts fighting to her bucket list and began training. On average, she practices 10 hours per week when she isn't working. She trains at Fight Science Gym, which is located at Fit For The King. She also tries to train at a sister gym in Lafayette.

Ehrnreiter said she picked up a sponsor - Roan Imagery - to help her through the training and getting fights lined up.

The more she trains, the more she enjoys fighting. After every match, she gets a picture with her opponent and talks to the fighter. She enjoys the challenge and thinks it could help motivate others.

"It's really not just a man's sport," she said.

That's a common perception in mixed martial arts, but Ehrnreiter doesn't feel that way when she's training.

"I've always been one of the guys," she said. "I spar with the guys, I roll with the guys. They treat me like one of them. It's like a big dysfunctional family."

She's already won a title through the Midwest Fight Series at the 155-pound weight class.

In all, she's posted a 3-0 record, and isn't looking at slowing down, thanks to support from her coaches, teammates and family.

Her next match will be through Virago FC and Absolute Action MMA on March 8, where she will be fighting at the 145-pound weight class in Williamstown, Ky.