Waynesboro woman honors father through mixed martial arts

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Waynesboro native Sydney "Sundance" Smith has been training for four and a half years at the MMA Institute to pursue a career in mixed martial arts.

Saturday night, she will be participating in Donald Cerrone’s Fight Series in Annandale, Virginia.

She said that she is looking forward to fighting and the opportunity to possibly fight in front of one of her favorite fighters.

"It's surreal to think about,” said Sydney. “I try not to give it too much thought, and I don't want to psych myself. I want to focus on what I'm there to do."

She has been an athlete playing multiple sports as a kid with her father, Richard, supporting her along the way.

Richard passed away in 2012 after a three-year battle with cancer. His death would send Sydney to a dark place leaving her loved ones concerned for her well-being.

"Nobody knew if I was going to be okay mentally, physically, emotionally, but I made my Dad a promise on his deathbed that no matter what emotion arose inside of me, that I would allow myself to feel them, I wouldn't stifle them and I wouldn't hide them, I would process them and move on with my life," she said.

Sydney would discover MMA in 2014, which would change her outlook on life.

"I think finding MMA gave me a positive outlet, I never wanted to go back to being angry and hating myself and hating life and this has changed my life. If I didn't become a fighter, I would either be dead or in jail and I know that in my heart," she explained.

Sydney wants to inspire others to find their passion, whatever that may be.

"I just want to give people hope that there's something out there, it doesn't have to be fighting,” said Sydney. “I think people look at MMA as a destructive thing, but for me it's beautiful, it's an art. I can't draw, but I can fight. That's my art, that's my thing and everybody has a thing and I think God really led me to this and I think he will lead everyone to something that is meant for them."

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