In this edition of Reed Between the Lines: MMA Fighter Natalie “Killface” Pagliughi
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in Grafton and moved to Los Angeles when I was 19 years old. I fell in love with this city and it became the place I still call home 13 years later. I’m a professional combat athlete who competes in Muay Thai, MMA, and kickboxing. I love baking, spending time with my husband and traveling the world when I’m not in the ring.
When did you first decide you that wanted to get involved with mixed martial arts?
I was always interested, but in Grafton, there was never any opportunity. I decided when I was 23 years old that I would try a Muay Thai class because it seemed really fun. I knew what it was from watching UFC with my guy friends.
Who is your favorite sports hero and why?
As cliché as it may sound, Ronda Rousey. She opened up so many doors for women in combat sports at that time. Women’s combat sports were always on the back burner and after Dana White finally decided to have her in the UFC, things changed. Not only in MMA but also Muay Thai, which is where I was competing at the time.
What are your plans after MMA?
I’m currently pursuing a B.S. in Geology and plan on working in this field after MMA retirement. I only have six classes left, but I can only take about two classes at a time with my fight training and costs. I don’t really have plans to open a gym or anything afterward but who knows. Never say never.
What is your favorite movie about sports?
I really love the movie “The Fighter” about Mickey Ward. I always watch it and many others on fight day. I like a good true story of a nobody who became somebody with nothing but hard work and dedication.
What is the most bizarre question you have ever been asked by someone about MMA?
I do get lots of weirdos in my inbox on Facebook and Instagram, but I usually block them immediately, and I forget what they said. So I can’t think of anything at the moment.
What is the one thing you always do after winning a big fight?
If I’m being honest, smoke a cigarette with my coaches. Then I go have a beer and/or a shot of whiskey. Life is all about balance. (And no, I don’t smoke, but I used to be an addicted smoker. I quit 10 years ago.)
What advice would you give to kids who are aspiring fighters?
You can literally do anything that you put your mind to! But you have to be willing to make many sacrifices and work hard. You have to show up and do the work. Listen to your coaches and stay focused. It’s not an easy road, but anything worth having never is! If you find yourself unable to do this, then maybe you should search for something else that sets your soul on fire. It will never feel like work when you have a deep passion for it.
What are your best and worst memories in athletics?
1. Little League - getting cracked with the ball when I was up to bat by one of the best pitchers and getting the wind knocked out of me.
2. Cracking my ribs in sparring.
1. 2015 IKF World Title win versus a girl who was 10-0 (She hasn’t fought since).
2. Fighting overseas for the World Muay Thai Angels Tournament in 2017!
3. Hanging up my WBC title belt at The Yard (even though I didn’t fight for it, she forfeited it the day of the fight. I am still proud and know I would’ve won anyways).
If you could be a successful professional athlete in any other sport, what would it be?
Soccer and Alex Morgan. Purely because we have the same last name. I don’t really watch other sports but I know that she’s one of the biggest advocates of equal pay for women in sports. This is something that needs to change drastically. And sadly, not only in sports.
What one word or phrase do you think describes you?
You are originally from Grafton but now live in California. Describe that transition for us.
I truly loved it at first. Such a culture shock in the beginning, but I enjoyed learning about all of it! It took some getting used to all the traffic and people as well. (I’m still not a fan of the traffic). After a few years, I wasn’t sure if I was going to stay or move since moving back was the plan initially after I graduated music school. Then I spent a summer in Minnesota with an ex-boyfriend. It made me realize how much I missed LA and how special this place really is to me. That’s when I knew I was here for the long haul. I came back and never thought about leaving again.
Where is your favorite venue to fight?
I do love the Fight Club OC venue at the Orange County Fairgrounds. It’s in an old airplane hangar and they are a very professional show! I’m sure next year I’ll look back and think it was small compared to where I’m going to fight ;)
Who is the most famous person you have met through this amazing journey?
Mark Duplass. I worked with him when I was starring in the episode “The Fight” of Room 104 on HBO. We got to hang out at the premier in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery after the show was over. He’s a very talented and nice man. It was a pleasure working with him. I hope to get back into the acting scene again in the future.
What would you say to a teammate who is really struggling to perform on a particular day?
Keep moving. Take a deep breath and keep pushing. What really matters is what you do in these moments when you don’t feel like performing. This is how champions train!
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I haven’t gotten that far yet. Just trying to enjoy the journey in front of me right now.
What do you think you do well as an athlete?
Pressure. Pressure. Pressure. I’m a pressure fighter and pressure always kills. This has always been my greatest asset as a fighter. I never give up. Even if someone beats me, I still didn’t break.
What would you say to someone who really doesn’t understand MMA?
I think most people don’t realize that MMA stands for Mixed Martial Arts. Every MMA athlete usually has some specialty that they come from. For example, I come from a Muay Thai background. If someone doesn’t understand it because they think it’s violent, then my response to them would be yes, it is violent but there is a distinct beauty in the art. If you’ve ever tried to do any martial art, then you know how difficult it is. These people probably have never tried any martial arts.
Give me one word to describe your cousin, Mountain Statesman Editor Nicki Skinner.
What did you think of these questions?
Great questions! Some were tough to answer but I like a challenge. I also didn’t think any of them were stupid. I would tell you if I did.
*Each week the Mountain Statesman features a coach, player or personality from Taylor County. We hope you enjoy the chance to learn a little bit more about them.