September 11 at 11 p.m. / 10 p.m. Central, Bodog Fight will crown its first ever women's world champion, as Tara LaRosa and Kelly Kobold battle it out for the 135-pound belt on a special episode of the hit series Bodog Fight: New Jersey.
The occasion is extra sweet for LaRosa (12-1), who was raised a few miles from Trenton's Sovereign Bank Arena where the fight takes place.
"I grew up in a small farming community called Woodstown in nearby Salem County," she says. "So this fight is in my back yard, and all my friends and family will be there. I can't think of a better storyline than to have them cheering for me as I try to win the women's title. It's going to be awesome."
Most of Woodstowners at the now defunct St. James Catholic High School would not have imagined their mild-mannered classmate would grow up to be a professional fighter, according to LaRosa.
"I wasn't tough at all back then," she says. "In fact, I couldn't pick a fight to save my life. Actually, I was known more for being the peacekeeper when a fight did break out."
In 1996 a love of Jean Claude van Damme and Chuck Norris action films inspired her to enroll in Judo. Winning several competitions, LaRosa soon moved to MMA, studying with the legendary Royce Gracie. During this time, she often crossed paths with Laura D'Auguste, who was originally slated to fight LaRosa before tearing ankle ligaments during training.
"Laura and I both came up through the North American Grappling Association," recalls LaRosa. "We've come very close to fighting several times before, but for whatever reason we could never hook it up. So, I was really excited to finally fight her, but I guess it just wasn't meant to be."
Instead, LaRosa will face the knockout power and excellent submissions of the hard-hitting Kobold (16-0-1).
Surprisingly, LaRosa thinks she is an underdog. "People will expect me to win, but this is not an easy fight for me. Kelly's more of a brawler, unlike Laura who is more technical. So, I'm going to have to change my game plan 180 degrees."
But LaRosa understands injuries are unavoidable in this sport and is ready to adjust her focus in order to face her new challenger.
"You just take it as it comes. It's a five round title fight with an opponent who is much heavier and stronger, but I'm up for it. I can adapt."
Can't catch the action on ION (or The Fight Network in Canada)? All episodes of the Bodog Fight series are available worldwide through streaming video at NewBodogFight.com, with behind-the-scenes exclusives, fighter bios and additional footage only available online.