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From NFL Cheerleader to MMA Fighter

This time last year, Rachel Wray was spending her Sundays on the sidelines of Arrowhead Stadium as an NFL cheerleader for the Kansas City Chiefs. She stumbled onto an MMA gym looking for a way to change up her workouts and before long she preferred the feel of the canvas to the stadium turf. Now she’s left the NFL for the fighter’s life. These days when her lips are red at work, it’s not lipstick—it’s blood. Wray talked to us about leaving cheerleading and how she’s prepping for her upcoming fight at the Voodoo Lounge in Kansas City later this month. 

FIGHTLAND: Is there any similarity between fight training and cheerleader training?
Rachel Wray: [Laughs] There is nothing similar between fight training and cheerleader training. To be a professional cheerleader you need dance practice, swimsuit modeling, football knowledge, public speaking, and have perfect hair, nails, and makeup at all times. I always laugh when I get out of a fight practice because I always look so disgusting —drenched in sweat, no makeup, hair a huge mess. As a cheerleader if your lipstick isn’t perfect at practice, you get in trouble. They are polar-opposite worlds.

Why did you leave cheerleading to become an MMA fighter?
The reason I chose to leave cheerleading to fight was simple: I enjoyed it more. Just when I was really getting into the MMA training, Chiefs cheerleader auditions were approaching. I had to make a decision. It was impossible to do both. I knew it was right because on nights when I had cheer practice, all I could think about was being at High-Davis Mixed Martial Arts gym. Fighting made me happier than cheerleading. I enjoyed it so much more, I made the switch. 

Read the rest over at FIGHTLAND.


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Seven weeks ago, a labor dispute threatened to push the NFL season to the sidelines. Instead, the goliaths of gridiron made a glorious return this past week, from the last-second goalstand by the Super Bowl champs Green Bay Packers to Tom Brady’s second-to-no-other-Patriot’s 517 yards passing. The games also paused to mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11th attacks. Though the season is just one week old, fans across the globe are hoping their teams will play in the grand finale next Feb. 5, held for the first time in Indianapolis. -- Lloyd Young
(34 photos total)
Miami Dolphins Brandon Marshall (19) dives over New England Patriots Devin McCourty after catching a pass during the third quarter of their NFL football game in Miami Sept. 12. Hans Deryk/Reuters)

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10 years ago, on Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists seized control of four airplanes and crashed them all, bringing down the World Trade Center towers and ripping a hole in the Pentagon.

Throughout this anniversary day, the editors at Photo Journal will be live blogging the memorial ceremonies and worldwide reactions through a curated series of photographs. The images are posted as they become available and do not necessarily represent the time they were taken. The historical photos you see are juxtaposed with images from today.

If you would like to send your own photos to us for possible inclusion in the blog, please email them to yourphotos@wsj.com.

8:45 pm | by WSJ Photo Editors

The Tribute in Lights is illuminated on the skyline of Lower Manhattan on the evening marking the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, September 11, 2011. (Gary Hershorn/Reuters)

5:29 pm | by WSJ Photo Editors

A New York City fireman returns to quarters in a firehouse at 48th Street and 8th Avenue after a 10th anniversary ceremony commemorating the 15 members of the New York City Fire Department, Ladder 4, Engine Company 54 who perished in the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. (Peter Foley/European Pressphoto Agency)

5:25 pm | by WSJ Photo Editors

Lifeguard Randy Dodd, right, and a fellow lifeguard attach a memorial  wreath to Dodd's surfboard during a memorial service on the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks at Long Beach, Long Island, Sunday, September 11, 2011. Dodd and about 300 surfers took the wreath out to sea where they held a brief ceremony, forming a circle and joining hands, and placed the wreath in the water. Each surfer had an armband with the name of a Sept. 11 first responder from Long Island. A memorial mass was also held on the beach. The event was organized by The O'Keefe Foundation, named after Patrick O'Keefe, a firefighter who died in the attacks on Sept. 11. (Claudio Papapietro for The Wall Street Journal)

4:28 pm | by WSJ Photo Editors

A man wearing a fireman's hat stands while an American flag covers the field during a ceremony before a game between the Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri on the tenth anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001. (Larry W. Smith/European Pressphoto Agency)

 

3:12 pm | by WSJ Photo Editors

Family members visit the Pentagon Memorial in Washington D.C. before ceremonies begin for the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. (Charles Dharapak/Associated Press)

3:04 pm | by WSJ Photo Editors

A U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant who asked that his name not be used, kneels near his father's name after a remembrance ceremony at the Garden of Reflection Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011 in Yardley, Pa. The memorial honors people from Pennsylvania that lost their lives in the attacks Sept. 11, 2001. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

1:49 pm | by WSJ Photo Editors

Marie Lucania, center right, clutches the hand of her granddaughter Julianna Santella, 9, during a memorial service on the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks held at Lido Beach on Long Island, Sunday, September 11, 2011. Ms. Lucania lost her son, Charles Lucania, an electrician who worked at the towers. (Claudio Papapietro for The Wall Street Journal)

12:32 pm | by WSJ Photo Editors

Mahmoud Doust and Julieth Munoz sit on a bench at a sunrise ceremony in Battery Park. They traveled to New York from Washington D.C. to be here for the 10th Anniversary of terror attacks on the World Trade Center. (Rob Bennett for The Wall Street Journal)

12:19 pm | by WSJ Photo Editors

A rider from the Ride 2 Recovery 9/11 Challenge walks through the Empty Sky memorial in Liberty State Park in Jersey City, N.J. on Sunday. (Joe Epstein/Associated Press)

11:50 am | by WSJ Photo Editors

100 dancers gathered around the Revson Fountain at Lincoln Center in New York on Sunday. (Philip Montgomery for The Wall Street Journal)

11:31 am | by WSJ Photo Editors

Police officers from the United Kingdom march across the Brooklyn Bridge on the morning of the 10 year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. (Philip Montgomery for The Wall Street Journal)

11:26 am | by WSJ Photo Editors

Top: A family member touches the names of loved ones at the north pool of the 9/11 Memorial during the tenth anniversary ceremonies at the site of the World Trade Center. (David Handschuh/Press Pool)

Bottom: People run from the collapsed World Trade Center towers. (Suzanne Plunkett/Associated Press)

11:10 am | by WSJ Photo Editors

Top: A woman mourns at the Flight 93 National Memorial on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, on September 11, 2011 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. (Kevin Dietsch/United Press International)

Bottom: Officials examine the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pa. (Scott Spangler, Tribune Review/Associated Press)

10:20 am | by WSJ Photo Editors

Top: Former first lady Laura Bush, from left, former President George W. Bush, first lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama hold hands to their hearts during the national anthem before a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the attacks in New York. (Jason DeCrow/Associated Press)

Bottom: The South Tower, left, begins to collapse. (Gulnara Samoilova/Associated Press)

9:52 am | by WSJ Photo Editors

Top: Soldiers from Task Force 3-66 Bravo Company of the 172 Infantry Brigade bow their heads during a prayer to remember the victims of 9/11 before a ceremony at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Kuschamond in Afghanistan. (Johannes Eisele/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

Bottom: A video still from a surveillance camera shows the impact after American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. (Associated Press)

9:27 am | by WSJ Photo Editors

Top: The 9/11 memorial ceremony is set to begin in New York. (Mladen Antonov/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

Bottom: United Airlines Flight 175 strikes the South Tower of the World Trade Center. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

9:04 am | by WSJ Photo Editors

Top: Frederick Meeks holds American flags in his hands as he stands at the World Trade Center site. (Eric Thayer/Reuters)

Bottom: Two men, identified by authorities as suspected hijackers Abdulaziz Alomari, left, and Mohamed Atta, right, pass through security at Portland International Jetport, Sept. 11, 2001, before flying to Boston where they boarded American Airlines Flight 11 that struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center. (Portland Police Department/Associated Press)

8:46 am | by WSJ Photo Editors

Robert Peraza, who lost his son Robert David Peraza, pauses at his son's name at the North Pool of the 9/11 Memorial on September 11, 2011, in New York. (Justin Lane/Press Pool)

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The gates were up, training facilities were open and NFL players went back to work.

Now, they need to get ready for the season in a hurry.

After a lockout that lasted 4½ months ended Monday July 25, 2011 with an agreement between the NFL and its players, teams’ facilities were buzzing with activity. Players all around the league were allowed back in to meet with coaches, work out, take physicals and receive playbooks.

Teams were also allowed to sign their drafted players and undrafted free agents, and negotiate with free agents in what will likely be a flurry of activity unlike what the league has ever seen.

Broncos owner Pat Bowlen​ issued a statement Monday afternoon thanking fans for their patience throughout the duration of the lockout. “Although the offseason was unsettling for everyone, this agreement will ensure the continued growth and prosperity of this league well into the future,” said Bowlen, co-chair of the league’s Management Council Executive Committee. “I am thrilled that it is finally time to turn our attention back to the game that all of us love.”

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Cincinnati Bengals safety Rico Murray puts on his helmet at the start of their second practice at NFL football training camp, Sunday, July 31, 2011, in Georgetown, Ky. (AP Photo/Al Behrman) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Employees and volunteers for the Miami Dolphins, including one dressed as former coach Don Shula, stand on a downtown Miami street corner Monday, July 25, 2011. NFL players voted to OK a final deal Monday, days after the owners approved a tentative agreement, and the sides finally managed to put an end to the 4Ë -month lockout, the longest work stoppage in league history. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady throws during NFL football training camp in Foxborough, Mass., Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Philadelphia Eagles running back Noel Devine puts his hands up to catch the ball during NFL football training camp at Lehigh University, Friday, July 29, 2011, in Bethlehem, Pa. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Detroit Lions punter Nick Harris kicks during practice at NFL football training camp in Allen Park, Mich., Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Gwynne Chapin, foreground right, hands an ice cream cone to Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Bryan Hall (68) from her truck as his teammates wait in line for their orders following NFL football training camp Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011, in Owings Mills, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Houston Texans' Mario Williams cools off during the first day of NFL football training camp Monday, Aug. 1, 2011, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler looks to a throw during NFL football training camp Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011, at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Tennessee Titans wide receiver O. J. Murdock reaches for a pass around a goal post pad during a drill at NFL football training camp on Saturday, July 30, 2011, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Houston Texans running back Steve Slaton's gloves cover his eyes while catching a pass during NFL football training camp, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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An unidentified Miami Dolphins fan waits for the start of NFL football training camp in Miami, Monday, Aug. 1, 2011. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Green Bay Packers' Chastin West (11) and Green Bay Packers' Jordy Nelson catch balls during NFL football training camp Sunday, July 31, 2011, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (15) throws during training camp at the Denver Broncos football training facility in Englewood, Colo., on Monday, Aug. 1, 2011.(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Buffalo Bills fan Joe Hart dressed as "Superfan" walks to an NFL football training camp in Pittsford, N.Y., Sunday, July 31, 2011. (AP Photo/David Duprey) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Jorrick Calvin holds on to four balls that he caught as he watches for the next one to during a catching drill at the NFL football team's training camp at Lehigh University on Thursday, July 28, 2011, in Bethlehem, Pa. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez wipes his brow while signing autographs after an NFL football training camp in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, July 31, 2011. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Arizona Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald hangs on to the football during drills during afternoon practice at Cardinals NFL football training camp Sunday, July 31, 2011, in Flagstaff, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Denver Broncos Knowshon Moreno (27) gets in extra work catching passes from the jugs machine after the morning session at camp August 1, 2011 at Dove Valley. John Leyba, The Denver Post #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Tennessee Titans guard Ryan Durand knocks down a blocking dummy during NFL football training camp on Saturday, July 30, 2011, in Nashville, Tenn. Watching at right is wide receiver Nate Washington (85). (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Unrestricted free agent Nick Barnett wears his Superbowl ring while talking with Buffalo Bills coaches during an NFL football training camp in Pittsford, N.Y., Sunday, July 31, 2011. (AP Photo/David Duprey) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Mary Steinkraus, from Germantown, Wis., watches the Cleveland Browns practice at the NFL football team's training camp in Berea, Ohio, Sunday, July 31, 2011. Steinkraus is the aunt of Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Oakland Raiders defensive tackle John Henderson, left, has his helmet adjusted during NFL football training camp in Napa, Calif., Saturday, July 30, 2011. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Adrian Clayborn, left, and tackle Derek Hardman, right, work out for the first day in pads during NFL football training camp Monday, Aug. 1, 2011, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Kansas City Chiefs fan Natalie Canon, 9, poses for a photograph by a Chiefs mannequin during the team's NFL football training camp in St Joseph, Mo., Friday, July 29, 2011. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton is all smiles as he stretches with the team during practice. The first day of Bronco's Training camp took place today July 28, 2011 at the team's headquarters at Dove Valley. Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Detroit Lions receiver Rashied Davis (82) watches as teammate Stefan Logan, left, walks on his hands during a break in practice at NFL football training camp in Allen Park, Mich., Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Keenan Clayton, left, gets a head butt and an ear full from defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, right, during the morning session of NFL football training camp at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. on Monday, August 1, 2011. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Denver Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno (27) catches a pass during training camp at the Denver Broncos football training facility in Englewood, Colo., on Monday, Aug. 1, 2011.(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Denver Bronco quarterback Tim Tebow is mobbed by media after practice. The first day of Bronco's Training camp took place today July 28, 2011 at the team's headquarters at Dove Valley. Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt works out during NFL football training camp Monday, Aug. 1, 2011, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton signs autographs after practice at the NFL football team's training camp in Spartanburg, S.C., Sunday, July 31, 2011. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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St. Louis Rams full back Brit Miller participates in a drill during NFL football training camp Monday, Aug. 1, 2011, at the team's training facility in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Washington Redskins tight end Chris Cooley removes his cleats after the NFL football team's training camp practice on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2011, in Ashburn, Va. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Houston Texans wide receiver Jeff Maehl, left, is tripped up by cornerback Antwaun Molden (28) after catching a pass during the first day of their NFL football training camp Monday, Aug. 1, 2011, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Tennessee Titans quarterback Paul Ratliff plays with his son Johnny, 21 months, and Elle, 2, back right, after NFL football training camp Monday, Aug. 1, 2011, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Houston Texans players run to a practice field during NFL football training camp, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) #

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