Alex Nicholson met his future wife two years ago inside a boxing ring.
Hannah Goldy was fighting that night in a mixed martial arts amateur bout.
Nicholson was the cornerman…. for her opponent.
“Yeah, opposite sides of the ring,” said Goldy, smiling at the memory, following the weigh-in Thursday at Seville Quarter for her bout as part of Friday’s Island Fights 37. “After the fight, I had invited the girl I beat up to come to the beach with me the next day in Clearwater. She didn’t want to, but Alex said he did and I was like, uh… no!”
They later met, fell in love, and Nicholson proposed to Goldy at his weigh-in for his UFC debut Feb. 7 at the UFC Fight Night 82 in Las Vegas at MGM Grand.
Now, more irony exists. Nicholson, who has thrilled crowds in past Island Fights events, will be working the corner again, but this time for Goldy in her professional debut Friday night at Island Fights 37.
Goldy, 23, a Vermont native turned Floridian, will battle Gillian Robertson, a successful amateur fighter from Port St. Lucie, also making her pro debut in the women’s flyweight division (115 pounds) MMA bout at the Pensacola Bay Center.
“It is definitely an awesome experience to get this chance,” said Goldy, who trains with Nicholson at American Top Fighter, a premier MMA facility in Orlando. “Me and Gillian… we’re cool. We’re friends. I think it’s cool we get to share this experience together.
“When I started she was one of the top amateurs. And for me to be able to do this with her is kind of cool. Because I really almost looked up to when I started and now I share the ring with her.”
Goldy got started in MMA after attending a Friday night event in New York City when she was living there in 2014.
“I thought it was cool and I started doing kick boxing right away,” she said.
And then, well…. “I moved to Florida and decided I wanted to get punched in the face for a living.”
The Goldy-Robertson bout will be part of an 11-fight card that Island Fights CEO-promoter Dean Toole calls the most competitive matchups he’s ever arranged for a show. The event’s main event is Brok Weaver against Rance Jones Jr. — two fighters with area connection — in a welterweight title fight.
Also on the lineup will be two former Pensacola area prep football standouts, R.J. Summerlin against Seante Williams in their heavyweight bout.
Williams, 34, a Pine Forest grad and former defensive end played college football at Jacksonville (Ala.) State. He then spent a full training camp in 2004 with the Green Bay Packers as a non-drafted free agent before embarking on a lengthy pro career in NFL Europe, Canadian Football League and Arena Football League.
Williams is training at Four7 Training Center in Spanish Fork, Utah, located near Provo.
Summerlin, 22, an Escambia High grad, is making his pro debut. He’s been a successful amateur fighter under tutelage of Larry Downs Jr., whose son, Martin, will also be on Friday night’s undercard.
“To fight in the Bay Center… a place I had been going to as a kid… man, this is a dream come true,” Williams said. “I can’t wait till (Friday).
“I came back here in 2011 for an amateur fight at the beach (Pensacola Beach Hilton ballroom) on that Island Fights (amateur card) . This is phenomenal… words can’t describe it.”
The last time Goldy was at the Bay Center, she was in the corner for Nicholson during his dramatic knockout win against Chaz Morgan at Island Fights 35. Nicholson had his jaw broken and was bleeding when he scored a knockout.
The win earned him a spot at the UFC Fight Night 82. He had his jaw busted in the same place in his loss against Misha Cirkunov that night, but earned respect for taking the fight.
“I didn’t respect the time for it to heal,” he said. “I thought I am a super hero.. six weeks after I got back in the ring.. you have to respect your body. As soon as this heals up.. once this bone heals up I am going to take on the UFC again.”
Goldy has equal aspirations for her future in women’s MMA. With Nicholson’s nickname as “The Spartan,” Goldy was given the moniker as “Queen of Sparta” with Nicholson as the “King of Sparta.”
“I like progressing in the sport and pushing myself to the limits that I don’t think I can get to,” she said. “This is a sport where it’s on you. How you perform is 100-percent based on the work you put in. I like to be accountable for myself.
“It just makes me work hard. It is an awesome sport. I am definitely aware anything can happen in a fight… but it’s part of the game. I broke my hand in training and and I had to get surgery six months ago.. throwing an overhand right.
“I am not going to live in a bubble and this is what I love to do.”
Goldy said her and Nicholson consider Pensacola a second home arena for them, having been here for several Island Fight cards. Their families are going to be part of the rooting section Friday at the Bay Center.
“From the first time we came here until now there we have a lot more people behind us,” she said. “He has made friends here. People recognize us when we go places. They say hi to us. …. Pensacola is beautiful. We love coming here. It’s beautiful.
“I would definitely love to live here if it didn’t get so cold in the winter.”
A look at the fight card for Friday night:
Main Event — Rance Jones Jr. vs. Brok Weaver
Undercard Bouts — Seante Williams vs. RJ Summerlin; Mike Perry vs Frank Carrillo; Sammy Collingwood Vs Chase Sherman; Ignacio Bahamondes vs. Rodrigo Tavares. Gillian Robertson vs. Hannah Goldy.
Freddy Wilhite vs. Bobby Hill. Steve Burkes vs. Socrates Pierre. Ryan Seals vs. Martin Downs. Ty Evans vs. Rico Farrington. Andy Law vs. Matt Munsey
Want to go?
WHAT: Island Fights 37
WHEN: Friday, doors open at 6:30 p.m.; First bout at 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Pensacola Bay Center
WHO: There are 11 bouts on the fight card. Nine MMA bouts, two boxing.
TICKETS: Prices are $20-$70 available online and on Friday night all evening until the main event.