It is probably a safe bet that Sarah “TNT” McLeod, who is competing in a provincial bikini contest at the Massey Theatre on Saturday, could easily beat up every other swimsuit model in the dressing room.
The 22-year-old Burnaby woman is quickly making a name for herself as the next big thing on the women’s mixed martial arts (MMA) circuit.
Despite only having been a competitive fighter for a less than a year, McLeod is attracting a rapidly growing fan base and already has a Facebook fan page with several hundred members.
It likely doesn’t hurt that she looks pretty good in a bikini.
“As far as I know, there aren’t any other bikini models who are into fighting,” said McLeod with a laugh. “The two are kind of both ends of the extreme.”
She says the two interests aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive though, as both require a great deal of time spent in the gym.
Even still, there is always a risk of a disfiguring injury that isn’t an occupational hazard most models have to deal with.
“I actually have a broken nose and some bruising right now,” she admitted, “but you load up with so much makeup and tanning cream that everything can mostly be covered up, and the judges are really looking more at muscle definition and body proportions anyway.”
If she makes the top three finalists, McLeod will be invited to attend the national competition next month in Ontario and possibly earn a ticket to be a professional bikini model, a gig that comes with sponsorship and travel opportunities.
“My main goal is to qualify for the Mr. Olympia. The bikini category is a new category that just opened this year, and it’s a pretty big deal.”
Her trainer and manager, Marcus Hicks of Team Denarius, admits that much of the hype surrounding his young protegé tends to focus on her looks.
“Because she is beautiful, people don’t expect her to be a hard puncher,” he said. “She is basically a knockout artist. She has so much power, I find that most guys are surprised when Sarah hits them.”
McLeod convinced Hicks to take her on after meeting him in the gym last December.
Twelve short days later, she made her debut inside the cage at the River Rock Casino in Richmond, battling Wendy Roy to a hard-fought draw that was voted Fight of the Night. McLeod, a reformed party girl who traded the bar scene for the addiction of working out, hasn’t looked back since.
Her bantamweight showdown against Cheryl Chan of Surrey’s Mendoza Martial Arts was one of the main draws at a contest held earlier this month at the River Rock.
But despite dominating the first two rounds, Chan was declared the winner after the referee ended it at 1:13 into the third.
Chan, 31, won by a technical submission after trapping McLeod in an arm lock, and the ref controversially opted to stop the fight rather than allow her to tap out (surrender) or attempt to break free.
“It was ridiculous that they stopped it,” said Hicks, who doubts the ref would’ve done the same if it had been a men’s fight. “I really think it was because it was two females. I saw her get out of the exact same lock at a jiu-jitsu tournament a few weeks before.”
Although she lost the fight, you wouldn’t have known it by looking at the winner, whose face was looking painfully swollen and bruised afterwards.
“I definitely couldn’t be looking like that at any modelling competition,” said McLeod.
With a little luck and plenty more training, maybe she never will.