By Ryan McKinnon
Taylor McClatchie, 27, can now add ‘2018 Pan American Champion’ to her list of growing achievements. She claimed gold on Sunday December 16th, two days before her 27th birthday, by defeating Argentina in a nail-biting, 3-round affair. Her finals win was a major milestone in a year that had its ups and downs for the young Ottawa native.
A year prior to the Pan Ams, Taylor had a flawless record of 20-0. She ended 2017 by making her pro debut at Glory 48 on December 1st at Madison Square Garden where she defeated Jennie Nedell by head kick KO at 1:40 of the first round. The highlight reel win propelled the New Era Combat Sports standout into the new year with some serious momentum.
Some of that velocity would slow however when Taylor suffered the first loss of her professional career to Lisa Edinger at the USKA Fight Night in Philadelphia at 57 kg (125 lbs), one of the lowest weights she’s ever competed at. She would lose twice more, against Mariya Valent of Belarus at the World Championships in Cancun at 60kg, and to the 2018 TBA Champion Jackie Buntan at SHEfights II in Toronto, back at 57kg.
It didn’t take long for Taylor to shrug off the loss to Jackie. A month later she entered the Muaythai Canada National Championships with a hunger to make the National Team. After her loss against Valent in Cancun, Taylor and her coaches decided that competing at a lower weight class in future international events would help ensure a height, size, reach and potential strength advantage over the field. Therefore, the decision was made for Taylor to compete at Nationals in the 57kg division. The move in weight proved advantageous, as Taylor would defeat Cass Warbeck of Kuruma Yama in the 3rd round of their bout by referee stoppage. The win qualified Taylor for the national team, and earned her the honour of being named ‘Best Athlete’ of the 2018 National Championship.
Fast forward to December 2018. Taylor is a big favourite to win gold, and it seemed that a highly anticipated rematch between her and Jackie Buntan was very likely. First Taylor would defeat Daniela Pinna of Brazil handily. She scored two standing 8 counts in round 1. The bout ended by referee stoppage after a final standing 8 count 70 seconds into round 2. A second win over Luna Tobin of Peru would qualified McClatchie for the finals, where unfortunately, she would not face Buntan, who lost to Argentina in the tournament. Taylor said that she felt ambivalent about Buntan’s loss. On one hand, she welcomed the rematch, especially at such an important event, but also felt that a lot of the mental pressure was removed, and she had a new opponent to challenge her.
Her finals match versus Giuliana Cosnard of Argentina was frighteningly close throughout the first two rounds. Cosnard did an incredible job controlling McClatchie in the clinch, but she didn’t take advantage by scoring many techniques in those moments. It was a back and forth battle throughout the match, both athletes fighting on pure heart and determination. After travelling 11 hours to Argentina, and making weight on 4 separate occasions, Taylor looks depleted and exhausted. She was competing on pure will, being pushed forward by the collective cheers of her Canadian teammates, and members of other delegations, especially the Unites States Muaythai Federation.
Taylor wasn’t feeling confident that she had won the first round, and the second round was just as close to call. Looking back on the bout, McClatchie said that she never pushed harder in a third round in her entire career before that finals match against Cosnard. With 1 minute left in round three, a flurry of techniques thrown by Taylor called the IFMA referee to action, giving a standing 8 count to the Argentine. The entire room erupted, believing that the 8 count sealed the deal for the Canadian. And it did. In the eyes of the judges, she had done enough to have her hand raised, causing an explosion of celebration inside the Club Atlético Atlanta.
Taylor couldn’t be more grateful for the people that helped get her to the Pan American Championships. She wants to thank everyone who participated in her t-shirt campaign to help raise money for her trip, her fans, and her Canadian teammates, especially Sarah Carter, who also won gold at the event. In McClatchie’s own words, “Sarah Carter is my hero, and she knows that.” Carter was with McClatchie through every miserable weight cut, prepared her post-weigh in meals every day, and was a constant source of encouragement throughout the tournament.
When asked about competing alongside her teammates, Taylor believes that Canada has one of the strongest delegations to make an impact at the World Championships later this year in Bangkok. We look forward to July, when Taylor and the rest of team Canada take on the world’s best at the biggest event in the IFMA calendar.
Ryan McKinnon is the host of The Bloody Ballet Podcast and website, found at www.thebloodyballet.com.