Bertinato Belle of the Brawl

After more than a year of training, the 36-year-old, longtime mixed martial arts ring girl Cindy...

After more than a year of training, the 36-year-old, longtime mixed martial arts ring girl Cindy Bertinato will lose the stilettos and enter the ring as an MMA fighter Friday, April 15, 2011. (Marc Lavoie/QMI AGENCY)

JAMES CULIC, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:48 AM ET

Cindy Bertinato is used to having people stare at her, but Friday night, it was her fighting skills that had her on centre stage, not her looks.

In her MMA debut, Bertinato pummelled her opponent, Karine Villeneuve, to win a unanimous decision in the three-round bout, the main event of the Hybrid Combat Proving Ground 1 series in Gatineau.

“I feel fine, I’m not even tired — the fight is the fun part,” said Bertinato.

“Not to take anything away from my opponent, she was great, she’s a lot bigger than me, she’s really strong. I really want to thank her.

“I’m going to take a week off, do yoga, go swimming, then I’m going to get right back in there.

“I want a KO in my next fight. I train with a Russian, so a KO is a must.”

That Russian coach, T.K. Kotchiev, said Bertinato was in the best shape he’s seen and he loves working with her, even though he didn’t mean to.

“This is my first time coaching women, it’s quite a bit different from coaching men. Really, I never wanted to coach women, but Cindy convinced me, she’s very persuasive,” said Kotchiev in a thick Russian accent.

“He’s the best coach in the world. I might be Italian, but my fists are Russian now,” said Bertinato.

Before stepping into the ring, she had some jitters.

But those around her had no doubt she could succeed.

Cindy’s mother Maria was a bit nervous, but was there to cheer on the feisty 36-year-old former ring girl.

“She should have been born a boy, my son should have been the girl,” laughed Maria.

The girls came out swinging in the first round, with both girls throwing wild combinations. Round 2 was markedly different, though. The girls spent much of the round on the mat, with Bertinato holding off Villeneuve from her back, and even getting in a number of solid shots from the guard position.

“I’m really proud of the fight, Cindy is a tough competitor, she gave it everything, she fights with a lot heart,” said Villeneuve.

Before the fight, Bertinato said, “I’m feeling really good, I’m nervous, but I think that’s natural.”

Bertinato’s best friend for 15 years, Adele Seguin, was there to cheer her on.

“I’m a bit nervous for her but she’s trained so hard for so long, I know she’ll be okay,” said Seguin.


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