Women’s Muay Thai in the United States has always been scarce in terms of recognition.
A unique few stand out and really gain notoriety. Most recently it has been Miriam Nakamoto and Tiffany Van Soest. Looking to join that elite group of women is Natalie “Kill Face” Pagliughi (Morgan).
Currently in Thailand, she will be competing in the Angel Fight tournament also known as the World Muay Thai Angels. The tournament will feature 16 female fighters from around the world.
America’s 32nd President, Franklin D. Roosevelt said “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
In every fighter’s life there will come a time where they have to rise to the occasion. It is part of the warrior way, some let fear take over and fail. Others embrace the opportunity and define their legacy. I am willing to bet Natalie will be the latter.
She had been trying to make the jump to the professional ranks for over a year. In the United States the lack of fights makes that move difficult for many fighters, but for female fighters it is even harder. There is a lack of opponents and promotions to make fights happen consistently because not many women pursue Muay Thai careers beyond the amateur ranks. After her pro debut had been cancelled on several occasions, Natalie applied for the Angel Fight tournament.
In the middle of her honeymoon she received notification that she was in. Natalie without thinking twice joined a tournament with several fighters that have been fighting professionally for quite some time. Chomanee Sor. Taehiran, the winner of the first Muay Thai Angels tournament is part of the 16 fighters. Others include the UK’s Lucy Payne, Portugal’s Maria Lobo, and Russia’s Polina Petrova.
The word fear is clearly not in her vocabulary. As for her pro debut, she was able to make that in Thailand a month ago and won by unanimous decision.
Natalie was gracious enough to take some time from training and promoting the Angel Fight tournament to do a Q & A with us.
The tournament begins on Sunday, April 9th. Natalie’s first round fight will be against China’s Sun Jing.
Follow Natalie on Instagram @ladykillface.
MTA: When and why did you start training Muay Thai?
Natalie: I started training Muay Thai almost 7 years ago because I was getting out of shape. A friend of mine who loved UFC was always talking about the Muay Thai aspect of it so I looked up a Muay Thai fitness class. I went and LOVED it! My teacher was a fighter so I was interested. She took me to The Yard to spar and see how it went. It went well and we booked my first fight. I won and never looked back! I got addicted.
MTA: You had a successful amateur career, was the plan always to go pro when you started competing?
Natalie: I did always plan on going pro after I made the choice that fighting was what I wanted to do with my life. I’m grateful I had a successful amateur career but that is a plus because I was going to keep doing it anyways.
MTA: How did Muay Thai Angels come about?
Natalie: A friend of mine in Thailand told me Muay Thai Angels was accepting applications for the next round and it was in my weight class. I just filled out an application and sent it in. I actually didn’t think I would get accepted. I know hundreds of girls from all over the world apply. When they contacted me for follow up photos I was shocked. I was on my honeymoon when they wrote me that I got accepted. I was very honored and excited! I knew that this opportunity would bring great things to the table for me and my fight career.
MTA: Who do you think is your biggest threat in the tournament?
Natalie: All the girls are very talented and seasoned fighters so every single one of them will be a fun challenge to fight but I think my biggest threat in the tournament is Chommanee. She’s very good technically and she’s Thai, so the scoring will always be in her favor if it goes to a close decision. She also won the first season and is a crowd favorite.
Natalie: The promo shoots can get in the way of training a bit depending on circumstances. However, we make sure to make up the time. Other than this, I don’t let it distract me. I usually have promo shoots at home before fights. I know when it comes time to fight my mind is in the right place. Also, in training my focus is on just that, my training, so that’s what is important. I just try to enjoy the promo time. I’m getting to live my dream fighting and this stuff comes with it sometimes. Might as well enjoy it.
MTA: What do you consider to be your biggest advantage in this tournament?
Natalie: I think my biggest advantage in the tournament is my aggressive style and my heart. At this level it’s hard to name one specific technique and I haven’t seen some of the other girls styles either. But, I think the “I will never quit” mentality, constantly throwing strikes, and constantly responding to what they are throwing will give me the edge to win.
MTA: How difficult is it to talk and hang out with the other Muay Thai Angels knowing that you will likely have to fight them?
Natalie: It’s actually not difficult at all to hang out and get to know the other girls. It’s been kind of cool to get to know some of them. I know that if we have to fight it’ll be business and that is all. On fight day my mind is to hurt whoever they put in front of me because they’re trying to do the same.
MTA: What fighters are some that are your favorite and have influenced you as a fighter?
Natalie: Some of my favorite fighters… There are so many. I would have to say the ones who influence me the most are those that I train with. They have a big part in who I’ve become inside the ring. Joe Schilling, David Huerta, and Tiffany Van Soest are my top 3 picks for sure! I work with David the most in training, Joe has been a huge influence in cornering for me and helping me out while training at The Yard, and although I have only worked with Tiffany a handful of times she has had a huge influence on me for the success she has had for women in this sport!
MTA: You recently picked up a win in Thailand. What do you see as the biggest differences fighting in Thailand than back in the USA.
Natalie: I think the biggest difference I noticed was the pace of the fight. It’s much slower in Thailand. They use the first two rounds to warm up and feel out their opponent. Three and four are faster. Five is slower again. They also give you two minutes to rest between rounds. I wasn’t even winded. I’m used to going as hard as you can for every round with only a minute to recover. I think I actually prefer the faster paced fights. Obviously, they focus heavily on kicks in Thailand as well and I like to punch and follow up with kicks. However, to me, there is nothing more satisfying than a solid punch!
MTA: Who gave you the nickname Kill Face and why?
Natalie: I got the name Kill Face after an opponent fainted in the ring as we were about to fight. Jokes went around about me being able to KO people without even touching them. Then a comedy web series called “Enter the Dojo” came out with a episode called “The Kill Face” where he teaches his students to do just that. I posted on Facebook and people just kind of ran with it. I like it because it holds a great story.
MTA: In a sport where it is sometimes difficult for women to get ahead because of things like politics and it being difficult to find fights, what advice can you give to future fighters?
Natalie: Yes it can be very difficult at times to find fights as a female for reasons of politics or lack of opponents. My advice to future fighters is keep grinding. If you’re having difficulty finding matches just keep training hard and stay ready always. You never know what may pop up. If you’re a pro, make sure you have proper management/representation to help find fights. If you don’t have the right connections it will just make things even harder. And… If it’s just not happening in the states then look to go to other countries such as Thailand, China, or Japan. They are all big on Muay Thai and kickboxing. In the beginning you may have to pay some of the expenses but it’ll help get your name out there until you make a bigger name for yourself. Just always keep your options open and keep moving forward!