From classroom to cage: Livingston County educator aims for MMA title

Zappitella has shot at vacant Atomweight title

BRIGHTON, Mich. – Alesha Zappitella is an inspiration in more ways than one. She not only dedicated her career to working with children with special needs, but when she walks through the elementary school doors, she really mixes it up.

Zappitella is small in stature at 4 feet, 11 inches -- not much taller than the elementary school students she worked with.

“I love working with kids,” Zappitella said. “There’s something about it.”

Zappitella, a paraprofessional educator in the Howell Public Schools district, lived her dream of helping children while managing another, albeit much different, ambition.

“I grew up wrestling,” Zappitella said. “I knew I wanted to be a fighter.”

As a professional MMA fighter, Zappitella is 7-2 -- a bulldog in the game. She trains three to five times a day, five days a week at the Michigan Institute of Athletics in Brighton. Her goal is to be the best in the world in the Atomweight Division.

James Gray started the scorpion fighting system. He has nearly 60 fighters, 25 of them being professional. None of them are more dedicated than Zappitella, who they call “Half-pint.”

“There’s something about her. She has this fire,” Gray said. “If you were making assumptions about her stature, you would be wrong.”

Like the assumption that a 4′11″ educator couldn’t also be an MMA World Champion.

“I don’t like violence," Zappitella said. "I don’t like fighting, but when I get in that cage, I’m a warrior”

Zappitella is the main event. Her next fight is Sept. 17 in Kansas City at the Invicta Fighting Championship 42.

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