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An aspiring female MMA fighter has revealed she took up the sport after she escaped an abusive relationship.
Kheira Saadi, 32, said she wanted to compete to rebuild her shattered confidence after emigrating from her native France to flee from her ex-partner.
Having left the relationship in 2012, she first went to Brussels in Belgium with her young daughter before making her way across the Atlantic to settle in the US two years later.
Nine years later and she says MMA has made her strong, independent and ready to tackle whatever life throws at her.
"It's so empowering to know that I can't get beaten up by anyone again," said Kheira, a nursing student and aspiring MMA fighter who now lives in Sacramento, California.
"I'm no longer scared or traumatised.
"Now I know even if someone looks sketchy, I can take them down and knock them out."
Kheira was born and raised in Paris in the foster care system.
"There was physical violence and sexual abuse," she said. "My father was in prison for drug dealing.
"By the time I was 14, I was already on my own, making friends in all the wrong places.
"I used to be really anxious around men. I always had a problem with them from a young age."
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Within a few years of being on her own Kheira fell into an abusive relationship.
From there she headed to the United States in pursuit of new opportunities and to put distance between her and her abuser.
"I went to Brussels to put myself back together, I walked around like I was being hunted by the FBI," she said.
"But by 2014 I finally built myself back up financially, so I could buy a plane ticket and go to the US.
"I first tried boxing when I was in Brussels, but when I arrived in the US I started getting into MMA."
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After a few years of training she was prepared to step into the ring and begin competing.
"I fought four kickboxing matches," she recalled. "I won two and lost two by decision, but I have never been KO'd or seriously hurt."
For Kheira, fighting isn't just a competitive sport, but a means of empowerment and catharsis.
"I would say that any woman who has been abused should get into combat sports," she advised.
"My abuser would never be able to beat me up now. I'm no longer easy to put hands on.
"Now I can talk about things, and I'm starting over.
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"The next step is to move away from Sacramento and train at a very good gym.
"My ultimate goal is to train full-time while going to nursing school.
"I would love to have a boxing or MMA career. I just need to get into the right gym in a bigger city."
- Prison News
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