Amanda Lucas' diet is a saga of its own. | Photo: T. Irei
Such advantages might prove avenues for resentment from peers in sport. Worse still, it could become a route for less-savory types to try taking advantage of her.
“I think Jason looks out real hard to make sure that that doesn’t happen, and I also try to surround myself with good people,” says Lucas. “I’ve known Gilbert and Jake since I started training, and I think I have a good radar for that kind of thing.”
For the most part, Lucas’ contemporaries in the gym do not mind her background, if they are even cognizant of it at all. They offer her their full support because she, like them, is a dedicated “gym rat.” Training six days a week, twice a day, there is little that her peers can point to as proof that she is less committed to the fight game than they are.
“I go to the gym to train and learn, and I always want to be better,” she states matter-of-factly. “But on the flip side, I do get the pressure of people looking to me to be better [because of it]. At the moment, I’ve only had two fights; this is a lot of attention for a 1-1 heavier female fighter. It’s a double-edged sword.”
Some fighters are born with the right genes as their leg up. Lucas, on the other hand, was born with the right family. What is most impressive, however, is that she also appears to be born with the determination to properly execute an MMA career, as it would be far easier, perhaps even expected, if she were to employ her wealth to become a socialite heiress instead.
Not a Princess
It is just after 6:30 p.m. on the evening before weigh-ins. Decked out in a sauna suit and sweats, Lucas intrepidly treks into the sweltering streets of summertime Tokyo. The sound of cicadas fills oppressive air, warmed through by 85-degree heat with 90 percent humidity. She has seven pounds left to cut over the next 18 hours.
Vegas-based trainer Wood is quite an imposing sight for the locals, given his extensive tattoo sleeves and tattooed shins. Thus, despite his otherwise patient, tranquil demeanor and encyclopedic training knowledge, no amount of character testimony would be able to get him into a local gym with a sauna, given Japan’s cultural stigma against tattoos. Luckily, utilizing Japan’s natural August climate as a sauna replacement proves a viable alternative.
Over the course of the excursion, Wood, Jason, and I fall behind, engaged in light conversation, while teammate Katrine Alendal keeps pace with Lucas. Alendal is in true tourist fashion, taking iPhone photos at every block, but still manages to provide Lucas with her necessary pep talk. The chipper and witty Norwegian radiates the kind of good vibes that could turn even the bitterest of recluses into social butterflies. As cutting weight naturally makes a person cantankerous and miserable, Alendal is an indispensable emotional and mental counterbalance to the logical, technically savvy Wood.
We catch up with the two women at every crosswalk. While we wait to cross, Lucas doubles over and takes in deep, measured breaths.
“My back is killing me,” she mutters.
“That’s your kidneys,” says a sympathetic Alendal, “It’s a natural part of the weight cut.”
The light turns green. Lucas straightens and pushes on, as Japanese pedestrians cast curious glances at the foreigner in clothing far too warm for this weather.
Wood and Jason begin discussing the next phase of weight cutting to follow the uncomfortably sweaty run later that night: hot baths in Epsom salts. It is an ordeal that Alendal sticks through with her misery-stricken friend.
When Lucas steps on the scale at weigh-ins the next day, the crankiness in her eyes turns quickly to despair when referee Yoshinori Umeki declares her 200 grams over. It disappears in an instant, though, as she nods and marches back to the dressing room to suit back up in sweats and a hoodie. Lucas gets immediately and wordlessly to work with her two cornermen. Local magazine and newspaper media gather outside to take photos and film of her as she solemnly jogs up and down the street in front of Deep gym, shadowboxing at either end.
“If you know her, you know how dedicated she is to this sport,” says Jason, from the sidelines. “With her background, she could totally be a princess, you know? But she doesn’t want to. She wants to be a fighter.”
Amanda Lucas, the Fighter
Warming up in the hallways of Korakuen Hall for her fight, Lucas is focused but also surprisingly buoyant. Where many fighters are crippled by nerves to the point of nausea, she cannot seem to stop smiling. Her expression changes only when it comes time for her walk out, as the familiar sounds of John Williams’ “Star Wars” theme fills the arena. She rolls her eyes and subtly shakes her head, as if saying, “I should have known.”
Apparently, Saeki had not consulted her on the use of the theme, switching it up on her at the last minute. It is blessedly short, however, as just after the initial fanfare, the theme fades to give way to Lucas’ chosen walkout theme, Kreayshawn’s “Gucci Gucci.”
For the following 4:37, Lucas dominates a hapless Shinohara, blasting her with ground-and-pound from mount until wrenching out an armbar. The thorough beatdown and her hyper-extended arm prompt the Japanese fighter’s corner to throw in the towel, much to Shinohara’s chagrin. She violently protests the stoppage, shoving referee Samio Kimura and punching her chief cornerman. It is not a pretty sight, but for Lucas and her team, it is still a blowout victory and her
Despite the one-sided shellacking, however, the performance reveals room for improvement. Lucas’ head movement and ability to angle off and close the distance still need work, and her grappling skills still outstrip her comfort and ability on the feet.
Lucas realizes there will be naysayers who will continue to doubt her resolve, likely believing that she is only masquerading as a fighter to attract attention. It is a curious criticism, given that she is already wealthy, not to mention that fighting in a grassroots Japanese promotion does not necessarily catapult one to international stardom. By her admission, part of the problem lies in the inordinate and sometimes misguided attention she is receiving so early in her career; a distinction that, given her family background, she is helpless against but is patiently acquiescent to.
With her dedication, resources in the sport and a friendly promotion in Deep giving her ring time, she has the opportunity to expediently resolve her technical deficiencies and become a viable 145-pound contender. There is little time to waste, as she estimates she has approximately five years left to compete before she wants to have children and start a family.
Lucas has mapped out her immediate future with Deep, looking to take bouts at progressively lower catchweights until reaching 145 pounds. Her next bout, targeted for a Deep event in either October or December will be contested at 150 pounds. February will likely see her 145-pound debut.
She remains to the world, not “Amanda Lucas, the fighter,” but still rather “Amanda Lucas, daughter of Star Wars creator George Lucas.” Difficult as it may be, it is a distinction she hopes she can change before she hangs up the gloves.
“I’d love for them to think, ‘Hey, she was a great fighter,’ and, hopefully, maybe that I was a good champion if that can ever happen,” she says with a hopeful smile. “Definitely not just, ‘Oh, she was George Lucas’ daughter.’ I’d want people to remember that I did something on my own and that it was pretty cool.”
Just after her debut in 2008, ESPN personality Jim Rome alluded to this very idea, that, in fact, Lucas was stepping forth from her father’s shadow and legions of fans to pursue an identity and profession beyond the “Star Wars” commercial empire. He chided “the dorks” for their one-track-minded curiosity about her simply because of the “Star Wars” connection. Though Rome subtly but intentionally outed himself as a “Star Wars” fan in an inspired moment of ironic comedy -- few people could name as many peripheral characters as he did in five minutes -- his message was clear: Lucas’ identity lies in her own hands and not in her father’s sci-fi creation, despite how fans and media persist in labeling her.
However, Lucas’ training and MMA career nonetheless directly benefits from her father’s work, as does Deep’s effort to draw popular interest with her, as it is ultimately what has brought her here to Japan. Even as she endeavors to be “just another fighter,” she remains an intriguing topic because of what possibilities her family legacy holds, not just for her development as a fighter but for a flagging Japanese MMA scene in a war for whatever stars it can grab.