8-year-old Cadienne McDonald, who trains at a Queens gym, will put her Thai kickboxing skills to the test at Madison Square Garden. NY1's Tanya Klich has the story.
Most middle-schoolers compete on basketball courts or soccer fields, but 8-year-old Cadienne McDonald is preparing to compete in a kickboxing match at Madison Square Garden.
"They've been helping me block punches and kicks, and protecting myself," Cadienne said.
The Springfield Gardens residents joined Kings Combat Fitness Gym in Rego Park when she was just six.
"She comes here four days a week for an hour, so she already trains harder than most adults that I know," said Cadienne's mother, Jamielee McDonald.
"With the legalization of MMA in New York City, it's really important to get these kids to compete at an early age," said Kit Yeung, an instructor at Kings Combat Fitness. "It builds a good foundation for them to compete in the future."
Cadienne's mother says that Muay Thai, a combat sport that originates from Thailand, brings her child many benefits when it comes to building brains, brawn, and more.
"She'll talk to you very soft-spoken, then she'll put on her gloves and she's this completely different animal," Jamielee said about her daughter.
"When our 'Little Knights' come into this mat, they forget about their troubles at school, they forget about bullying, and what they do is they train real hard," added Yeung. "It builds their confidence, their self-esteem."
Cadienne will compete at the Garden on June 10 in full protective gear.
Her match will be a preliminary event before the adult matches at Triumph Kombat.
Instructors at Cadienne's gym say encouraging students to compete is just one way they want to improve the community.
Yeung tells NY1 that they plan to roll out some "knockout" events this summer.
"We've seen a lot of news stories with seniors getting mugged or attacked, so we want to teach a lot of seniors in the neighborhood some self-defense techniques to build their confidence," said Yeung.
Kings Combat Fitness plans to teach the free senior classes this month, along with CPR courses.
For now, however, all eyes are on Cadienne as she gloves up for the big fight this weekend.
"She's definitely my pride and joy from the class," Yeung said.
"They've been teaching me to be confident and they could do whatever they put their minds to," Cadienne said.
To her teachers and fellow students, Cadienne is already a champ.