Jessica Doerner has proven through her first four professional fights that she is capable of dishing out heavy blows and taking them.
Doerner (3-1) even proved her worth in front of UFC President Dana White and producers of mixed martial arts' marquee reality television show. The Minot resident made it through the grappling and striking rounds of the mid-April audition for the 18th season of the Ultimate Fighter, which will feature women for the first time when it premieres in September.
Doerner, who will fight in a co-main event of Magic City Mayhem 2 on Saturday at Maysa Arena, made an impression while in Las Vegas, but was not offered a spot on the show.
"They just said, basically, if you've made it this far, you're, blah, blah, blah, you're above and beyond where a lot of people are, but you're not what we're looking for personality-wise for the show," said Doerner, 32. "I think they were looking for more drama."
The Air Force veteran may not need the catty exchanges of reality TV to make a name for herself in fighting. A win over Bellator MMA veteran Patricia Vidonic - ranked No. 24 in the world at 115 pounds - will likely garner more interest from big-time promotions.
Bellator is the second largest MMA promotion in the United States after UFC. Invicta Fighting Championships, an exclusively female outfit, also offers some of the best competition. Fighting for one of those three companies could lead to full-time employment in the sport.
"If I can pretty much have my only job be fighting, that's kind of my dream right there," said Doerner, who works as a civilian at Minot Air Force Base.
Jordan Calavera, Doerner's coach at Calavera Martial Arts and Boxing, believes his 125-pound fighter is on the cusp of bigger things. Calavera saw a different fighter return to Minot after two days of training in Las Vegas.
"I think she saw what it's really like out there - what girls that fight in her weight class, how strong, how fast, how athletic they really are," Calavera said. "As soon as she got back ... intensity was much higher. There's no coasting anymore."
Vidonic, of Billings, Mont., was added to the card on Sunday after a second fighter backed out of the matchup with Doerner. Calavera said Bellator and Invicta have inquired about Doerner, but he would like to see her gain more experience.
"I didn't want her to jump right into that," Calavera said. "She needs to take some tough fights beforehand, win or lose. ... She needs to take those fights to get the experience and realize what's really out there."
Vidonic (7-5) could give up about 10 pounds to Doerner, but has a clear advantage on the ground. (On a scale of 10, Calavera has Vidonic at 10 and Doerner at five.) Vidonic has two wins by rear-naked choke and one win by arm-bar submission.
"Her stand-up is not near what my standup is," Doerner said. "As long as I can keep it standing, I think that I got a huge advantage."
Vidonic has lost four of her previous five fights, including a split-decision against then-world No. 1 Jessica Aguilar on March 28.
"I beat her and everybody knows it," Vidonic said. "I'm prepared to fight anybody. (Doerner is) willing to step up and fight me. If it wasn't for me she wouldn't have a fight and if it wasn't for her I wouldn't have been called."
Each of Vidonic's previous five fights lasted the entire three rounds and each of Doerner's four career fights ended in the first round. The 5-foot-4 Doerner submitted her previous opponent by punches in one minute, 50 seconds on Feb. 2 in Fort Yates. Her other two wins came by TKO and her lone loss (November 2012) ended by TKO.
"The only advantage I see really in having it go all the way is just getting the experience, which is always nice, but my goal is to go out there and destroy her and my goal is to go out there and knock her out as quick as I can," Doerner said. "I mean, I want it to be a good crowd-pleasing fight, but I have to go in there with the intensity that I'm gonna take her out."
Vidonic, 33, has never been knocked out and all five of her losses came by decision. The 5-foot-2 fighter has never had a bout end in the first round.
"Jessica's got some height on her, so we're gonna work on landing a couple head kicks and just hurtin' her," Calavera said. "We're gonna try to hurt her. You know, being patient, taking time in the fight, staying active, but not gambling. Just kind of picking her apart, basically, is kind of the game plan."
Saturday's card features 10 professional fights with doors opening at 6 p.m. and fights beginning at 7 p.m. The other co-main event pits Danny White (Brookings, S.D.) against Levi Peaslee (Helena, Mont.). White is 6-3 as a professional and Peasless is 9-6. Former University of Mary football player Charles Cheeks III (2-2) will face Skye Fulson (0-0) of Great Falls, Mont.
Weigh-ins begin at 6 p.m. tonight at Buffalo Wild Wings.