When Marion Reneau isn’t competing inside the UFC’s Octagon, she’s teaching. Reneau, a top 15 women’s bantamweight, is a physical education teacher at Farmersville High School in Farmersville, California. She has three classes: seniors, freshman girls, and a grade 10-12 weight training class.
It seems like it is an understatement to say that Reneau’s students find it cool that their teacher is a UFC fighter. That said, the 39-year-old’s students keep her other career relatively quiet, which is how she likes it.
“They don’t really discuss it,” Reneau told BloodyElbow.com’s The MMA Circus. “It’s kind of surreal to them, especially when they see me on TV or in a video game. They’re like, ‘I can’t believe my teacher is in a video game!’ Just small stuff like that. But they’re kind of in awe, and it’s kind of surreal to them.
“I try to keep it business as usual; there’s very small talk on upcoming fights. Only when I have an upcoming fight, say, the two weeks before I take off, I’ll let them know, ‘Hey, I have a fight coming up.’ And then they get all excited. So I try not to let them know before that, but they end up finding out.”
What an interesting conversation that would be.
Although Reneau prefers to keep her fighting career mostly to herself in the school gymnasium, she said that her students are indeed enthusiastic about her fights.
“I think the first thing that goes through their heads is, ‘Yes! She’s not going to be here, we don’t have to do a whole bunch of workouts,’” she said. “But I think the second thing they’re thinking about is I think they’re excited. Them and their families, they’re a very small community, they’re very supportive. They get excited. They want to see their community and somebody that works in their community doing well.
“I don’t know if they get nervous. I know my son personally gets nervous. But as far as my students, I think they just think, ‘Wow, oh my God, I can’t believe my teacher’s gonna go punch somebody and get money for it.’”
According to Reneau, the majority of her students watch her fights, and many parents also show interest in her other career, as well. This leads to interesting discussions and interactions between her and parents at school events, she said.
A few students, perhaps unsurprisingly, have had a few requests for Reneau over the years — but there has been cost.
“I’ve had a couple students who want autographs, and I make them do push-ups for that,” she said. “We kind of trade it off; you want something from me, I want something from you.”
Reneau looks at herself as a somewhat tough phys ed teacher, but she doesn’t think that that’s the case because of her being a mixed martial artist.
“I think I was just tough to begin with,” she said. “And I think I get that from my dad. He was very strict; he was a military guy. I was raised in a strict environment, and I get a lot of my discipline from him. I don’t think I’m any harder because I’m a UFC fighter; I think I’m a little bit more understanding. I understand, say, when you get tired and you’re frustrated, I understand a little bit more. I’m a little bit more patient, too.”
Reneau has a passion for both fighting and teaching. But, if she had an opportunity to only partake in one career and make a full-time living from it, she’d choose combat sports.
“Well, I can’t do fighting forever. And I don’t think I can do the teaching forever, either,” she said. “But, if I had to, just because I’ve never had the opportunity to (fight full-time), I would choose fighting. I would love to be able to just fight and not have to work a full-time job as well. But this is the only thing I’ve ever known: I’ve only ever known working at the same time as training. So I think I would choose fighting just to see how that pans out.”