LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mikaela Mayer knew she was better than the high school burnout that she was in danger of becoming.
She had attended four schools in three years, repeatedly getting in trouble for fighting and bad grades. She was a 17-year-old occasional model with the self-awareness to realize she had no clear direction or future outside the San Fernando Valley.
“All I cared about was my friends, and going out and partying, and being a young, cool teenager,” Mayer said. “I was looking for something, but I had no idea what.”
One summer day, she realized something was calling her to the humble storefront kickboxing gym in an unassuming strip mall down the street from her divorced dad’s apartment. Instead of driving past it again, Mayer and a friend went inside.
The first thing she asked the trainer was: “Do you think I’m too old to start competing?”
“I was hungry for success in something at that time, because I wasn’t doing well at anything,” Mayer said. “I was like, ‘I want to be good at something.’ It’s always been inside me. I’ve always had that fire. I didn’t have anywhere to direct it.”
Almost nine years to the day after that wild child learned how…