CORY McKenna doesn’t turn 20 until July yet she has already acquired a reputation as one to watch in the unforgiving world of mixed martial arts.

The 19-year-old will be out to prove a point at Cage Warriors 104 in Cardiff on Saturday, seven months after suffering the first defeat of a fledgling professional career.

Essex-born McKenna (2-1), who now lives in Cwmbran, returns to the Viola Arena, the scene of that loss to Italian Micol DiSegni, this weekend eager to get back on track.

She faces Sweden’s Fannie Redman (1-0) in a strawweight clash that is part of a mouth-watering card in the Welsh capital.

Fellow Gwent fighters Jack Shore, who defends his Cage Warriors bantamweight world crown, Mason Jones, Josh Reed and Kris Edwards also take to the octagon.

McKenna’s preparations for the fight with Redman have included a six-week training camp in Sacramento, with no stone left unturned in her bid to right wrongs of last September.

“It was a harsh decision last time,” she said.

“I’ve got a point to prove after that fight and I’m going to be hunting for a stoppage from the first bell.

“Hopefully it will be a really exciting fight for everybody.”

After settling in her dad’s hometown following his time in the British Army, the teenager has become part of a rapidly expanding MMA community in South Wales.

Jack Marshman, Brett Johns and John Phillips are now part of the sport’s elite, the UFC, while they could be joined before too long by Shore.

Cage fighting’s appeal has sky-rocketed in recent years, but there are many still to be won over due to its often brutal nature.

And, as McKenna admits, being a woman in the sport is also a source of displeasure for some.

“I guess people are surprised when I tell them what I do,” she said.

“Some don’t think women should be in the sport, but they don’t get to see what I do every day.

“MMA is becoming a lot more popular now, especially in certain places like Wales, and there are plenty of people who understand that it’s not just a sport for men.

“I train three times a day and even on my rest day I’m training, practicing every single aspect of MMA.

“I’m putting everything into this, physically and mentally.

“I’ve got great coaching staff around me and the support I receive is amazing.

“Mentality plays a big role in this sport and being successful gives you that confidence.

“I did karate with my mum when I was younger, and then I branched off into Thai boxing and jiu-jitsu. I did every sport before I found martial arts.

“I loved it, and it didn’t really matter if I was any good or not, as long as I enjoyed it.

“I was quite a weird kid. At the age of seven I wanted to be a scientist and not a princess, and when I hit 14 I knew what I was going to do.”

After three wins from three as an amateur, McKenna turned pro and promptly won her first two fights, in Newport and Belgium respectively.

And despite that setback last autumn, the talented teen has her eyes fixed firmly on the prize.

“All my pro fights have been with Cage Warriors, so I’ve been very lucky to have such a great opportunity,” she added.

“I want at least three fights this year. In the long-term, in the next year or so, I have my eyes on that belt and build from that.

“But I want to take it one fight at a time and not look too far ahead.”