Student to Compete in Kickboxing Championship in Brazil

News, Student Life
MariLiis Bateman taking first place in 2021 Championship.

MariLiis Bateman, a student at Lee University, has been selected to compete for Team USA in the Pan-American Kickboxing Championship in Brazil this month. 

The championship is held by World Associations of Kickboxing Organizations (WAKO), the only kickboxing organization that has an International Olympic Committee recommendation and will potentially be included in the 2028 Olympics. 

“This opportunity to represent Team USA and to share the ring with the best fighters in the Pan-American region is an honor,” said Bateman. “I’m excited to demonstrate how hard I’ve been working these past several months to become the best fighter I can be.”

Bateman has been part of WAKO since 2018 and won first place in her first international competition, the 2021 Pan American/North Caribbean Championship. After participating in several WAKO training camps this year, she was selected by Team USA Coach Rob Zbilski to compete internationally once again and offered a chance to defend her title.

The full-time college student, in addition to being a skilled kickboxer, is the main instructor and owner of Force Academy, a martial arts fitness center in Cleveland, Tennessee. She works alongside her father, David Bateman, teaching martial arts courses to children and currently meets with 20 students twice a week.

Bateman’s father, who is also her coach, inspired her love for kickboxing. She began training in martial arts at three years old and is now a 4th-degree black belt, six-time AAU National Champion, and USA Martial Art Hall of Fame’s 2020 Female Instructor of the Year.

MariLiis using “flying knee” technique.

A junior biological science major with an emphasis in pre-physical therapy, Bateman wants to use her degree in tandem with martial arts. “My dream is to have a rehabilitation and sports center for athletes to help coach and encourage them while they’re going through therapy,” said Bateman. “I want to give athletes an outlet to learn about injury prevention, so they can have a better, longer sports career. Especially in martial arts because it is such a high contact sport with lots of injuries, a lot of coaches aren’t educated in those areas and can harm athletes in the long term as a result.”

Not only does Bateman train rigorously away from campus, she is also a diligent worker inside the classroom. 

“I am excited MariLiis has this wonderful opportunity to compete in the Pan-American Kickboxing Championship,” said Dr. Pamela Hobbs, assistant professor in health science at Lee. “I am not surprised at this honor as MariLiis is one of the hardest working, high-achieving young women I know. She sets goals and steadily works hard to meet those goals by giving her best effort, whether that is in her schoolwork or in the sport of kickboxing. MariLiis is highly deserving of this honor.”

For more information about the 11th Pan American Kickboxing Championship, which takes place Nov. 16-20, visit www.

To watch Bateman compete, tune in Friday morning at 10:26 at

For livestream viewing, visit

For more information about The Force Academy, please visit

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