Real Life

Kickboxing mum Kelly’s a real knockout!

After years in the ballroom, she’s getting her kicks in new ways
Photos: Kelly Blizard

Ballroom dancer Kelly Broerse decided to swap her sequinned dresses and fake tan for a pair of shiny shorts – and yes, facial bruising – to become a champion Muay Thai kickboxer. But her mother was initially “devastated”. 

But after her parents saw her win her first fights, the 33-year-old laughs her mum has changed her tune. She went from being heartbroken to passionately shouting, “Kill her, Kelly!” during her bouts.

“She just needed to know I’d be okay. It’s quite an intimidating thing to watch your daughter do,” says Kelly, a forensic scientist, who is mum to 10-month-old son Noah. 

“She used to do my make-up for ballroom dancing and Dad used to come to the shows and fuss with the music. They were really involved. Now they come to all my fights and love it.”

In the ring in 2018.

Kelly’s transition to kickboxing

Christchurch-born Kelly discovered combat sports after watching mixed martial arts (MMA) movie Never Back Down when she was 21.

“I was bored with Latin American dance, but when I saw that movie, I thought, ‘I can do that!’ and joined the Academy of Combat. I was hooked from day one on Muay Thai and kickboxing. 

“It might have surprised my parents, but it didn’t surprise my three older brothers. I was a bit of a tomboy, and was always play-fighting with them.”

As the Weekly arrives at her West Auckland home she shares with partner Kayne Conlan, 32 – also a Muay Thai fighter – there’s a mat at the front door that says “Welcome to the home of Champions”, accompanied by a picture of boxing gloves.

Baby Noah enters the scene

Inside, there’s a toddler-sized pair of gold boxing shorts and a tiny Spider-Man boxing bag if Noah should ever want to join them in the future. 

And there was never any question of whether she would return to the ring after her son was born. 

“I was so not ready to retire!” exclaims Kelly. Her sights are set on cracking one of the high-profile Muay Thai promotions in America.

“My biggest challenge has been to get confidence in my body and trust it again. I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia at 38 weeks pregnant [a potentially-dangerous complication characterised by high blood pressure], which resulted in an emergency Caesarean. 

“Since deciding to begin training again at my gym Strikeforce, Noah comes with us every day as it’s such a family environment.

“My coaches and other gym members pick him up and carry him around while I get my training in. I kept training throughout the pregnancy and my body has bounced back really well.”

Do the plank! Kayne and Kelly put baby Noah through his paces.

Kelly’s Muay Thai training

Muay Thai is a full-contact sport with a huge amount of strategy, she explains. “Anywhere on your opponent is a target – apart from the back of their head.”

Nicknamed “The Warrior Princess”, Kelly says the sport has done wonders for her mental health too.

“It’s a great form of stress relief and builds self-confidence. There’s no feeling like standing opposite someone who you know wants to take your head off and you’ve got to do the same. There’s a big sense of respect between opponents too.”

Kelly began training with Kayne in 2017, when she moved to Auckland permanently for work.

“I always had amazing respect for him as a friend and training partner,” she tells. “It turned romantic in 2021, and now we have a baby and a house together. Sparring definitely became more difficult once we were dating as I have to keep my emotions in check!”

Kelly had become bored with dancing.

Science on the side

Kelly has always been driven. Due to a love of high-school science, worked hard to gain her “dream job” in forensic science. For a number of years, she worked as a technician in the Forensic DNA laboratory at The Institute of Environmental Science and Research Ltd, processing crime-scene samples from all over New Zealand.

She now works as a data analyst for STRmix, which has created award-winning software that allows forensic biologists to analyse, interpret and investigate DNA profiles around the world.

“It was TV show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation that first got me hooked. Elements of the show were similar to my real life job, but definitely not the turn-around times. And it’s not glamorous either!” 

“In the beginning, it was strange walking into a corporate environment with black eyes or facial cuts from training. I got one or two concerned looks from colleagues. But now they’re all fully supportive.”

Kelly will fight on Strikeforce Gym’s Youngblood promotion on Friday April 19. You can follow Kelly’s progress on Instagram @kellythewarriorprincess

Get NZ Woman’s Weekly home delivered!  

Subscribe and save up to 29% on a magazine subscription.

Related stories