This article was first seen on the Huffington Post. For this installment, we are joined by Roxanne Modafferi.
Let’s start off with a general introduction. How would you describe yourself, what are you all about and how did you get involved in martial arts?
I started martial arts because I thought the super heroes looked so cool fighting bad guys, and I wanted to fight bad guys for justice, too. That motivation soon turned into a desire to become stronger physically and mentally. Then, I began competing and my motivation became not only to grow, but to defeat my opponents. However, my basic gut feeling is that I only want to fight for sports and have peace in other areas of my life, and spread it to those around me.
You have experience with Taekwondo, Kenpo Karate, Judo, Brazilian Jiu–Jitsu, Muay Thai – how have these martial arts influenced your style as an MMA fighter today?
Despite me starting out with a striking sport, my striking ability in actual combat was quite bad, and I’m a slow learner. I took to grappling better, and Judo and Jiu-Jitsu became my specialties. I love being able to make my opponent give up from a choke or submission hold rather than cause damage from punches and kicks and knock her out.
Looking back, what has been the most impactful lesson you’ve learned through your practice of martial arts, and why?
Life isn’t fair, and same goes for life in the MMA world. You might train five times harder than a beautiful girl, but the beautiful girl gets called first by the promoter to get a fight opportunity because of her looks. And just because you train hard doesn’t mean you win, but if you don’t train hard, you’ll never win.
You have to put your whole heart and mind into martial arts and try to become stronger all around, in your body, mind, and spirit. That way, even if you don’t win competitions, you will become stronger and never regret practicing martial arts.
You lived in Japan for 8 years and not too long ago decided to come back to the US to train there full time – that couldn’t have been an easy decision – what can you tell us about that?
That was one of the hardest decisions of my life. I loved living in Japan. I had many friends and my Japanese language ability was quite good. I had a good job that allowed me to live comfortably with health insurance, etc. However, I started to get the feeling that I was being surpassed in MMA because training was better in the USA. I hadn’t believed my friends when they told me that, until I experienced it for myself during my time on the Ultimate Fighter reality TV show season 18.
The decision to move was the correct one for my MMA career and I have seen much more success since then. I still miss Japan, though, and the money I make now is a fraction of my salary I made in Japan. Part of me thinks I’m being foolish but I’m very happy with my life now, while I’m working to make it better. I miss speaking Japanese, too. That was my major in college.
How do you stay motivated and driven to succeed over time and how do you deal with negativity?
My coaches inspire me a lot, especially John Wood and Captain. Them having confidence in me and telling me I’m doing the right things in training is like putting wood on a fire that’s already burning brightly inside my heart. I’ve seen the positive results of my training, so I know if I keep training hard, I can win.
When I feel negative, I drag my friends to go eat nachos and ice cream with me. Then I feel better. Also, I teach kids Jiu-Jitsu classes, and my mind and heart always feel refreshed afterwards. Their world is more simple, yet kids are so important for the world’s future. If I can make them smile or teach them a life lesson, I feel like I’m contributing to society.
I know that many of the girls reading this interview envision being a professional MMA fighter like yourself. If you could think of one thing you could share with them to guide them on their path – what would it be?
Find good teachers that inspire you, and then work hard. You might have to do some kinds of training that’s not pleasant, but if you love the rest, it’ll work out.
You published your book “Memoirs of a Happy Warrior” – what’s the book about and who is it for?
The book recounts the one year I spent studying abroad in Japan. It was my first time in Japan, so I wrote about how different everything was, getting to know the culture, finding a Japanese dojo, and having my first three professional MMA fights! You can find it in paperback or Kindle on Amazon!
If you could only choose one thing, what would you tell your younger self?
“You should have moved back to the USA to join Syndicate MMA a few years sooner, right after you started your 5-fight losing streak in Strikeforce.” However, if I hadn’t gone on the Ultimate Fighter, met Miesha Tate and Bryan Caraway, and had them tell me to try out Syndicate, I might not have ended up there. Head Coach John Wood has been the only man able to improve my kickboxing.
I usually don’t regret things in my life because I always try and find the positive aspects. However the only thing I truly regret that has no positive outcomes is when I was in a Judo tournament in high school. When I was being pinned to the mat and trying to get away, I twisted too hard and injured my back. I got a bulging disk in my lower back that now prevents me from doing so many things for the rest of my life, like running and any other running sports like soccer or basketball.
What are your goals for 2017 and what is your plan of action in terms of growing and evolving even further as an MMA athlete?
I always train hard every day, and I know my skills are increasing. I wish I could get more fights but that’s not up to me. I have to wait for the promoters and organizations to make me fight offers. I’ve been practicing Jiu-Jitsu like crazy lately so I hope to get my brown belt, and then get another title shot in Invicta Fighting Championships. I would also like to coach more kids to winning gold medals in Jiu-Jitsu tournaments, and win all my own MMA fights.
Where can people go to learn more about you online?