Miriam Khalladi: Welcome to Real Talk Real Women my name is Miriam Khalladi and today we have Golden Girl of Team Golden Glory, former Remix and Strikeforce 135lbs Champion and my own first MMA trainer Marloes Coenen on the show.
Since we are both from the Netherlands this episode will be in Dutch.
So welcome Marloes, how are you?
Marloes Coenen: I am doing great! Thank you!
Miriam Khalladi: Thank you for your time.
Can you explain how you got started with martial arts?
Marloes Coenen: It’s a long story but I’ll try to keep it short. I went to school in Deventer so I had to go by bike. And my girlfriends had a different schedule so I often had to ride my bike alone. Part of the road went through the woods and you heard all sorts of scary stories about riding your bike in the dark and I was only 12 at the time. In fact I still find it scary today. So I wanted to learn how to defend myself. My 2 older brothers were taking karate classes but they were performing kata’s. In a corner somebody was training on the floor, his name was Martijn de Jong, so I started training with him. I loved it and started doing Jiu-Jitsu and that’s basically how it started. Martijn de Jong went to Japan to fight and people from the Shooto organisation asked him if he wanted to start Shooto in the Netherlands. I ended up fighting during the first tournament in Deventer. Jan Lomulder, a well-known kick boxer who also fought in MMA, was there as well. He went to Japan later on and they asked if someone could join in. By then I had already fought two amateur fights and he had seen me fight. So he said I might know a girl. I was about to start my studies in Rotterdam when I got home and heard I could fight in Japan, but had to get back to them soon in order for them to make the travel arrangements. A few days later I fought my first fight in Japan, which I won and I made an impression. People noticed and organized another tournament the week after, when I just got back to Holland. Again they needed someone to join in, this time for the Remix Tournament. I won that tournament and it changed my life completely.
Miriam Khalladi: Love it.
Can you tell us when you really started competing and how that all works?
Marloes Coenen: I started out with Shooto amateur fights and participated in a lot of small Jiu-Jitsu competitions, there wasn’t a lot of grappling back then, most of it was with Gi. Martijn de Jong just asked me. He had asked me before but I told him that only thugs do that kind of thing and it wasn’t for me. But when he went to Japan I realized that this was a real sport, something you had to train for. And that’s when I started to find it interesting. And I won my first fight in 20 seconds by punching her in the nose and doing an arm bar. Seems I had some talent and as I said one thing led to another. I see many women being raised to become a certain kind of person, but for me it was all coincidence, getting into this sport. Otherwise I would have been like every other woman. I think that any woman can be a fighter because I’ve been through it.
Miriam Khalladi: Yes. There are also different fighting unions like Invicta FC and the UFC. What are the differences?
Marloes Coenen: Invicta is a women-only union, but there aren’t many differences these days when it comes to MMA. In the past you would have one union where a round would last for 10 minutes and a second where they would last for 5. In The Netherlands you even had rope-escapes. When you had someone in submission and they couldn’t reach for the ropes you would have to get up. But the sport has come a long way. You see that rounds now last five minutes globally, you can pretty much do all standing techniques including knees and elbow blows to the head. And if you fight with DREAM then you can’t do elbows to the head on the floor but it’s ok to knee. There are only minor differences, it’s become pretty universal and that’s great for the growth of the sport.
Miriam Khalladi: Yes, because otherwise things get confusing.
Marloes Coenen: Exactly, it would leave average fans wondering what’s going on.
Miriam Khalladi: I hear you.
Do you ever doubt yourself when preparing for an important fight and how do you deal with that?
Marloes Coenen: Doubt myself? No. But everyone feels insecure every now and then, including myself. I’m very critical of myself, even outside of fighting. I’m more critical of myself than towards others. I’m a perfectionist and if that’s who you are you want to do everything just perfect and that brings tension. You just have to learn how to deal with it. It’s also a matter of experience and talking about it with your trainer and other people. It also helps to record your sparring sessions, you think you perform one way but then when you see it on screen you realize oh I did so and so. I do a lot of things intuitively, without even realizing that I do them. When you see that on screen it gives you a lot of confidence.
Miriam Khalladi: That’s great.
How do you deal with all the media attention and expectations from other people?
Marloes Coenen: Well the media attention isn’t too crazy for me so I can handle that just fine. I don’t really care about expectations from others. I know what I can do and I set my own goals. Realistic goals. And I also discuss those goals with my trainer. It’s more of a pressure that you apply to yourself when you think about who likes you or doesn’t like you. Some people want you to go left, others want you to go right. When you let others determine your self-image you’re losing it. You just need to stay close to who you are and know what you’re capable of.
Miriam Khalladi: I fully agree.
Now that we’re touching upon the subject, how do you deal with negative people?
Marloes Coenen: Well when people are negative on Twitter for example, I’ll just block them immediately. And on Forums and what not I simply don’t spend any time there. Especially Dutch people can be very negative. They can be very bitter people and I only hang with positive people, so I’ll just block the negative.
Miriam Khalladi: That’s great.
How important is nutrition for fighters and how do you handle yours?
Marloes Coenen: Nutrition is a big thing. I also have a great nutritionist Rinus van der Zeijden. It’s hard to explain how much this guy knows about nutrition. I asked him all sorts of things and every now and then brought books from health stores and he would always know what they were about. He’s a true authority when it comes to this stuff, so I ask him questions and he’ll explain how things work. The nutrition you put in your body is the fuel you use to work out, so if you put crap in your body then the workouts suffer. So that’s one of the things I learned. The more you know about nutrition the easier it gets to stay away from snickers, french fries, cookies and stuff like that. When you’re dieting hard you do get a bit obsessed by nutrition and at times I found it difficult to find a balance, especially during those periods afterwards, I’d get obsessed by food but that’s a lot less now. I still try to be very aware of what I eat and do, but now that I’m more knowledgeable it’s easier to make the right choices.
Miriam Khalladi: Right, do you also notice that when you start and stop dieting that it affects your physique?
Marloes Coenen: When I had to fight in the 135lbs class in Strikeforce it was very hard on my physique. I gained a lot of weight and blew up even while eating normal foods and worked out. So that was hard on my physique. You shouldn’t do it frequently, especially while traveling the world, you need plenty of rest and support. But dieting is part of the game, and it’s no fun.
Miriam Khalladi: I fully agree.
Do you think The Netherlands are underrepresented when it comes to martial arts?
Marloes Coenen: No not at all, just look at Ramon Dekkers the eternal hero. Peter Aerts, Gokhan Saki, and when it comes to thai boxing you have Glory and in the MMA scene are a lot of good guys as well, for example Gegard Mousasi, what he’s doing is fantastic. Stefan Struve, there are so many talented athletes who are doing well internationally. If I look at what Martijn de Jong is now doing with Hubert Geven, Marcin Prachnio, Tonie Michielse, Egzon Selmani, Gzim Selmani. It’s clear that a new generation is getting ready to conquer the world. I’m 100% certain of it.
Miriam Khalladi: I hear you.
You’re now preparing for your second fight with Cris Cyborg, is your preparation different from last time?
Marloes Coenen: Yes yes yes yes. The first time I was still working which isn’t the case today. The first time I was thinking it’s all about speed, well I was mistaken. So I’ve been training for strength as well. My forehead might give away that I’m also sparring hard. It’s going to be a completely different match this time around.
Miriam Khalladi: Very exciting!
How important are the people around you when it comes to your preparations?
Marloes Coenen: They are crucial. I trained with Martijn de Jong since I was 14. I’m 32 now so that gives you an idea of how far we go back. He’s like my brother. And then Roemer Tompert my partner, we’ve been together since I was 20 so that’s been a while too! The boys at my R-Grip Gym and also in Deventer, the ones I mentioned earlier. Vincent Latoel is also a friend of mine. I’ve known him since I was 18 and we train a lot together. So it’s a lot of fun to prepare together and go deep. When you’re part of a good group of people you get good fighters.
Miriam Khalladi: Right, and how important is the support of your parents?
Marloes Coenen: Well my parents would rather see me quit today than tomorrow, but because I won in the States and are getting more media attention now they’re starting to understand. My parents aren’t really fighters so they don’t get much of the sport. They’re like average Dutch people, they know some stuff and watch some fights, but it’s hard for them to watch my fights.
Miriam Khalladi: Sorry, what was that?
Marloes Coenen: They’re very proud of me.
Miriam Khalladi: Of course they are!
You also give classes yourself, how important do you feel it is for women to be able to defend themselves?
Marloes Coenen: At the moment I’m not giving any classes as I’m focusing on my upcoming fight.
Miriam Khalladi: That makes sense.
Marloes Coenen: But we still do classes for women, and sometimes I drop in to teach as well. I think that women shouldn’t just learn to defend themselves, but that it’s also important to become stronger physically. And by that I don’t necessarily mean strengthening your muscles. From the moment you’re born you’re pushed into a certain direction. And when that’s the wrong direction it can lead to you greatly underestimating yourself. When you start out in martial arts, and people expect you to do things that aren’t too feminine you step out of your comfort zone, but that also makes you grow tremendously. You find out that you’re pretty tough and strong. It’s also very emotional. A lot of girls find it scary to give out punches. But if that’s hard for you something isn’t working right mentally. At least that’s what I think. When you learn all these things you get stronger mentally and you carry that with you in the outside world. You know like with Karate it’s very hierarchical, the one who trains the longest can sit in front and the new ones sit in the back. If you’re a girl and you see the new boys sitting in front even when you’ve been training longer it’s hard for them to call them out and say: hey you go sit in the back that’s my spot. But what you learn here in the gym can be applied in the outside world. This might be a simple example, but there are many things. For example when you’re boxing with a man and notice your punches land and you can collect punches as well you build self esteem. So I think it’s important for women out there to get to know themselves.
Miriam Khalladi: What are your goals for the rest of the year?
Marloes Coenen: I want the Invicta FC title. That’s my only real goal at the moment. I’m focused. I want to defeat Cris Cyborg and don’t care about anything else for now.
Miriam Khalladi: And I know you’ll do great.
Where can people go to connect with you online?
Marloes Coenen: Facebook and Twitter. I try to post there as often as I can, so if you want to learn more find me there.
Miriam Khalladi: I’ll put the links below this interview.
Marloes, is there anything else you’d like to talk about today?
Marloes Coenen: No, I think women are really important and we spoke a lot about that so it’s all good.
Miriam Khalladi: Great, thank you so much for your time Marloes.
Marloes Coenen: You’re welcome girl, and keep up the good work!
Miriam Khalladi: Thanks, you’re a sweetheart!
And thank you so much for watching my name is Miriam Khalladi and I will see you on the next episode of Real Talk Real Women.