As you may know, my novel Fierce released on 8/14/14. Fierce is a sports fiction novel with romance elements. It's a mixed martial arts (MMA) novel.
To celebrate the release, I'm hosting some awesome interviews. Over the next two weeks, I'll be posting interviews with fighters and athletes. Many of the post will also look at what being a female in male dominated areas means, and how that translates to specific sports/arts/hobbies.
In preparation for today's interview, I did a brief post about women in MMA and how it relates to Fierce yesterday.
Today, I have a professional female fighter, currently fighting in Invincta Fighting Championships (an all women fighting series): the wonderful Jodie Esquibel's interview. I'm so very happy and lucky that Jodie let me interview her. Jodie is a professional MMA fighter, currently with Invicta, fighting in the atomweight category. She has been boxing and kickboxing since age 14, and trains at Jackson/Winklejohn’s in New Mexico. She also works for the fire department, and has a yoga business.
"When it comes to comparing myself to guys, I think, maybe my takedown doesn't look like your takedown, but I still took you down. You're still on your back, and you can't deny that. It fuels you a little bit to have that chip on your shoulder, the will to try to prove yourself"- Jodie
JE: When I was 14, before high school. I had been involved in gymnastics, drill team, and dance team but none of those things kept my interest. My parents and I knew I needed to be involved in something to keep me active. I never was like 'Oh, I want to go beat someone up.' I just wanted fitness and fun. The first gym I went to was Mike Winklejohns and he was my first and only trainer I had. It was an after-school activity.
LG: When did you decide to make it more than that?
JE: I decided to take it to the next level after I went to some amateur fights. I went with teammates, and it was just like…wow, I want to do that. The energy level is high, and everyone is screaming and yelling, and I said sign me up. Wink said no, that I was too young. He didn't want anyone fighting that young, and I was grateful for that. The more I get into my career, the more of an advocate for safety I am. So, I was 15 and he made me wait another year.
LG: What was it like when you finally got to fight?
JE: When he let me fight, I had my first fight at the old school [gym]. I won. I often think about if I had lost would I be on a different path? But I won that fight and that was the biggest high.
LG: How did you go from KB to boxing and to MMA?
JE: Majority of my amateur fights were in kickboxing. After you start winning a couple of amateur titles, it's hard to find fights--at least, locally. Traveling as an amateur is just spending money (at that point, I was spending my parent's money). When it was hard to find fights, it was time to go pro. Boxing was a big deal in New Mexico so my early professional fights were boxing. After Wink and Jackson merged, Wink would ask me every day if I was going to start doing jiu-jitsu. I would say, no, I kickbox and box, no, no, no. Now I look back and think if I had given in earlier, I'd be a lot further than where I am now [she laughs].
Being around the best coach and being around the best fighters in the world, you can only say no for so long. And, it started getting hard to get boxing fights as a pro and getting professional kickboxing fights is really hard. MMA, on the other hand, well, there are MMA cards every weekend. How could I keep saying no? I'm at the best school in the world and how can I say no to this amazing thing [mma] that is taking over?
Being a Girl in the Gym
"John Dodson and I will stand toe-to-toe and knock the shit out of each other, but he was one of the first friends I made at the gym, so just having that friendship and trust and familiarity makes a difference. We push each other, and trust each other.
LG: You've been in martial arts for awhile now, and in various disciplines. Have you had to deal much with sexism in any of the areas?
JE: We [at the gym] have an extremely strong female team as far as MMA goes, so I think that helps. Being around other great martial artists helps, because we don't really pay attention to any of that.
I'm overly aggressive and have a huge ego problem. I work in the fire department, which is male dominated It's a constant 'I can do things just as well if not better than you' battle.
When it comes to comparing myself to guys, I think, maybe my takedown doesn't look like your takedown, but I still took you down. You're still on your back, and you can't deny that. It fuels you a little bit to have that chip on your shoulder, the will to try to prove yourself. Really, though, it helps having a great team because we don't pay attention to any of that.
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