Modafferi: ‘We are all fighters in our own way’

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

This is number ninety in Jack’s series of interviews with MMA fighters and personalities, and for this particular interview, we’re pleased to feature WMMA pioneer and TUF 18 competitor, the UFC’s Roxanne Modaferri.  “Roxy” is well-known to those who got on board with WMMA early, but she is now becoming a popular figure with a whole new generation of fans via TUF 18.  It’s only a couple episodes into the season’s airing at the moment, but Roxy has already won her fight to get into the house and become one of the eight female bantamweight competitors.  She was picked by Coach Miesha Tate to be on her team and face Team Rousey.  Who knows how far Roxy will go?  Please enjoy the conversation below.

Jack Brown: What was your first experience with martial arts/combat sports, and how did it become more than just a hobby for you?

Roxanne Modaferri: I started Tae Kwon Do in middle school because it looked fun and cool to “fight bad people.”  I mentioned “The Power Rangers” in my TUF interview, but that was only my trigger to start.  After middle school, this changed into love of competition, and the desire to become stronger.   I started competing in Judo tournaments in high school, then BJJ, and then debuted in MMA in college.  I put my heart and soul into training and fighting, so it went from a hobby to an obsession and way of life.  It’s almost embarrassing to cite anime influences, but same as fighters in “Dragon Ball Z,” we MMA fighters have to train to become stronger, to prepare to battle a final opponent.  It’s hard and painful, but it’s important to keep getting up again and again.

JB: What do you recall about your first professional MMA fight, a submission win in Japan back in 2003, and how prepared do you feel you were at the time? 

RM: Despite having started martial arts through a striking art, my real ability was that of a middle schooler.  I threw a one-two, got hit, and just switched to taking her down and getting the sub – what I do best.  Anything can happen in a fight.  I remember thinking that my life would be radically changed, and somehow I would morph into some vicious fighting machine, but it didn’t happen.  I was still Roxy, and a very happy warrior.

JB: You have fifteen victories in pro MMA, including wins over veterans like Marloes Coenen, Tara LaRosa, and Vanessa Porto.  What has been your most satisfying win thus far? 

RM: I have two.  One was in Fatal Femmes Fighting, against Vanessa Porto, because it was my first and only win by TKO.  The second was my elimination fight against Valerie Letourneau.  I came back after a five-fight losing streak, and did the submission I’ve been focusing on perfecting for the past six months.  My win over Tara was great, but we were so evenly matched that it was more of a relief.

JB: In 2010, you fought Sarah Kaufman for the Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Championship.  That slam was the only time that you have been knocked out in a fight.  What did you take away from that loss?

RM: Slams suck.

JB: Your last fight, prior to participating in TUF 18, was a loss in Jewels, in an event in Japan, back in March of 2012.  You were scheduled to fight later that year, in December, but were injured.  Before the opportunity to be a part of TUF 18 came along, what was next for you in your fighting career?

RM: I was hoping to get any fight I could in Japan so I could get back on a winning streak.  If I won enough, maybe I’d be invited to Invicta, I thought.  My body has been feeling the wear and tear of years of training and fighting, so I wondered how much longer…

JB: We are only two episodes in to the current season of TUF 18, and thus I can’t ask you much about it.  However, now that we know that you were a cast member and won your first fight to get into the house, how difficult was it for you to alter your life in Japan to accommodate participating in TUF?

RM: I loved living in the TUF house, and I miss it so much.  I didn’t have to worry about working.  I usually sleep poorly, but in the house, I was able to take much-needed naps between training sessions.  I could actually ask questions about technique in English and understand the replies perfectly, as opposed to struggling in Japanese. In fact, I realized how much easier learning could be, and it was part of the reason I moved back to the U.S. after the show ended.

JB: You are a true veteran of the sport and a world traveler.  Given your unique and experienced perspective, how fascinating has it been to see women’s MMA reach this level and what has surprised you most about its evolution?

RM: The opportunities for female fighters have grown faster than I thought they would.  My dream was to fight in the UFC someday, and it has been beautiful to see that come about.

JB: What MMA fighter, or fighters, do you have the most respect or admiration for, and who would you most like to rematch or fight in the future?

RM: I really respect Celine Haga, a female fighter from Norway.  She jumped into pro MMA after only six months of training, and was matched up against really hard opponents in Japan.  She lost her first four fights, trained really really hard, and then beat a former Jewels champion!  Then she was paired against other top Japanese fighters, losing her next seven fights.  She saved her money, went to Japan, trained her butt off full-time, improved a ton, and then won her next four fights.  Just her grit, determination, and unwillingness to give up really inspired me to keep going, despite my losing streak. 

I want a rematch against all the fighters I’ve lost against, but I know this is impossible.  However, I feel I could have done better against Rosi Sexton in Cage Warriors, and would like to face her again someday.

JB: What else do you enjoy outside of training and fighting, and who are the individuals who have supported you most in life?

RM: I love watching anime, doing “Dance Dance Revolution,” and reading fantasy books.  My parents have always supported me in everything I do, although reluctantly with MMA.  I also wouldn’t be here without the love of my dear friends, people on the Underground Forum, and wonderful fans, who send me nice messages and cheer me up when I’m feeling down. 

JB: Last question, Roxy, and thanks for taking the time to do this. What does it mean to you to be a fighter and how much do you enjoy it?

RM: Deep inside, I don’t like hitting people and inflicting pain.  I want to make my opponents submit to my will, proving I am strong and I have overcome another powerful force.  If they tap quickly, there doesn’t need to be pain, right?  And I want my voice to be heard.  I want to inspire other people to work hard to overcome difficulties in their lives.  We are all fighters in our own way, and every person has the potential to grow stronger and stronger, no matter how low they fall.


Thank you so much for reading and please follow Roxanne Modaferri and Jack Brown on Twitter.

Visit JackJohnBrownMMA on Facebook for links to all of Jack’s past interviews.  Previous interviews include: Dan Hardy, Rose Namajunas,  Joe Lauzon, War Machine, Tom Lawlor, Bas Rutten, Chris Leben, Phil Baroni, Julie Kedzie, Michael Bisping, Duane Ludwig, Sara McMann, Matt Lindland, Duke Roufus, Pat Miletich, Jens Pulver, Dan Severn, Nate Quarry, Ken Shamrock, Matt Serra, Jeremy Horn, Ray Longo, Kevin Randleman, Dennis Hallman, Daniel Cormier, Shonie Carter, and dozens more.

Thank you to @KirikJenness for @theUG.