Monday, November 14, 2016

A conversation with Saya

Saya Ito, Picture Courtesy of Lady Go!

As some of you may know, Saya Ito is a Japanese senior in high school, who also happens to be one of the best 100lb fighters on the planet. Earlier this year, she became the WPMF Champion by defeating fellow Japanese fighter Little Tiger. There was some interesting lead up to the fight because it seemed to many that Little Tiger was avoiding Saya, which led to Saya going to a press conference and calling Little Tiger out. Saya proceeded to beat Little Tiger that night and later again, but injured her foot and has been noticeably absent from action. In addition, she relinquished her title. Some people, myself included, were curious to hear more about what happened to Saya. That curiosity led to the following conversation:

CJ: So, when did you injure your leg, was it in the first Little Tiger fight?
Saya: It was injured for a long time before the fight with Little Tiger. However, since I started taking more fights with a shorter turn-around, it got even worse.

CJ: Where exactly did it get injured?
Saya: At first it was the top of my right foot, the instep. It broke in the Little Tiger fight.

CJ: Do you remember when in the fight?
Saya: No, I don't remember.

CJ: Do you remember when it started giving you trouble?
Saya: No, I don't remember when it started hurting, I just remember that it had been hurting for a long time.

CJ: Can you talk about your second fight with Little Tiger?
Saya: My foot felt perfect during the fight. However, after the fight the same spot started to hurt again.

CJ: You tried really hard to get the first fight with Little Tiger. What was it like beating her twice?
Saya: I was happy about it, I didn't think that she could beat me.

CJ: Why were you so confident that you could beat her?
Saya: Because it was a Muay Thai fight.

CJ: You're saying you'd beat her because it wasn't a kickboxing fight?
Saya: That's right.

CJ: Do you think you want to fight her again next year? (She is the current WPMF Champion)
Saya: I don't think that I want to fight her.

CJ: Do you think you will fight next year?
Saya: I think so. I graduate from high school in March, so I am thinking about it.
CJ: I see.

Courtesy of LadyGo!
CJ: Is it ok if I ask you some questions about your WPMF title?
Saya: That's fine.

CJ: Why are you no longer the champion?
Saya: I couldn't defend the title, so I gave it up.

CJ: Was that your idea?
Saya: I couldn't fight, so I voluntarily gave it up.  In reality, I wouldn't have been able to defend the title in at least six months.
CJ: I see.

CJ: Some people thought that the WPMF might have stripped the title from you.
Saya: The head of Weerasakreck wanted me to have another rematch with Little Tiger. But I thought that fighting her three times in a row didn't really make sense, so I didn't do it and my coach and I returned the belt.

CJ: Is her coach an important figure with WPMF?
Saya: I don't understand the question.
CJ: I ask because it seems like Little Tiger is always able to get shots at the WPMF title. (laughter)
Saya: That's right (laughter)

CJ: Do you still want to train and fight in Thailaind?
Saya: I think so.

CJ: Back to the title, so did you give up the title because you didn't want to have a rematch with Little Tiger or because of your injury?
Saya: For both reasons. To start with, my foot was no good, then I told them there wouldn't be a third fight with Little Tiger, I told them I didn't understand what the meaning or purpose of fighting her again was so I refused to do it.

Saya Ito vs Little Tiger
Courtesy of LadyGo!
CJ: Is it ok if we move onto some questions people asked?
Saya: That's fine!

Q: Was it difficult training while going to high school, Japanese high school can be pretty difficult.
Saya: It wasn't that it was difficult, I was just very busy.

Q: What do your friends think of you being a fighter?
Saya: They support me.
CJ: Do they come to your fights?
Saya: There are times when they come.

Q: Is there any manga or anime that you like?
Saya: I like Drangonball Z! (laughter)
CJ: Which character do you like?
Saya: Goku!

Q: Since you've been injured, have you still been training?
Saya: Not really, I have been concentrating on studying for school.
CJ: That's right, are you thinking of taking the entrance exams?
Saya: I'm still thinking about it.

Q: Can you talk about what is unique about Thai fighters, what makes them different from Japanese fighters?
Saya: When I first trained in Thailand, the first thing that came to my mind was the difference in the amount of training.
CJ: Did you notice anything different about their style?
Saya: Do you mean their fight style?
CJ: Yes.
Saya: Since Japan has a lot of kickboxers, I think Japanese fighters tend to come forward more aggressively.

Q: Do you still want to fight around the world?
Saya: I think so.

CJ: If you go to college, do you think you'll take a break from Muay Thai?
Saya: It will depend on the circumstances at that time.

Q: What is the difference between Japanese and Thai judges?
Saya: In Japan, there are not a lot of points given in the clinch. In Japan, they also give more points for punching.
CJ: Yes, I've heard that in Thailand they do not give a lot of points for punches.
Saya: Yes, that's right, I don't think they give a lot of points for punches in Thailand.
CJ: I've also heard that the first round isn't that important in Thailand, what is it like in Japan?
Saya: In Japan, there are Japanese judges so the first round is also important.

CJ: Before you talked about how busy you were with school, your job, and training, what was your schedule like?
Saya: From Monday to Friday, I went to school then trained. On Saturday and Sunday, I worked at my part-time job. On days that I didn't have work, I met up with my friends or went to watch fights.

CJ: Thanks for answering all these questions. Is there anything you would like to say?
Saya: It's not a problem. When I return, I would like you all to continue to support me!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Kunlun Female MMA Stats

Kunlun Fight, a Chinese promotion, has been developing female talent within China. This is an atypical case because Kunlun is not a MMA promotion, it is a Kickboxing promotion. However, Kunlun does have a variety of fights under other rules, including MMA fights. Kunlun has only been putting on MMA fights for roughly three years and has not been on a lot of people's radar. However, the promotion has put on 30 female mma fights and has helped develop a couple solid fighters, most notably Maryna Moroz, who fought for the promotion twice and is now in the UFC.

When I look at the data, it seems that Kunlun wants to create a couple of Chinese stars. In order to accomplish this goal, they are willing to fly in women to fight these women. There are three women that stick out, Jin Tang, Jingnan Xiong and Weili Zhang. They combine for roughly half of the fights in the promotion. Outside of them, women are usually brought into the promotion for one fight, most frequently from the Ukraine. This is not a strange practice. Numerous promotions in the area do this, the idea being that you fly in a foreigner to fight the local fighter to get the crowd behind the local fighter and to develop a fan base.

Kunlun recently took their show on the road and had an event in Japan, where Weili Zhang defeated Emi Fujino by TKO (Cut). Prior to the cut, it was an exciting fight and with what I have seen in other promotions, it seems clear that more and more contenders are going to begin emerging from China, with Weili Zhang potentially leading the way. The charts below illustrate that while Kunlun is putting on more and more fights, they are maintaing a nice percentage of female fights with 25% of their MMA fights in 2014, 15% of their fights in 2015 and 24% of their fights in 2016 so far involving women. While Kunlun is doing a good job of developing certain fighters, it would be nice to see them expand what I will call their "permanent roster".

2016 is not over
2016 is not over

List of women who have fought for Kunlun:

Munkhgerel Bayarmaa 1
Karla Benitez 1
Mara Romero Borella 1
Julia Borisova 1
Daria Chibisova 1
Emi Fujino 1
Viktoria Godomchuk 1
Svetlana Gotsyk 1
Feier Huang 3
Inna Hutsal 1
Samantha Jean-Francois 1
Yoo Jin Jung 1
Eugenia Kostina 1
Rochelle Lestino 1
Marina Lvova 1
Yana Lyashko 1
Liliya Kazak 3
Maira Mazar 1
Maryna Moroz 2
Anastasiya Rybalochko 1
Aya Saied Saber 2
Natalya Safronova 1
Colleen Schneider 1
Jin Tang 13
Ekaterina Tarnavskaja 1
Liubov Tiupina 1
Fabrina Vanessa 1
Jingnan Xiong 9
Malihe Younes 1
Weili Zhang 5

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

One Female Fight Stats

One of the top promotions in the world, One Championship, a Singapore based promotion, has been putting on an increasing amount of fights in Asia. Starting with 10 fights in 2011, One has increased the number of fights each year to a total of 106 so far in 2016. One has also been developing female talent in the region. When one thinks of One, fighters such as Angela Lee and Ann Osman come to mind and have been heavily promoted by the Organization. What is interesting and important about One, is that they are developing female fighters in areas that we do not traditionally see a lot of fighters emerging from. For example, One has signed the first Taiwanese female mixed martial artist, Malaysian, Cambodian, and Indian female mixed martial artists. Another piece of information that sticks out, is that One tends to bring female fighters back. Other promotions can have the tendency to bring in fighters to fight a promotional fighter and then not bring them back, but more than 50% of the women who fought for One fought for them at least twice.

2016 is not over
While a majority of the women signed by One are not making their mixed martial arts debut, One is giving a lot of women the opportunity to fight on a big stage and to gain valuable experience. One of the most memorable fights in One's history is the title fight between Angela Lee and Mei Yamaguchi. In addition to the fight, Angela Lee is arguably One's most visible star and most popular fighter. This year One signed Angela Lee to a large contract, showing their intent to keep her as one of the faces of the growing promotion. In my opinion, One was actively looking for a female star to promote. One originally threw their weight behind Ann Osman, who has fought for the promotion 7 times, but when Angela Lee burst onto the scene with her exciting submissions, they quickly threw their weight behind her, who has fought for the promotion 6 times, and led to them crowning their first female champion.

Total Fights and Female Fights
At a recent Asian MMA Summit, both Angela Lee and Ann Osman spoke about women in MMA, showing at least an intent by One to continue to expand and develop female fighters within their promotion and the region. Having interviewed several of their fighters, I got the sense that these women's success in One has led to more women coming to their gyms and training, which will most likely lead to more female fighters in the future. If this is true, One's investment in these women seems to be paying off. Hopefully, as more female fighters become available in the area, a greater percentage of One's fights will include women. My only issue is that with One's new weight procedures and classifications, I wonder what is going to happen to their 105ers.

Women who have fought for One:

Walaa Abas (2) 
Amira Badr (1) 
Vy Srey Chai (2) 
Nicole Chua (1) 
Kirstie Gannaway (2)
Renecca Heintzman 1
Natalie Hills (2)
Jenny Huang (3)
Ana Julaton (4)
Angela Lee (6)
Sherilyn Lim (1)
Irina Mazepa (2)
Jujeath Nagaowa (2)
Istela Nunes (1)
Adek Omar (1)
April Osenio (3)
Ann Osman (7)
Elena Pashnina (1)
Ehpriyanut Phouthong (1)
Desi Rahayu (1)
Aya Saied Saber (3)
Tharoth Sam (3)
Mona Samir (1)
Ella Tang (1)
Lena Tkhorevska (1)
Jeet Toshi (4)
Mei Yamaguchi (2)
Haiat Farag Youssef (1)

Friday, September 16, 2016

Yan Xiaonan Interview

Name: Yan "Fury" Xiaonan
Age: 27
Height:5"5 (166cm)
Weight: 115 (52kg)
Record: 7-1 (5 via KO/TKO)

An exciting striker, Yan Xiaonan is arguably the best female fighter on Road FC's roster. Do not let the 8 fight record fool you, Yan has been fighting for a long time and has fought some tough opponents, notably Jin Tang and Gina Iniong. She made her pro-debut in 2009, but took almost a 5 year break between 2010 and 2015. With women's mma becoming more and more popular across the globe, Yan was drawn back to the cage in 2015 and has most recently been fighting for Road FC. An explosive Sanda fighter, Yan is not only one of the best fighters on Road FC's roster, she is one of the best fighters from China in general.


CJ: Can you talk about your fighting background and how you decided to go pro?

YX: I was a student at the Xian Sports Institute training under coach Zhao Xue Jun since I was 16 years old and twice went to the national games in Sanda.  Before going to Xian I was at the local sports school in my home town in Pan Jing Liao Ning. I also took part in MMA events in Xian that was organized by Ultimate Wrestle, they did about 30 events back in 2005 to 2010.  They are actually the first MMA event in China.  The Ultimate Wrestle MMA event was held every month and sometimes twice a month and there I got my first experience in MMA in their event.

I love martial arts and as a child growing up my dad also trained me in martial arts thus I can say that martial arts is our family sport.  During my time at the Xian Sports Institute, I competed in many Sanda events at the city level, provincial level and have won some provincial titles.  I went to the National Games twice in Sanda.  Most fighters finish after going once, however, I love Sanda so much I trained for a second chance to go.  I also in took part in MMA events such as Ultimate Wrestle.  Many of my teammates that were older competed in the Art of War thus many of our team members were also training in Beijing to fight in MMA events internationally and I just love watching them fight with limited rules.  In 1999 I was offered an opportunity to fight in Martial Combat in Singapore and since then I have been fighting in MMA events.

CJ: Looking at your record, there is a big gap between 2010-2015, what happened? Why did you stop? Why did you come back?

YX: In 2010 I was fighting in Martial Combat and Ultimate Wrestle.  I distinctly remember 2010 in Ultimate Wrestle as I beat Tang Jin in first minute of bout, they had pride rules so we can stomp on our opponents.  It was much more aggressive than fighting now because they do not allow stomp on fighters and soccer kicks when down, and also some even now cannot knee head or do elbow strikes.  In 2011 I went to Singapore to fight twice in Martial Combat.  In 2012  I started competing in Muay Thai events and also hold a national title in that.  At that time there were not so many events in MMA in China open to girls.  The ones that were available I have competed in.  In 2015, Alvin at URCC offered me an opportunity to fight and I wanted to get back into fighting in MMA.

CJ: Your English nickname is "fury", which reflects your aggressive style. Can you describe your fight style for new fans?

YX: My name Fury was giving to me during Martial Combat which basically is how I fight.  I am aggressive, fast and relentless in going after my opponent.  My striking ability comes from top coaches that I have trained under - Coach Zhao Xue Jun, whom is also coach to many of China’s top champions such as:  Anhu, Bao Li Gao, Zhao Zi Long, Na Xun, Qing Ge Le, Wang Guan, Bateer and many other top champions.  The biggest difference I can tell you is that we like to KO our opponents and consistent training in the basics of power striking skills, cardio and conditioning.

CJ: As a Sanda fighter do you watch fighters like Cung Le?

YX: Cung Le is famous in USA and know who he is, he fought my coach NaXun (Mongol King)  in Hawaii, however I have not watched many of Cung Le's fights, I have seen him in some Hollywood movie.  I have watched fighters like Ernesto Hoost, Badr Hari, Gokhan Saki, Giorgio Petrosyan in Kickboxing.  I like to watch Pride fighters like Wanderlei Silva and now guys like Jon Jones and recently Conor McGregor and of course Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm.

CJ: Which fight of yours should a new fan watch? A fight you're particularly proud of that showcases you.

YX: Hard to say which fight showcases my skills, probably the one most seen is me fighting Gina Iniong from the Philippines in Martial Combat.  My kick went into her mouth, that was a first time for me to have that happen to an opponent and I received some fan mail from Singapore which I still remember.  My current fights in Road FC highlights my style, however I think it still needs lots of improvement as I am still waiting to KO my opponent.

CJ: You've fought some pretty tough fighters (Gina, Jin, ect.), does that boost your confidence?

YX: I have fought in many Sanda and Muay Thai fights and the experience carries over to MMA fights.  I am not too worried about my opponents as I train full time and and prepared to fight.  My toughest fight was against Mongolian National Wrestling Champion Bayarmaa Munkhegerel because she had real good take downs and ground skills, she had recently won prize in an international BJJ event at blue belt level and was it a bigger than me thus I was worried about going to the ground with her.

CJ: Can you describe your average day?  Your training schedule?

YX: I have two training sessions everyday.  In the mornings I alternate days to work on strength, conditioning and in the afternoon I train at the Beijing Shaolin School because one of my senior team mates from Xian - Li Zhi Qiang - is a coach there.  I also train at CTT for some of my ground game as my ex team mate - Zhang Tie Quan, Li Jing Liang are there.   I also train at different camps to learn from different instructors to expand my knowledge and to also to find proper instructors that fits my style.  Also its good for me to spar with different fighters and opens my experience to different fight styles.  My training sessions are usually two to three hours long, I spend most my time on the basics of foot work, striking, grappling, takedowns, submissions.  The usual for all MMA fighters I think, however I stick to my striking more as that is my core competence.

CJ: Congratulations on getting married! What was it like fighting so close to your wedding?

YX: Thanks, my husband Zhang Yang supports me very much on my endeavor to chase my dreams to continue my career in MMA. The fight in Road FC was very close to my wedding, I went to Beijing to check in same afternoon as my wedding, however we had to drive about 8 hours and got there evening before weight ins.  I did not get to enjoy the food at my wedding as I had to cut a kilo.  It was a learning experience for me too as I did not get enough time to train for my fight, there are so many details for my wedding especially when there are so many family members to deal with and also many things to do for a wedding.  I felt that I could have fought much better and be more aggressive.  My game was a bit compromised from the lack of proper training.  My opponent being a Sanda fighter was very tough and put up a good fight.

CJ: You're one of the top Chinese fighters, can you talk about what representing China means to you?

YX: I love the sports and competitive aspects of being an athlete.  I am proud to representing China, however its not only that which I feel is most important.  I am also representing my team, my family, my coaches, instructors and all those that believe in me,  they have spent their time working with me and helping me chase my dreams.  It is also their dreams that I succeed and winning is the fruit of everyone’s labor.  I am just trying to be the best I can, learning and growing as a martial artist and I think that represents what being a true top Chinese athlete is about.  I don’t do fake fights, I don’t do special favors, when I step in the ring to do my best and beat my opponent.  During my days at the sports institute we just train hard, compete whenever we can and try to win every fight.  That I believe is the spirit a true fighter and that is what it means when I win.  If I can represent my country and win, I am glad I can.   I like to focus on the training and there is so much to learn and many people from all over the world that have helped me grow as an athlete.  There are also many top athletes in China that has come from the same system that I have thus when I win a fight, I also feel that my victory is what I am giving back to them all their hard work.  I respect all my opponents that have stood opposite of me no matter what country they are from, I have fought fighters from Russia, American, Philippines, Mongolia, Korea, to me they are firstly an athlete with much courage and deserve 100% of my respect.  I think that martial arts transcends borders, countries and nationalities, I want to also thank all my Chinese audience fans and international fans for their support and patronage that is making MMA a popular sport.

CJ: I read that your ultimate goal is the UFC, can you talk about that?

YX: I want to fight in the top event in MMA and I believe that the UFC is the pinnacle of MMA in the world.  I want face top opponents as it is a challenge to myself and my abiilties..  I know that with the proper training and preparation I can compete with the best. A few of my teammates has gone to UFC, Li Jing Liang, Jumabieke, Wang An Ying, Yang Jian Ping, Zhang Li Peng and I know I can compete at that level and win.

CJ: Can you talk about the WMMA scene in China?  Is it growing?  Do you see more women in the gym?

YX: There is a growing number of female MMA fighters in China.  Many are crossing over from Sanda. Some of the top ones I have seen are from the Xian Sports Institute and Wuhan Sports Institute. Currently there is a sudden demand of female fighters which is good but also has its drawbacks as some are highly promoted and not up to par with the ones from the sports institutes.  The interest of females in this sport is growing very slow in comparison to the west, I think that it will change in the future as more and more athlete from Judo, Wrestling and Boxing will move into this sport.  There are many champion female athletes in China as you can see in the Olympics and world games.  The environment has to be there for them to make a move into this sport.  I hope that I can motivate more females into this sport.  I think that by winning I will be able to set an example for many females to follow.

CJ: What do you like to do when you're not fighting?

YX: I do the usual girl thing, go to movie, go out with my friends, maybe play some basketball.  I am not into make up or fancy clothing.  I like things simple and to spend time with my parents.   Being with my parents is very important to me, when I was at the Xian Sports Institute I only see them once a year or at a major event thus I got little time to spend with them.  During holidays we train, the only time off is Chinese New Years and it is so hard to get a train ticket home.  I know they are there for me and support me by giving me space and time to be with my team mates and coaches to train, now that I have more of my own time when I am not training for a fight I will go home to Panjing, Liao Ning to spend time with them.  At home I will cook, watch TV and spend time talking with my parents as we have so much to catch up on. Actually I like to cook with my parents cause I miss the food I had growing up.  In Xian we eat lots of meat and noodle, when I go home I get to cook up some seafood, make some dumplings, and my relatives will visit and we will watch some of my fight videos.

CJ: Is there anything you'd like to say?  Anyone you want to thank? A message for the fans?

YX: I want to thank all my fans for watching my fights, my parents their support and importantly my Coaches - Zhao Xue Jun, Na Xun, Wang Han, Zhang Tie Quan and Bill Eng for believing in me and all their time and effort in helping me succeed as a athlete.  I want to thank all the organisers that have given me opportunities - Road FC, URCC, Beijing Fight Nights, North East Art of War, Ultimate Wrestle and my competitors for stepping up to fight me.

CJ: Can we expect to see you in the cage soon?

YX: Yes, I hope very soon.


Friday, July 29, 2016

10 Questions with Jenelyn

Name: Jenelyn Olsim
Age: 19
Height: 5"4
Weight: 115lb (52kg)
Gym: Tribal Submission Team Torogi
Record: 2-0 (1 sub)

WSOF-GC will be having an event this Saturday in the Philippines, in an event that is being dubbed the Philippines vs The World.  One of the fighters representing the Philippines is a young prospect, Jenelyn Olsim. At only 19 and 2-0, she is full of potential and with the love of combat sports in the Philippines could be a star. Unlike Jujeath, Jenelyn comes from a grappling background and will be looking to submit her opponent, Nayara Hemily this Saturday.

CJ: What is your martial arts background? How did you get started with martial arts and when did you decide to go professional?
JO: I'm a grappler. I started with my head coach Christian Gazmin from Tribal Submission. Prior to that I was a basketball player for my college. I started MMA about a year ago, I fell in love with the sport and decided to go pro when the opportunity knocked on my door. 
Jenelyn faces Hemily

CJ: You're relatively new to the game, all of your pro-fights have been this year. Can you talk about your first two fights? What sticks out to you when you think about them?
JO: Yes, I know I am so new to the game. I guess my coaches have seen something special in me that they gave me the opportunity to fight. The first fight I had was with a 40 yr old, Dolores Meek, didn't know much about her, all I knew was she was a student of the Catalan Fighting Systems here in the Philippines that had superior striking skills. I took the fight to the ground and finished her on the last seconds of the first round. Got Lucky, I guess. The second fight was a little tougher on the mindset, a veteran of the sport from Australia that I heard auditioned for the Ultimate Fighter reality show, she had a 4-1 record and I was really up against a very stellar all around fighter. My coaches really had my stick to my game plan and I won unanimously :) Another lucky fight. What sticks out to with both fights is the drive, knowing that we Filipino women actually can compete internationally with top caliber women fighters worldwide. That was the vehicle that had me going. 

CJ: How does it feel to be on such a big card for only your third fight?
JO: My coach always reminds me of this. It is just another day at the office :) We train hard, we fight hard, that's all it has to it. Whatever the outcome is, deep inside, you know you gave it your all.
Both Jujeath and Jenelyn will represent the Philippines 

CJ: WSOF announced potential tournaments and championships for your division. Are those goals of yours? What are your career goals?
JO: Come what may! I know I am here for the long haul. Martial arts is not a hobby or a job for me, it is my lifestyle. 

CJ: I think I saw that you're a criminology student.  Can you talk about that? What's your goal with that?
JO: I am. I have another year until I graduate. My brother, Jerry, who happens to be an MMA fighter like me, is also a Criminology student. I guess, you always look up to somebody and want to follow their footsteps. My goal with that? TO PROTECT AND SERVE :)

CJ: How does it feel to be representing the Philippines at the Philippines vs The World event?
JO: It is a great honor. For all the fighters that came before me and still are fighting in the sport with me. We always take pride representing our roots, our tribe. If you know what i mean :)

CJ: Can you talk about your training? What is your training schedule? What martial arts are you training?
JO: Wow! I have my hands full. I train twice a day, about 3 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the early evening. I mix up cardio, strength and conditioning in the morning, striking MWF and ground game TTHS. My head coach is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and he runs the camp like boot camp :) My other coach is 3x world muay thai champ so I don't really have a choice but to get better.

CJ: Can you describe your fight style for the readers?
JO: At first, I rely more on my grappling and wrestling techniques. But now, with Muay Thai, I really think I've evolved all around. Everyday, I know that there is always room for improvement. 

CJ: When you aren't fighting, what do you like to do?  Any hobbies?
JO: I'm always fighting:) whether be it my off season or no fights to prepare for. My martial arts lifestyle is my hobby. Kidding aside, I like coffee and always wanted to have a dog as my partner. i know i'll get one soon:)

CJ: Is there anything you'd like to say? Anyone you'd like to thank?
JO: I am just another girl that wants to do extraordinary things! My coaches and teammates, my family, that drives me to better myself everyday. Thank you coach Cricket and coach Brent. WE ARE ONE!

We would like to thank Jenelyn for the interview and wish her good luck this Saturday.  You can watch Jenelyn fight this Saturday for WSOF GC.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

10 Questions with Jujeath Nagaowa

Name: Jujeath "D' Badgirl" Nagaowa
Age: 28
Height: 5"0 (152cm)
Weight: 105lb (48k)
Gym: Highland Boxing Gym
Record: 2-0 (2 via TKO)

This weekend, WSOF-GC is putting on a event in the Philippines and for their inaugural show in the country they have signed a skilled boxer and a top prospect in mma, Jujeath Nagaowa. With 8 KO/TKO's in boxing and having finished both of her mma fights by TKO, it is clear that Jujeath is primarily a striker but she is looking into becoming more of a well-rounded mixed martial artists. Both of her mma fights were pretty exciting as Jujeath mixed up her strikes to both the head and the body and attacks in a seemingly relentless manner, which is why when I saw that WSOF-GC had announced that she was fighting this weekend, it caught my attention. As some of you may be aware, I have been compiling statistics relating to the women's divisions in Asia and Jujeath's names was one of the names that I circled as a prospect to keep my eye on. Apparently I was not the only one who noticed her potential as WSOF-GC announced that they had signed her a couple of weeks later. If you haven't, I would suggest watching one of Jujeath's mma fights to get a better idea of what her striking is like.

Without further ado, here is our interview:

CJ: Can you introduce yourself to the readers? How did you get into martial arts and when did you decide to go pro?
JN: I am Jujeath Nagaowa, a Filipina fighter and a proud Igorot native from Mountain Province & Benguet.
I started martial arts career thru amateur muay thai in 2006 then shifted to pro-boxing the same year to become the first Filipina pro-licensed boxer to compete. I Enjoyed boxing professionally for almost 10 years then became an MMA fighter as well in between those years specifically in 2014.

CJ: You started out as a boxer (2010-2013), then fight twice in MMA (2014). Afterwards you returned to boxing in 2015. Why did you return to boxing?
JN: I've been doing boxing ever since. I just love the sport and it's hard to really get out totally if you're really in love with it. At those times, so many offers I think I shouldn't let go so when it knocked,I just grabbed.

CJ: What motivated you to return to MMA?
JN: As I always say, MMA is an undeniably very intense exciting and tempting combat sport where you can show what you really got and what you can do really regardless of what your specialty is. I just want to prove myself that I can do more than boxing and anything else. It's a self challenge and at the same time a dream.

CJ: Your boxing record is well documented, can you talk about transitioning to MMA? What is your training schedule like?
JN: I always start the day with morning run then killing myself in the gym in the afternoon. All I can say is that MMA training makes you a beast. From the stretching itself,conditioning, very different,. It's just always like an obstacle you need to pass thru every single training.

CJ: In press releases WSOF has hinted at future championships and titles for women. Do those interest you? What are your career goals?
JN: I am a dreamer, I dream big but I should walk the right path towards that goal. Definitely,championship thing is a very interesting one but I think it's too early for me to advance my thinking on that stage coz I still consider myself a novice in this career and I really want and need to get some wins first. :)

CJ: When you aren't training what do you like to do? Do you have any hobbies?
JN: I am doing online selling, and taking school for graphic designing. 

CJ: Can you talk about women's combat sports in the Philippines? Is it becoming more popular? What about MMA specifically?
JN: Combat sports is I think very popular especially boxing and MMA is becoming more on the scene nowadays in the country.
I hope to see more fighters excel. I think there are so many female fighters, its just that some are not being exposed or given an opportunity.

CJ: Are there any fighters that inspire or motivate you? Who do you like to watch?
JN: I'm a fan of Meisha Tate, but I love to watch the fights of any fighters especially females.

CJ: Can you talk about your upcoming fight? What should the fans expect?
JN: Just expect same Jujeath, fighting still no matter what. I am just excited to be back on the cage. 

CJ: Anything you would like to say? Anyone you would like to thank?
JN: I am so thankful for the WSOF for opening it's door to me and for all the concerned individuals who worked for the pursuant of my MMA career. For the people who still believe and trust in me. For everyone and to Him, thanks thanks  😊

Watch Jujeath fight this weekend for WSOF-GC, where she will face Yuko Kiryu on Saturday.
We would like to thank Jujeath for taking the time to answer our questions.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

10 Questions with Jenny Huang

Name: Jenny Huang
Age: 25
Height: 5"1 (155cm)
Weight: 105 (48kg)
Gym: Wu-Jia
Record: 3-0

Earlier this summer, I was compiling lists of all the fights, featuring women, that promotions have put on in Asia, as part of an effort to analyze the women's divisions development in the region. As I was making the lists, several names stood out, one was 25 year old Jenny Huang. A promising prospect from Taiwan, actually their first female mixed martial artist, Jenny has built a 3-0 record with her most recent victory coming via submission earlier this year. Citing Ronda Rousey as an influence, Jenny is a good example of the young talent currently emerging in Asia. Having made her pro-debut in 2015, Jenny most recently fought for One FC and could become a star for the promotion as the promotion looks to break into the Taiwanese and other markets. Without further ado, below is our interview with Jenny.

CJ: Can you talk about how and why you got into martial arts? Can you then talk about why you decided to become a professional mma fighter?
JH: I have always loved fighting. In high school and Elementary School I practiced Judo for 7 years. But after I graduated from my University, I wanted to travel and see the world. I traveled to America for a few months and then I went to Singapore. I know Singapore is famous for fighting and having a lot of good Dojos. But Singapore is expensive and I had to work quite hard just to sustain a rather meager apartment. I was very fortunate to have gained a friendship of many nice people in my job. They encouraged me to train and practice fighting at many different Dojos. I learned about BJJ and MMA and I am very grateful for the time I spent at Evolve. I felt a great deal of pride, strength and encouragement whenever I could do all of these different and difficult moves. But I still wanted more. So I came back to Taiwan and I went to Wu-Jia to continue my training. It took time to convince people of my skills and determination, but my persistence paid off. I am really grateful for my persistence in this sport. Strength and athletic prowess doesn't come easily or quickly to anybody. It is only through constant daily routines that we can improve to incredible heights. It is my drive it is my passion it is my desire to be the greatest female fighter that Taiwan has ever seen. This thing keeps me going every day. Once I saw a little success and I wanted more. I still want more. And everyday I'm constantly working hard and getting closer to my goal.

CJ: You are a blue belt in jiu-jitsu and a black belt in judo. On your Instagram it looks like you compete actively in grappling, can you talk about that?
JH: The true champions of MMA are decided by those who master many fighting styles. I relish any chance I get to practice any and every kind of martial art because I am always looking for anything that can give me an edge over my opponent. When you become a professional fighter you need to constantly train. You're always competing against someone else who's trying to bring you down and if you aren't getting stronger, then you're getting weaker. I constantly worry about my skills. Did I get lucky in that fight or am I really improving? Fighting in the ring always reveals you to yourself. It shows me my strengths and it shows me my weaknesses. I don't win every fight I get into and sometimes it's the fights I lose that teach me the most that I need to learn. It can be hard to lose sometimes, but I still hold on to this one thing, this one belief of mine that keeps me going and keeps me fighting. That persistence I have is one of the best secrets I have for success in my life. Whenever I fall I know to get back up again. The strength of my spirit is one of the best secrets to my success.

CJ: Your grappling is your strong point, but I see you're also competing in kick boxing competition. In your fight with Amira you hurt her badly with your punches.  Can you talk about your striking and how it is improving?
JH: I am always learning new things from every competition I'm in. I also know that you always need to change things up when you're fighting or else your opponent will know what's coming and build a stronger defense as a result. Attending kickboxing matches revealed my striking weaknesses. I know that future fighters might mount a strong defense against my grappling skills in the future which is why I think it's prudent to constantly explore and improve upon new fighting styles.

Courtesy of

CJ: You're the first pro wmma fighter from Taiwan. Can you talk about that and what it means to you?
JH: A lot of people make a big deal about me being the first female fighter. Honestly, I don't see myself as doing anything THAT special. Everything I did is something that another woman could do too. If anything I want to tell more women that you can do this. You can do what I can do. I know Taiwanese women are strong. I know they can defend themselves. I am constantly surprised by the skills and strength I see amongst the people I train. The only difference between me and other women is that I had courage to go after my biggest desire. I love to fight but what I really want to tell other women is to find their dream and go for it. Don't let other people discourage you from your dreams. If there is something amazing that you really want to do, then do it. Take that burning desire that you have, cultivate a good plan that will let you pursue it and don't let anyone or anything stop you from getting what you really want.

CJ: I read that you like Ronda Rousey. Can you talk about how she has influenced you?
JH: I have always admired the skills and talents of Ronda Rousey. We have a similar background in judo and she has always displayed exceptional skill in the MMA ring. I also admire her for her strong confidence in herself. She always believes that she can do anything and she never doubts her abilities. That strong fighting mentality she has is extremely important for any fighter and part of the reason why I think she is such a famous fighter.

CJ: One FC has put on some exciting women's fights. What fighters stand out to you? When can we see you back in the cage?
JH: I gained a lot of respect for Yamaguchi after her fight with Angela Lee. Yamaguchi embraced Lee after Lee defeated her in the ring. The amount of care, concern and respect she has for her opponent shows the best example of true sportsmanship that I can think of.

CJ: You and your coach, Sun Ming-yen, have talked about how important respect and honor are in fighting. Can you talk about that?
JH: I have always considered it a great honor to fight in the One FC ring. I know that I am not the normal fighter. I respect others by fighting fair and by displaying a high level of professionalism both inside and outside of the ring. Even after winning a fight I do not gloat or denounce the skills of the other fighter. Fighting isn't about beating the other person, it's about your own personal goal and journey in life. I view fighting as a test of my skills and my current level. When a fight is over,  I will still view my opponent with the highest level of respect. I will still wish to be friends with the person I beat or lost to. Hate has no place in the ring.

CJ:  I see you're training with some women in Taiwan, is it becoming more popular? Should we expect more women to start fighting?
JH: MMA has become more popular in Taiwan. Many girls saw my fight and wanted to join our classes. Even many girls who had no prior experience in martial arts are now very interested in learning how to improve themselves and become fighters. It's already very different than before.

CJ: When you aren't training, what are you doing, what are your hobbies?
JH: When I have have free time, sports are always on my mind. I think best when I'm on the move and improving my skills and getting stronger. Work out in the street, practice parkour because I like challenges difficult exercise,  If it keeps me moving and makes me stronger then I'm interested in it. Outside of exercise, I'm also interested in music. I really like the piano and the ukulele, play music make me feel relax.

CJ: Is there anything you would like to say?  Anyone you would like to thank?
JH: I wish to thank my coach who taught me much of what I know. I spent many hard years and hours with him. It was very hard and it wasn't always easy to keep practicing. But I wouldn't be the person I am without his training. I also want to thank the fine people at One FC for giving me this chance to show my skills to the world.

I would like to thank Jenny Hung for taking the time to answer these questions.
Please follow Jenny on TwitterFacebookInstagram

Friday, July 1, 2016

Lee Ye-Ji Interview

Name: Lee Ye-Ji
Age: 16
Height: 5"1
Weight: 101
Record: 1-2

Lee Ye-Ji will be facing off against Hana Date this Saturday at Road FC 32. A young and active fighter, Lee picked up her first win recently, via submission. At 16 years old, Lee looks to be part of a new pool of young talent that is emerging. While her record is 1-2, it is worth noting that Lee's two losses are to Hisae Watanabe and Satoko Shinashi, a rough two fights for any fighter beginning their career. 

CJ: You're still quite young at 16, can you talk about how you got into martial arts? When and why did you start mma?

Lee: 2014, when I was in my third year of middle school, my elder cousin’s husband who is the head coach of Wonju Team J recommended me to begin learning MMA. So, I began to learn it.

I competed in an amateur tournament 1 month after beginning MMA. And I was fascinated and addicted to the charm of it. My parents objected at first because MMA is an intense sport. But now they’re supporting and cheering me affirmatively.

CJ: You're coming off of a submission victory, can you talk about that fight?
Lee: My initial strategy was to try to grasp and take in the situation until the after the half of the first round, just throwing punches. Then after the half, I planned to fight it out to the finish. That was my strategy.
But when the match just started, right out of the box, we were clinching and coming to a deadlock. So, I thought that trying out some skills or techniques at that time would not be helpful in managing the match, it would just make me exhausted. So I just throw some more punches and tried to find a chance. And then I found a chance to do armbar on her. I had practiced that armbar every day. So I was able to finish her with an armbar.

CJ: Your first two fights were Satoko Shinashi and Hisae Watanabe, what was it like facing two older legends right away?
Lee: I knew that I had less experiences and abilities than those opponents. I was a fighter of little experience. My goal was not concentrated on winning the match. I wanted to grow and get through the fights with those veteran fighters. I wanted to become much better fighter.
As a result, the matches taught me many points. I learned lot from them through the fights. Even if I could go back before those matches, I would still accept them again. Because I think they are what brought me up to the present. Those made me as a fighter. If I took matches with fighters who had similar careers and abilities as me, I don’t think that I could become the fighter who I’ve come to be now.

CJ: Your next fight is against Hana Date, who is closer to you in age and record. What do you think of her as an opponent? How do you think the fight will go?
Lee: I think that she's just an opponent I have to face and strike at during fighting. Just one Japanese fighter.
I will fight whomever I'm told to face and win no matter what happens. Of course I will win this match. Especially, I want a victory because the day after the match day is my birthday and I want to celebrate it that way.

CJ: At 16, I imagine you're still in school, how often are you at the gym? Can you talk about your training?
Lee: I go to the gym every day. Even when I have no upcoming match, I eat dinner and then go to the gym after regular school hours end. Nowadays, as you know, I have an upcoming match this time, so I leave the class before it is dismissed, earlier than usual. I train and practice. And take a rest for a while in the afternoon. And I practice and train again. Once I have completed the training and practice, it's usually 11:30 PM.

CJ: Can you describe how you like to fight? What areas of mma do you like or dislike?
Lee: Although it's a the women’s MMA match, I want to fight with no reservations and make the audience really enjoy the match.
I go through all the combat sports. Regardless, I really enjoy all the martial arts. However, I have relatively short striking range because I don't have that long of a reach, so I feel easier and more comfortable when I am doing grappling.

CJ: Are there any fighters you look up to or that inspire you?
Lee: Jeon Chan-Jun who is my coach and director of my team now, because I have learned so many things about MMA from him. I want to follow him and be like him. And sometimes when I feel tired and have a hard time mentally, he tightens control of me to make ma train and practice again. I am grateful to him. Thank you, coach, really.

CJ: You've been fighting a lot, how many times would you like to fight in a year?
Lee: This the 3rd match of this year for me. I think that it seems that it’s appropriate - 3 matches a year. My maximum could be 4 matches a year? I think I can fight up to 4 matches. OK! I've decided. 3 to 4 matches a year would be the best. If I fight more, I worry it might take its toll on my body. But I don’t want to avoid taking an opportunity when it comes to me. I appreciate all the times when opportunity comes.

CJ: What do you like to do when you aren't training? Any hobbies?
Lee: I train and practice all the time even though I have no upcoming match. Usually I am in the gym. I help the coach and teach a kids' MMA class. When I have time to rest, I meet my friends and I eat meals and have conversation together with them. And I really enjoy watching movies and shopping alone. When I am alone, it helps me to arrange my thoughts and ideas calmly. So, I enjoy being alone sometimes.

CJ: Is there anything you want to say? Anyone you would like to thank?
Lee: I am so happy and excited to take part in this large-scale event held in China, it's abroad for me. As I feel happy and excited, I want to fight well and perform nicely.
My coach always takes care of me, I want to tell him again that I thank him and I am sorry when I give him problems. I will certainly win this match, so I want to make my coach, parents, and fans happy.

I'd like to thank Lee Ye-Ji for taking the time to answer these questions. You can watch her fight Hana Date at Road FC 32 on July 2. Road FC 32 PPV. If my math is correct, it'll air at 8:00 A.M EST on Saturday.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Amber Brown - Pre-Fight Interview

Esther Lin / Invicta FC
CJThe first time we spoke, you were getting ready to fight Emi Fujino in Japan on short notice. Interestingly, Fujino is a common opponent between you and Hamasaki. Can you talk that fight and how you have changed since then?
ABMy fight with Emi was my 3rd cage fight my whole life! I was brand new to the game and didn't know much at all. I know I put up a great fight, she had a ton of experience over me. I have grown and flourished into a well rounded mixed martial artist. I have learned so much since then.

Amber vs Emi on short notice
CJ: You looked incredibly dominant in your last two fights. Can you talk about them?
AB:I feel that I am a really big, strong 105er. Plus I work so hard everyday in the gym. I feel its all my hardwork paying off.

CJ:Can you also talk about how you got your nickname?
AB: My nickname comes from my amateur boxing days, I had to fight a few people that were younger, also its just my style..always in your face and super aggressive.

CJ: We haven’t gotten to see it in your last two fights, but you normally come into these fights with tremendous cardio, as was obvious in your fight with Liz. Have you changed anything for 5 rounds? Do you think cardio will play a role?
AB: I feel that if the fight does go into the championship rounds, even 2 and 3, I will get stronger as the fight progresses. Cardio won't be an issue at all.

CJ: When you first got to Invicta, they were going through some problems and you had to wait awhile. Now you are fighting for the title and are arguably one of their most exciting fighters. Can you talk about what it’s been like fighting for Invicta?
AB:At first it was rough, not getting fights like I wanted, but within the last year or so fighting for Invicta has been great. I am truly honored to be part of the world's greatest women. Fighting amongst the best.

CJ: Can you talk about the title fight? How do you think it is going to play out?
AB: I plan on Bullying Ayaka, just like I do every opponent. I am going to be aggressive and never back down, I know she is very tough and I have a ton of respect for her. But she has what's mine, and I'll do Whatever it takes to bring that gold back home with me. I feel I can be better than her no matter where the fight goes.

CJYou seem very proud to be from New Mexico. Can you talk about what representing New Mexico means to you when you fight?
ABI am very proud of where I come from and I have a great support system behind me from back home. This fight is not only for me, but all of them as well!

CJ: Can you describe an average day for yourself?
AB:My days are so crazy! I wake up, get my daughter ready for school, then head to training for a good portion of the morning/early afternoon. Once we finish with training, head back home (about 40 miles) from the gym then get my daughter from school and turn around to do it all again that evening. Sometimes I feel there is no down time at all, but its going to pay off!

CJ: You have a number of fans in Japan, one of which wanted me to ask you what your plans were after this fight. Do you see yourself moving to 115 and going for the UFC title at all?
ABI am happy at 105 right now. I want to get this belt and dominate anyone that wants to try and challenge me.

CJAny sponsors or anyone you would like to thank?
AB: I want to thank all my family, coaches, and teammates at FITNHB. Trent Cotney, Hooter's Casino and Hotel, Damage Control Mouthguards, A Reel, Intestinal Fortitude, Dragon Do Fight Gear, Sadie's of NM, Anatolia Turkish and Mediterranean Grill.
All of my fans, friends and family! I love everyone and anyone who supports me!

Be sure to watch Amber fight for the title, live on UFC Fight Pass
Friday, March 11th

Monday, March 7, 2016

Ayaka Hamasaki on Judo, 2015 Interview

The following is a translation of an interview conducted in September of 2015.

Q: Your job, you work for a clinic. It is far away from the heart of the city.
Ayaka: Yes, that's right. It's a 20 minute walk from the station and it's two hours from here so its like a little excursion every time. (laughter)

Q: So a round trip is 4 hours...such a long trip, sounds rough.
Ayaka: In the beginning it was tough (laughter), but I've gotten used to it. Since it is far from the city, I can sit in the train, I'm also able to sit on my way back.

Q: How do you kill time on the train?
Ayaka: I'm usually pretty tired on the way back, so I sleep, I also play on my phone.

Q: The ring doctor for Pancrase also works at that clinic so they are familiar with martial arts.
Ayaka: I started working there last November, so a year has passed. I usually just think of training. When I have afternoon training, I'm able to take time off. Before I worked here, I worked a series of part-time jobs, if I wanted to fight abroad, it depended on whether or not I could take time off. Even if I could go, I wouldn't have money for the month. Now everything is a lot more stable.

Q: What kind of part time jobs?
Ayaka: I worked at a catering restaurant. I worked there for 5-6 years.

Q: You didn't know about women's mma before joining AACC?
Ayaka: An acquaintance of mine, Rina Tomita, introduced me to AACC, I didn't know anything about it.

Q: So you didn't know anything about Megumi Fujii at AACC?
Ayaka: I didn't know anything about Fujii-san. When I saw her body I was amazed that a woman could have a body like that.

Q: When you started going back and forth to the gym, was your goal to get involved in mma?
Ayaka: I went because I wasn't exercising enough and to reduce stress. (laughter) During that time, I was a sports instructor so I was weight training, but it didn't have mean anything. When I heard Tomita was doing mma, I got interested. I asked if there were women. I knew that men did it from TV.

Q: You weren't getting good exercise as a fitness instructor?
Ayaka: It wasn't enough. I would start to sweat and stuff, but I wasn't moving and using my body like I did in Judo.

Q: So you've been addicted to Judo since high school and its been a part of your life since, ever try any other sports?
Ayaka: No....Judo was heart-breaking. It was a lot of fun to win. But, it is extremely strict, Judo practice. If you don't have the right personality you won't be able to do it. I would get so angry while doing it, I can't really said that I had fun with Judo.

Q: Didn't you like Judo when you started?
Ayaka: One trigger was that my friends were doing it. I was pretty mischievous when I was in middle school. Like I stopped going to school for example, cute things like that.

Q: So you weren't acting out violently or anything? (laughter)
Ayaka: It wasn't like that (laughter). When I was in middle school, the teachers didn't want to look after me so they recommended that I start doing high school judo.

Q: I see. So it was Judo for rehabilitation?
Ayaka: That's right. I didn't really have a choice. When I was in high school, I lived in a dorm, so it wasn't like I could quit. It was an athletic school, so all the kids living in the dorms had to be involved with a school club, there were around 30-40 of us in the dorm.

Q: In the boys dorms, the 3 years are like gods and the 1st years are like slaves in the pecking order.
Ayaka: Ah, there wasn't anything like that. There wasn't really a pecking order, with the exception of Judo practice, it was enjoyable. With regards to Judo practice, all I can remember is how strict it was. There was morning training, then school, then evening practice....We weren't able to enjoy ourselves. We trained during summer vacation, we trained during Christmas break (laughter) I was depressed even during summer vacation.

Q: Since there were no classes in the summer, did you only train?
Ayaka: That's right, we trained two to three times a day.

Q: A lot of people in pro-wrestling and marital arts come from Judo, but a lot of them do seem to have a screw loose (laughter).
Ayaka; Ah, yes a lot of them are pretty amusing.

Q: There are a lot (laughter).
Ayaka: No, there aren't that many. There are a lot of normal people too. Just like me, I'm normal! (laughter) Since I started, I did Judo through high school with results, did it through college and even when I started working, until I was 23.

Q: Even though you didn't like it?
Ayaka: I didn't really like it a so much. But I didn't hate it, I think I wanted to do Judo on TV or something.

Q: So you had no interest? (laughter)
Ayaka: But, I am very thankful towards Judo. Judo transformed my life.