Rosi Sexton on Past Present & Future of Women’s MMA
When you talk about womens Mixed Martial Arts in Europe, one name above all others springs to mind. That of the now retired veteran fighter Rosi Sexton. Britain’s First Lady and one the pioneers, not just in women’s mma, but in the overall development of the sport, both in the UK and beyond.
Since as far back as 1999, Rosi was at the forefront and on the cutting edge. Knocking down barriers and pushing the growth of the sport and very much helping to nurture what we now see today.
No longer under the pressures that fighting brings, she has the time to undertake a whole new set of exploits and challenges outside of the cage. Reiterating that she is most definitely retired, she talked about the possibility of returning to competitive grappling at some point in the future. But for now at least she’s busy getting on with life and enjoying ever minute…
Venturing to ask whether Rosi would ever consider a comeback ala Ken Shamrock…
“I don’t really model my career on Ken shamrock. I’m not really sure that’s the way forward. That’s fighters isn’t it, retiring is easy staying retired is hard.
That’s always the way, that’s always been the way, there’s always that temptation to get back in there, have one more go at it. I think that will always be there.”
Are you still coaching other fighters?
“I’m not regularly coaching fighters, I do have a few fighters who I work with and every so often I’ll do some training with them, but I’m not anyone’s regular coach. Like I say I like to help out, especially other female fighters in the UK.
Partly because they are friends, but I know most female fighters in the UK. When we all help each other out we all benefit from that. There’s lots of people who helped me out, so it’s good to be able to give back again.”
Your last opponent Joanna Jedrzejczyk, two fights in the UFC and she’s getting a title shot. What’s your opinion on her as an opponent?
“Yeah, I mean she’s a great fighter and I think that will be a great fight. It’ll be an interesting one to watch and I’ll be keeping an eye on that. She’s definitely got a lot of potential, she’s up and coming and she’s definitely one to watch.
Yeah and I wish her all the best, I know her, I know Carla, I chatted to her on the Internet quite a few times. I’ve got a lot of time for both them, I think they both represent the sport well. So yeah, I’m looking forward to a great fight.”
It feels as though there has been a quite recent seed change in how women’s MMA is viewed. What do you think?
“I think things have been changing, ever since I got it involved in sport. Things have been moving in that direction. I don’t see it so much as a big leap forward, so much as a continuation of that steady progress women have been making.
If you go back to when I started there was no female mixed martial arts in this country, it just didn’t happen. Then you got to a stage where you are having occasional women’s fights here and there. To the point where you had the bigger promotions starting to include women’s fights on the cards. And then the women’s division eventually getting picked up by the UFC.
So there were those points where I think it came to the notice of the rest of the world. People suddenly sat up and said “holy shit! there’s women’s MMA!” and all the sudden it became a big thing.
But I think in terms of the actual progress, it’s all part of a longer process… you know.
I think that is something that’s been going on since I started, well… in 1999 I think. Yeah, I’ve seen that type of change progress all the way through. Yeah and I think it’s great to see.”
“When I got involved in mixed martial arts we weren’t doing it to become fighters. We weren’t doing it to make a career out of it, most of us… there were exceptions. But most people didn’t get into it thinking this is going to become a career, a way of earning a living. Thinking they’re going to become rich and famous through it.
I think nowadays there is a little bit more of that expectation. People look at the UFC, they look at the stars of the UFC and they think I want to be there, I want to do that.
I think to have that to aim for has definitely changed things. And what you see now with women getting involved in the UFC is they do have that to aim for. There’s a real prospect of making a living fighting mma which there never really was before for women.”
With everything up in the air as regards Cage Warriors at the moment. What other avenues are open to female fighters this side of the pond to get noticed?
“It’s a tricky one, I don’t have any insight on the Cage Warriors situation. I know as much as you. But it’s a tough one and it’s always been a tough one for girls this side of the Atlantic. The difficulty is getting picked up by a promotion that’s going to give them the level of opposition they need in order to make a name for themselves. And getting to that point has always been tricky.
So it’ll be interesting to see how things shake down. I think it’s a little too early to start making predictions, or things like that. I’m sure if the opportunities aren’t there with Cage Warriors, other promotions will step up and take that role. But how exactly that is going to work out we’ll all have to wait and see…”
“…Yeah there is a little bit of an unsettled feeling in the women’s mixed martial arts community at the moment. A lot of people aren’t quite sure what’s going to go on. But these things are always cyclical, you always have that boom and bust… As one door closes another door opens and it’s been that way throughout my career.”
With the growth of mixed martial arts across the world it’s going to be more difficult for the female athletes this side of the pond to get into the UFC. It’s a numbers game, would you agree?
“Sure but the flip side of that is… One of the difficulties that women on this side of the Atlantic have had is finding opponents. The problem is when you’re not fighting regularly is hard to build up that record so a promotion will look at you. Now with more women getting involved in the sport there be more options for those women to fight each other, to fight in UK based promotions the same way men do.
Then that will give the women who are serious about it, the ones that rise to the top. That will then give them the opportunity to get noticed. So if anything that’s the thing that’s been lacking, the existence of the division over here that women can stamp their mark on in order to get noticed…”
“…More and more promotions this side will look to introduce women’s divisions and look to promote those divisions. And in fairness my experience with UK mixed martial arts promotions has always been positive about female fighters and female martial arts.
The difficulty has always been having a strong enough division that you can give people regular fights and you can get opponents. And if an opponent drops out you can find a replacement and things like that. That’s where the difficulty has been.”
Do you feel that women’s mixed martial arts will ever be viewed up on the same level as the men’s?
“Again I think it’s very difficult to talk about it becoming the same level as the men’s. There will always be some differences, I mean there are fewer women who take up mixed martial arts than men. Now I’m not sure if that’s ever going to change. It may be that just fewer women are interested in that as a sport and that’s OK.
I’m very much in favor of the opportunities being there for the people who want to do it. But I would never argue that people should get into mixed martial arts, it doesn’t suit everyone. It’s not something that everyone is going to enjoy doing. In the same way that golf doesn’t suit everyone or tennis doesn’t suit everyone, or any other sport…”
“…Now in terms of how women’s mixed martial arts is perceived. Again I’ve seen that change dramatically. I remember the bad old days back on the Internet forums, every time anyone mentioned a female fight. You would have half a dozen guys jump on the thread, to specifically tell you and make sure you knew, just how uninterested they were in women’s mixed martial arts. That always struck me as a bit of an odd thing to do if are not interested in something.
You see a lot less of that, you still see it, it still happens. But not nearly to the degree to used to so you know I think we’re making progress and I think a lot of that has got to do with… I mean the UFC have got a big star there in Ronda Rousey. She has done some impressive things for raising the profile of women’s mixed martial arts.
Now love or hate her, you may not like the way she presents herself or anything like that. But I think the way she plays the media game and attracts attention to women’s mixed martial arts. She has been absolutely fantastic for the sport. And I think in many ways that’s one of the things that has made the UFC is women’s division as successful as it has…”
“…Obviously it’s not a one woman show, there’s an awful lot of women there have been putting in the work over the years to get women’s and mixed martial arts to that point, to allow it to be where it is today.
But yeah I’m cautiously optimistic about which direction the women’s mixed martial arts is taking. Yeah I think there are problems, things to overcome. But I think on the whole, if you look historically the trajectory has been very positive.
So yes there’s always going to be ups and downs with anything. But yeah, I think you got to look back to the early years. Early 2000’s to now, to see how far we’ve come in that time.”
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