Beautiful and deadly, the UFC’s strawweight champ talks you through her road to success.
What type of fighter are you?
I feel like I’m a complete MMA fighter because I love jiu-jitsu and wrestling, and I like to put it all together in one sport. I keep proving I’m the best striker, but I still want to learn. There are so many world or European champions in jiu-jitsu or judo or wrestling – I don’t have to be focused on jiu-jitsu or judo anymore because I’m the champion. It means I have to keep on proving that I’m simply the best and this is the goal. What’s difficult is that your opponents are watching every day. They have time to prepare for you, so I have to keep them surprised.
What have martial arts taught you?
I started martial arts when I was 16 because I wanted to lose weight and become stronger. I was strong mentally and had character, but after a few weeks of training, I fell in love. You go there, learn about yourself, reach the limit and break it. Life problems become small. You learn this from different sports, but martial arts are the hardest. Every day I get to the point where I think “I cannot do more.” In the middle of a fight camp, I’m like: “It’s a test”. You can stop, or break your f**king limits. This is what I like.
In MMA, there are so many girls from different life structures – poor kids and rich ladies training together and having fun. Just because you’re training doesn’t mean you must be a professional athlete. I didn’t expect to be a professional athlete. I felt 14 years ago I found my life’s way – it was my talent. I hope other women feel the same way.
What’s the biggest misconception in martial arts?
If you train in martial arts, it doesn’t mean you put the gloves on and beat each other. You can work on your body but, most importantly, you can work on your mind and get to know yourself better than before.
What’s your secret to success?
I like to listen to the coaches. When I hear: “Hey Joanna, you want to take a break?” I’m like, “Coach, it’s up to you”. We focus on what we can do better every session, and I prefer someone who’s hard on me, as I’m hard on myself every day. Even though I’ve been in this business for 14 years, I still like to have a big boss over me.
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