Last week, Cage Warriors released a promo video for Joanne Calderwood that was entitled “You don’t have to be loud to be heard” (it’s embedded at the foot of this article – have a watch, it’s really good) and it couldn’t be a more apropos tribute to Joanne’s growing appeal.
On the one hand, there is the Muay Thai world champion with a growing reputation for making other MMA fighters striking look pedestrian, the undefeated fighter who finds it hard to get matches because no one fancies being on the wrong side of a highlight reel KO, who’s six pro wins have come against opposition who came into their fights with a combined record of 21-7.
On the other hand, is the quiet and unassuming Scots lass who seems genuinely awed and a little embarrassed by all the attention. Who talks softly, is consistently reminded by her team mates that she has to take the bins at the gym out and clearly has both feet squarely on the ground.
Isn’t that refreshing?
MMA is a sport full of big personalities, of loud and abrasive trash talkers, of folks who dance and pose and scream.
Jo doesn’t do that. She looks almost scared on her walk in, focused in the cage and relieved when its over. She’ll never start a trash talk war, and when one comes her way, she’ll tend to respond with honest opinion based on her opponent’s record.
Whenever she’s onscreen, you get a palpable sense that her greatest internal wish was that everyone wasn’t looking at her.
When we interviewed Jo in Deecmber, she explained that her regular use of the hashtag #happyfeet on Twitter was a reminder to stay humble, like the character Mumble from the animated film.
In a sport full of braggarts, in a society full of folks obsessed with swag and an ‘all eyes on us’ aesthetic such humility is a breath of fresh air.
Jo’s relationship with her partner, teammate and coach James Doolan – a man who in true Scots style will not use ten words when one will do – only adds to this.
Following Jo’s victory on Saturday, the pair had a brief moment in the cage – made all the more poignant by his galling loss earlier in the evening – of touching (not showy) affection and in her next-day message to fans on Facebook she talked more of being concerned for him and thanking him for being cage side despite being hurt earlier in the night, than she did about yet another win over a more experienced fighter.
No crowing, no bragging, no jumping up and screaming. Just sincere gratitude, and a concern for those close to her.
It is for this character, along with her quite breathtaking skills, that I truly believe that Joanne will be Scotland’s breakout mixed martial artist, in the same way that Conor McGregor has been for Ireland and Alexander Gustafsson has for Sweden.
I couldn’t be prouder that my country will be represented by such a competitor. One who shatters preconceptions of what a ‘cage fighter’ should act like. Who talks softly, yet indisputably carries considerable martial skill in place of the aphorism’s big stick.
Your nation stands behind you Jo. We know you’ll make us even prouder than we already are.