On Saturday June 15th, Rosi Sexton will become the first British woman to compete in the UFC when she steps into the Octagon to face ranked Canadian fighter Alexis Davis at UFC 161 in Winnipeg.
Carrying a 12-2 record, Sexton has long been the figurehead of WMM in Britain, dominating local talent while also facing and often defeating high profile foreign stars, such as Carina Damm and Roxanne Modafferi.
Her only losses have come to the then-dominant and much larger Gina Carano 2006 and to Zoila Frausto (when then went onto win the Bellator 125lb title tournament) in 2010.
She is currently riding a three fight win streak, most recently defeating Aisling Daly by decision in June last year at Cage Warriors 47 in Dublin.
Outside the cage, Rosi is a osteopath for the Combat Sorts Clinic, holds three degrees (in osteopathy, theoretical computer science and mathematics) and is a key figure in the SAFE MMA organisation which is changing MMA in Britain for the better.
An intelligent and articulate individual, we regard Rosi as one of the best role models out there for MMA (women’s or otherwise) and we also tend to be quite interested in the regular, non MMA related things she talks about on Twitter and her blog.
As such we are very grateful that she gracefully agreed to take a few minutes from her fight camp and day job to speak to us, and here is what she had to say…
– How long have you been involved in MMA, where did you start, what was your first discipline and what compelled you to take up martial arts?
I first started training MMA in 2000, after I saw a documentary about it on TV. I’d been involved in other martial arts before that – I first started out in Taekwon-do when I was about 14. I think I was originally interested in studying martial arts for self defence, but my reasons for doing it have changed over the years. When I got involved in MMA, it was because I saw it as an interesting challenge.
– You’re the first British female to fight in the UFC. What does it mean for women in general and yourself in particular to finally make it to the biggest show?
I think it’s a huge step for women to have the opportunity to fight in the UFC. I think this has the potential to inspire a whole new generation of female fighters, and encourage women who just want to get involved in the sport.
For me, personally, it’s a privilege to have the opportunity to compete on the biggest stage, and to be involved in women’s MMA at this time in history.
– You’ve had a long and successful career, facing some of the very best in WMMA and fighting on both sides of the Atlantic. What’s your career highlight to date?
I’ve had several fights that are very memorable, for different reasons. I think my all round best performance was against Aisling Daly in my last fight. I think we brought the best out in each other.
– You fought twice for Bellator in 2009-2010. Given the recent controversies about that promotion, specifically regarding fighter relations, do you have any comment on what it’s like to be a Bellator fighter?
I can’t speak for anyone else, but my own personal relations with them were always amicable.
– You’ve fought and won six times under the Cage Warriors banner, including at their very first show back in 2002. Where do you feel that promotion sits in the global MMA picture?
I think Cagewarriors are doing great things for MMA in Europe. They are really raising the standard, both with the fights they put on and also with their professionalism. I think they are without doubt Europe’s number one MMA promotion.
– Sheila Gaff twice pulled out of scheduled CWFC fights with you, and you were very vocal about your suspicions of her pulling out to avoid VADA drug testing. Do you believe that measures such as random, out of competition drug testing should be implemented across MMA?
I don’t want to say any more about that particular situation. But yes, I believe that random, out of competition drug testing should be used in MMA. I understand that this isn’t necessarily an easy thing to implement, but I believe it’s important for fighter safety and the integrity of the sport.
– You are an osteopath by trade. How does being a medical professional sit with a career as a mixed martial artist?
The two fit together very nicely! A lot of the work I do is with fighters and other people involved in combat sports and martial arts. Because I’m well known in the area, a lot of the local clubs send me people on a regular basis. I get a lot of satisfaction from being able to help people get back to doing the sport they love. I think having a knowledge of anatomy and how the body works also helps me as a fighter.
– Alongside several medical figures and some of the most influential figures in UKMMA, you’ve been involved in the SAFE MMA initiative. Are you encouraged by how that is going?
I think it’s made fantastic progress. There were naturally some teething problems in the beginning, but things have been ironed out and improved and more promotions are signing up to get involved. I’m really positive about it – I think it’s a great thing for UK MMA.
– Do you think MMA would benefit from a unified global governing body, such as the IOC or FIFA and do you believe such a thing is possible in the short to medium term?
Yes, I do. I don’t think it’s going to happen overnight, but I’m optimistic that we’ll get there eventually.
– On Twitter, you are very vocal about many issues, ranging from government policy to religion but unlike many on social media, you always remain respectful and informed. How important is it that people discuss ideas in civilised terms?
I think trying to discuss anything in uncivilised terms is pointless! Nobody learns anything from a shouting match.
– So far, your interactions with your next opponent Alexis Davis, have likewise been very civilised with the closest thing to ‘proper’ trash talk, coming via your self deprecating translation of one of her interviews in your blog. You’ve also asked if there should be a ‘technical trash talk committee.’ Do you think the trash talk of fighters like Chael Sonnen or the Diaz brothers goes too far?
I think MMA needs different characters. If we were all the same, it would be boring. Fighters like Sonnen generate a lot of interest – love him or hate him, people care, because he’s a big character.
For me, I think it’s important to stay true to myself. I’m never going to be a Sonnen or a Rousey – that’s not my style. I don’t think the way other people go about things is wrong – it’s just a question of personality.
– You are competing at a higher weight class than usual for your next match. How does that affect your fight camp, and do you think size will be a disadvantage in the bout?
As far as training goes, it’s been fantastic, because I’ve actually been able to eat properly to fuel my training sessions. That’s made a big difference!
As for the fight itself – we’re going to have to wait and see. There’s no doubt that I’m at the small end of the division, but on the positive side, it means I’m not going to be drained from a weight cut.
– Both yourself & Davis are known as very technical fighters with the majority of your wins by submission. How do you see the fight playing out?
I honestly don’t know. There’s a few different ways this fight could go – I’m looking forward to finding out!
– There have been several cases in recent weeks of managers and journalists trying to exploit or making unprofessional approaches to female fighters. In your view, how widespread is this issue and has it improved or worsened with the increased profile of WMMA.
It’s hard to say how widespread this sort of thing is. I think it’s important for fighters in general to be cautious about who they choose to deal with – it’s easy to get taken advantage of. Not everyone who’s involved in MMA is there for the right reasons. I’m fortunate to have a great group of people looking after me, who I can completely trust. I think that’s really important for anyone in this sport.
– Recently, you tweeted that a local karate dojo had been at your door trying to recruit you. Is it more funny, or frustrating that your relative star power in MMA doesn’t transfer over to the mainstream, even related combat sports in your local area?
I just found the situation amusing. To be honest, I’ve no particular desire to be famous. It’s nice to be appreciated by people within the sport for what I do, but I don’t envy celebrities with all the attention they get. If anything, I often feel a bit awkward when people randomly recognise me.
– What would you say to any kids considering taking up MMA?
The only good reason to get involved in MMA is because you love the sport. Never do it for money, or attention, or to prove something to other people. Surround yourself with good people who will give you good advice, even if it’s not what you want to hear, and work hard.
Last of all, a shout out to your sponsors, gym etc.
I train at Next Generation Liverpool. Paul Rimmer is the evil genius behind all this, and I also work with Peter Irving. I do my strength and conditioning at Strength and Performance gym in Stockport with Sean Keefe and Zoran Dubaic; and Steve Campbell (Stealth BJJ) helps with my jiu-jitsu.
Aynsley Fry (top notch sports osteopath) and Tim Budd from Global Therapies have been invaluable in helping to keep me in one piece during this training camp.
My official sponsors for the event are Torque MMA gear (@Torque1net), FeartheFighter.com (@Fearthefighter) and Revgear (@revgear), whose support is very much appreciated.
PhD Nutrition have looked after and supported me for the last 6 years of my career through all the ups and downs. Thanks also to funkygums gumshields.
My manager, Graham Boylan, of Intensiti Fighter Management has been fantastic, and none of this would have happened without his hard work.
(I’m sure I’ve managed to miss some people I should have mentioned, if I have – sincere apologies, please send me an angry message!)
We’d like to thank Rosi again for speaking to us, and we’d ask you all to give her a follow on Twitter @RosiSexton and her WordPress blog at http://rosisexton.wordpress.com/ It would be pretty neat if we could get #TeamRosi trending to show our support before she steps into the cage and makes history.