· On The Spot ~ Rosi Sexton
For the very first time a female bout will headline a major mixed martial arts promotion in Great Britain; as the pioneer of women’s MMA in Europe, Rosi "The Surgeon" Sexton takes on international superstar Roxanne Modafferi in the main event at Cage Warriors 40 which is to be hosted by the HMV arena in London, England.
Rosi is the antithesis of the "cage fighter" tag portrayed in the gutter press. Here in the U.K. the press can sometimes label practitioners of our great sport as shaven headed, muscle bound, tattoo clad thugs who will fight for scraps inside a zoo cage, whilst a blood thirsty crowd bays for violence.
Rosi couldn’t be farther away from that stereotype as she is not only female, but she is also a sports therapist, osteopath, writer, and a doting mother. Rosi has competed all over the world for some of the more prestigious organizations such as Bodog, Elite XC, and Bellator. She is currently ranked at number three in the world in her weight class—a feat that has not yet been matched by any male hailing from U.K. shores.
Any female looking to get to compete in any form of combat sports should look to Rosi for inspiration. MMA Spot's Jamie Kennedy had the honor of sitting down with Rosi to chat about her influence on U.K. MMA, her pending bout with Roxanne Modafferi and much more.
Kennedy: How excited are you for Cage Warriors 40?
Sexton: I can't wait. This is going to be a great event, and it's a huge fight for me. It's good to be back fighting in the U.K. again, in front of a home crowd, on one of the best shows in Europe, and against a top level opponent. Couldn't ask for more!
Kennedy: You are fighting Roxanne Modafferi in the biggest female fight in European history, how important is this fight to you?
Sexton: This is a great opportunity for me. For the last few years, Roxy has been consistently ranked in the top 10 at 135 pounds, which is the most stacked division in female MMA. She's very highly regarded in the sport, and I'm looking forward to competing against her.
Kennedy: What do you know about Roxanne?
Sexton: I first heard about Roxanne back in 2003, when she beat one of the top fighters around at the time. She's very experienced, is a strong grappler, and has some impressive wins on her record.
Kennedy: Where do you see yourself having the advantage over Roxanne?
Sexton: I know Roxy's been working on her striking, but I think we're both really grapplers at heart. I'd say that this one is going to come down to who has the better wrestling. That's something I'm comfortable with.
Kennedy: Should you defeat Roxanne, what would this mean for your career?
Sexton: I'm not really thinking about that at this stage—I try to just focus on one fight at a time and then see where I am when the dust has settled. Right now, I'm the best fighter that I've ever been, so I'm just going to go out there and enjoy that, because whatever happens, this is going to be one hell of a fight.
Kennedy: Many people, me included, consider you the pioneer of female MMA in Europe. Is this something you are aware of and if so, does it add any pressure?
Sexton: I'm flattered that people see me that way. I feel like I have a lot of support from people within the U.K. MMA community, and that means a lot to me. Yes, perhaps it does add some pressure to perform well, but I do well under pressure.
Kennedy: Things did not go to plan for you in your fight against Zoila Frausto at Bellator 23. Are you keen on getting a rematch against Zoila, and any word on whether or not you will fight for the promotion again?
Sexton: I'd love a rematch with Zoila, and I'm sure it'll happen. I know there are a lot of people queuing up to fight her right now, so I'm happy to wait my turn. There are a lot of other top fighters out there who I'd like to fight too, so I've got plenty to keep me busy!
Kennedy: You have recently just started your own business, can you tell us a bit about that?
Sexton: I qualified as an osteopath last summer, and I've been working part time doing that. It fits in well with the MMA training because it allows me to be quite flexible, and I particularly enjoy working with MMA fighters and other athletes.
Kennedy: In the U.K. the main media outlets still refer to MMA as "cage fighting" and recently I saw the tired tag "human cock-fighting" being used by one of the more "high-brow" broadsheets, how far away is MMA from being considered a legitimate sport in the U.K.?
Sexton: I think it entirely depends on where you look and who you speak to. I think that many more people are aware of MMA as a sport, and there's more understanding of what it involves. There are still occasional sensationalist pieces, but at the same time there's starting to be coverage of MMA from a sporting angle, and there's been some good balanced coverage as well. We've come leaps and bounds in the last few years, and I think that will continue.
Kennedy: For several years now there has been rumor after rumor of a mixed martial arts governing body being formed. Do you believe there is a realistic possibility of there ever being a controlling body, and if so, is there need for one?
Sexton: I think there's definitely the need for a governing body, and MMA in the U.K. would definitely benefit from one. It's going to be difficult to set something up that's going to be supported by all the different organizations, promoters, and fighters, so I don't see it happening soon, but I hope that something along those lines will happen eventually.
Kennedy: You are headlining for one of the most respected MMA promotions in the world, does this do anything to dispell the snobbery that women’s MMA can receive from certain members of the MMA community? Is that attitude slowly becoming a thing of the past?
Sexton: It's a great honor to be asked to headline such a prestigious card. Cage Warriors is making a bold statement, and it's a great step for women's MMA. As an organization Cage Warriors have always been very supportive of female MMA, and in general I think U.K. and European audiences are very accepting of female combat sports in general. If anything, it seems to me that women's MMA has had a harder time gaining acceptance amongst the U.S. community.
Kennedy: For those who are new to women’s MMA, who are the top fighters to watch, in both the U.K. and internationally?
Sexton: There was a time when you could pick a handful of names, but now there are so many good female fighters out there it's difficult to know where to start.
Internationally, Cris Cyborg is obviously one of the best known fighters—she's looking pretty untouchable at 145 pounds at the moment. The Dutch fighter Marloes Coenen is ranked at the top of the 135-pound division, after her win over previously undefeated Sarah Kaufman. Tara LaRosa is another veteran who has beaten many of the top contenders at 135 pounds, before dropping to the 125-pound division. At 115 pounds, Megumi Fujii is one of the top pound-for-pound female fighters. She went 22-0 before losing a controversial split decision to Zoila Frausto in the Bellator tournament finals.
In the U.K., there are some great up and coming female fighters. Simona Soukupova from KO MMA in London is one to watch. As is Emma Watson from Leeds Cage, and I know there are plenty of others.
Kennedy: You have travelled all over the world fighting, where would you say has been the most enjoyable place to compete?
Sexton: I've had lots of great experiences. When I'm traveling to fight, it's not just about the place—often I don't get much of a chance to see that much while I'm there—it's about the people I get to meet, the other fighters and coaches and the buzz of being part of a big show.
I fought for Bodog Fight three times, that was amazing because it was my first real taste of international competition, and it gave me the chance to meet many of the other top female fighters and coaches in the sport for the first time.
Although traveling can be fun, I also really enjoy fighting in the U.K. I love fighting in front of a home crowd, and being able to have my team around to support me.
Kennedy: Do you have any ambitions to fight anywhere in particular?
Sexton: I've always thought that I'd like to fight in Japan at some stage. It all depends on the opportunities that are available though.
Kennedy: What inspired you to first try your hand at mixed martial arts?
Sexton: I'd had an interest in martial arts since being a teenager. I guess I always wondered how I'd do in an actual fight. When I found out about MMA, back in 1999, that seemed like a good way of finding out.
Kennedy: Once your fighting career is over will you stay involved in mixed martial arts or martial arts in general?
Sexton: Definitely. It's shaped my life in a huge way, and I don't think it's something that I could just walk away from. I'd love to get more into coaching and working with fighters, and treating combat sports injuries is a professional interest of mine that I'd like to spend more time doing.
Kennedy: As you stated earlier you’re a grappler at heart and many of your wins have come by way of submission, particularly arm bars; however, you finished your last fight with a TKO stoppage. Which is more satisfying?
Sexton: Both are satisfying in their own way. The thing that made my last win particularly sweet for me is that I felt as though it showed a change in me as a fighter. Over the last couple of years I've been working hard to develop in different areas and to become a better, more well-rounded fighter. I felt like I was able to show some of that the last time out.
Kennedy: Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
Sexton: There are lots of people I should credit here, and it's difficult to give a single answer.
I'm going to say Pete Irving. I started training with him a couple of years ago, and I remember him saying to me 'you're not bad, but you're nowhere near as good as you could be.' That got my attention. Since I started working with him, I've become a whole different kind of fighter.
Paul Rimmer and the guys at Next Generation have also been absolutely crucial in getting me to the level I need to be at, and I wouldn't be half the fighter I am without all their help and support.
Kennedy: Does your family support your career of choice?
Sexton: My parents are very supportive, although I get the feeling they'd be much happier if I was playing a nice, safe, civilized sport like tennis! Ha ha!
Kennedy: Away from fighting what do you do to relax?
Sexton: I don't get a lot of downtime, and most of that I try to spend with Matt, my boyfriend, and my son Luis. I usually end up just relaxing on the sofa watching something on TV after a training session.
Kennedy: Which other fights on the Cage Warriors 40 card are you most looking forward to?
Sexton: I'm looking forward to seeing Paul McVeigh fight, Arni Isaksson always puts on a great fight too. Honestly though, I don't think there's a bad fight on that card.
Kennedy: Is there anything else you would like to mention?
Sexton: I just want to say a bunch of 'thank yous.' There are so many people who've helped me out, I can't name everyone, but you know who you are. I couldn't do what I do without your support.
All my coaches. Paul Rimmer, Danny Withington and Pete Irving have put a lot of time and effort into getting me ready for this fight. Matt Olson, my long suffering significant other for improving my wrestling, letting me drag him down to the gym to drill stuff for hours on end and putting up with me when I'm cutting weight. Ollie Richardson at Fighterstrength for taking care of my strength and conditioning program. All my teammates and training partners at Next Generation and everyone else who's helped me to train for this fight.
My management - Graham [Boylan] and Ian [Dean] at Cage Warriors—who are amazing.
My sponsors - PhD Nutrition, Rival Boxing and MMA Gear.