By Denny “The Mad One” Hodge

Widely regarded as the #1 female fighter in the world, Tara LaRosa has paved the way for other women fighters and helped propel women’s MMA to a whole new level.

Tara is still with the AFL and with her latest fight just recently being canceled, she is setting her sites on the FILA World Grappling Championship and the possibility of submission grappling being added to the Olympics in the near future.

Tara took some time out to talk with on her beginnings in the sport, what a women’s The Ultimate Fighter would be like, and how she thinks a fight would go against Christiane “Cyborg” Santos:  Thanks for taking some time to talk with us Tara.  Let’s talk about your athletic background.  I know that you played basketball and field hockey growing up.  What is your favorite sport outside of MMA?

Tara LaRosa-  Outside of MMA definitely has to be field hockey.  I played for 12 years, and I started in 5th grade, played in high school, and got a college scholarship to go to Catawba down in North Carolina; they are a division II school.  I played all 4 years of my NCAA eligibility.  It was pretty much my life before MMA.  We just had our alumni game, the first Catawba College field hockey alumni game a couple of weeks ago.  That was awesome, that was so much fun.  I got to see my teammates you know, all the girls I went to college with, it was cool.  I had the only assist! We had one goal, so I was pretty excited about that.  How does that work with you participating in sports outside of MMA? Is there anything in your contract with the AFL that addresses this?

Tara LaRosa-  Yeah, it’s with my management.  They kind of don’t like me doing things outside of MMA.  I really have to fight with them to do grappling tournaments…  With your recent fight being canceled, you are heading overseas for a pretty big event.  Tell us a little about what is next for you.

Tara LaRosa-  Oh yes, absolutely!  On December 17th, I’m heading to  Lucerne, Switzerland, for the FILA World Grappling Championship.  They are actually trying to incorporate submission grappling into the Olympics.  Maybe in 2012 or 2016.  What they need to do is get all the different countries on board with it, get them organized, set up a federation, and get teams together so they can do this.  I think the minimum number of countries that a sport has to have to be considered for the Olympic games is 77.  Last year was the first year that they did it, they had like 9 or 12 countries that participated, but this year there was 55.  We are really optimistic about that, and they are just trying to iron out the rules, and get it regulated, so that they can do this.  This year I’ll be competing at 121, which is really light for me because I fight at 135, so I cut a little bit of weight for that.  I’m walking around in the low 130’s, so it’s not that big of a drop.  How crazy would it be to compete for the USA and go for the Gold in the Olympics?

Tara LaRosa-  That’s my dream.  That’s what I’m working toward.  They had originally said 2016, and I was like “shit I’m going to be like 38 years old, that’s kind of getting up there”, but when they said we might be looking at 2012 , I was really excited about that, I’d be like 34 and that’s fine.  When it comes to grappling which do you prefer gi, or no gi?

Tara LaRosa-  No gi!  Definitely.  I came up in the gi, but there is nothing like no gi… It’s so much faster.  We were really looking forward to your fight that got canceled.  How is it to train for a fight, go through a camp, only to find that a fight is off?

Tara LaRosa-  It was pretty shitty.  It wasn’t as bad because I was only about 2 weeks into my camp. The thing was, I actually started my camp down in North Carolina.  So, I’m paying for a rental car, I’m paying for a hotel, I’m paying to eat, and I’m traveling around to the schools.  That’s what sucks.  I’ve actually kept the momentum going, I’m doing 2 a days, I’m just doing my thing… I’ve just kind of restructured it a bit.  You just really never know when something is going to come up.  Maybe a fight is going to come up in a month, or some other opportunity.  Most athletes acknowledge that music is a big part of their lives whether they are relaxing, training, or working.  I know that you have a wide-ranging taste in music.  How does music fit into your life?

Tara LaRosa-  Actually music is like a huge part of my life.  It’s probably the biggest part of my life.  It really reflects the mood that I’m in and I can definitely change my mood by listening to music.  When I’m training I love to listen to Linkin Park.  Especially if I’m running long distance, or cutting weight, Linkin Park is definitely my very favorite.  Outside of that I like Rap, hip-hop, alternative, country, rock.  Everything from Britney Spears, to P. Diddy, to Brad Paisley.  I’m even actually into classic music.  What type of Martial Arts did you start with, and how did you transition into MMA?

Tara LaRosa-  Well I’ve always been into Martial Arts.  I was like a super fan of Jean Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, Steven Seagal, and all the 80’s Martial Arts flicks.  I always wanted to get into Karate, or fighting, or something as a kid but my parents never let me.  With sports I never had time, and then my senior year I got into trouble and got put on probation in high school and couldn’t play basketball.  My cousin had a karate dojo, and I had to do something, I had to stay active because I’ve always played sports.  I started Shotokan karate, and actually that was my beginning when I was 17.  When I went to college, I got into Judo and I would compete for  Catawba in the Judo club, when I competed in tournaments, or collegiate nationals.  I actually competed in Judo for 5 or 6 years.  I’d also go to a place in Charlotte and train there.  That is where I found no gi.  It was just traditional jiu jitsu, it wasn’t BJJ, or submission grappling, it was more Japanese style old school jiu jitsu.  At just a random tournament, these people were talking to me about the guard, and clinch, and NHB, and I was like “That sounds cool”.  They invited me to train with them in Tennessee.  I started training with them, they were awesome, they were like brothers to me.  Then at a grappling tournament,  I met up with team ROC, and from there that’s were I started training formally in jiu jitsu, muay thai, and MMA.  When you first started, did you ever think that women’s MMA would get as big as it has today?

Tara LaRosa-  I knew it was small, and it would definitely grow and get better.  I didn’t know if it would ever go mainstream because, karate, tae kwan do, kickboxing and actually muay thai never really hit mainstream.  Martial arts had kind of always been there.  People know about them, but they’ve never been like “the next biggest thing in the world”.  I always figured it would be like a cult following type of thing.  I just did it because I loved it.  I wanted to try to make a living off of it, but I didn’t think I’d be able to make a living from fighting.  I figured I’d eventually have to open my own place, or run my own show, or something like that.  I never thought I’d be able to make a living just from fighting.  With ratings falling in the latest seasons of TUF, how successful do you think a Women’s Ultimate fighter show would do on TV?

Tara LaRosa-  I think it would be huge.  I think it would absolutely smoke every other season in the ratings, by far.  I guess Dana and Zuffa have some reservations about women fighting.  What are you going to do, I guess we’re going to have to keep plugging along, and  maybe eventually they will maybe wise up to it or whatever they have to do.  If you lock 16 women up in a house by themselves with each other, with no TV, no nothing, no phone, no internet, you’re going to possibly have to rename that “Homicide: Life in the Cage”.  They would kill each other!  It seems that Dana respects women’s MMA, but is more concerned about the depth of talent available to have multiple divisions in a major organization like the UFC-

Tara LaRosa-  Not enough women yeah I know… I honestly don’t think he or Joe Silva have done enough or any research on exactly how many women are really out there. I don’t think they’ve actually sat down  and tried to see how many good women they could come up with, how many good pro women fighters in what divisions, what division has the most… I don’t think they’ve sat and watched any tapes of a lot of the women that fight that are NOT Gina.  I think they just don’t know, it’s lack of knowledge, that’s it.  They’re still stuck on thinking there is maybe 3 or 4 women that can fight and that’s it.  Speaking of Gina, everybody wants to see this fight with you, and with EliteXC folding, do you think we may see this matchup in the near future?

Tara LaRosa-  It could happen, it could definitely happen.  You never know. Crazier shit has happened.  So maybe, who knows.  We’ll see where everything goes from here.  It sucks that EliteXC went down, I guess we‘re all just waiting around with baited breath to see who the next big up and comer is going to be.  Is it going to be Affliction, somebody new,  somebody old that comes back into play.  Who knows, I’m just waiting to see what’s up.  Another fight we would love to see is Tara vs. “Cyborg”.  How do you think this fight would end up?

Tara LaRosa-  Dangerous fight!!  I’d be trying to take the fight down, and she would probably like to keep it on the feet. We’d have to see who has got a better transition game.  Is her sprawl-n-brawl  going to beat out my wrestling and takedowns?  That’s where that fight would be won or lost.  Who could impose their will, or who could impose their game plan on the other.  If I couldn’t get her down… it could be a painful night.  My standup is coming along OK… I’m not going to say it’s my strong point, it’s definitely not, but I’m alright I can hold my own, I’m fine.  If it gets to the ground, I think I can handle it…  I think I could take it.  There were a lot of rumors and speculation about how big your AFL contract really was.  How important is the money aspect of MMA to you?

Tara LaRosa-  I’ve competed for $300 before.  So you can’t say I do it for the money.  I don’t think you can say that about anybody, honestly.  We’ve all had to start out really low.  When you start out in the sport you do it because you love it, not because you want to be a superstar, or because you are going to be super hot shit and get paid right off the bat.  I mean we can’t all be Brock Lesnar or Kimbo Slice.  I can definitely pay my bills now, which is huge.  There has also been a lot of talk that women’s MMA has taken such a hit, and everybody has closed down now, so your going to have to drop your price and go back to fighting for 2003 wages.  Nope, I’m not… I’m not going backwards.  I worked too hard.  If I do that, then everybody else is going to go backwards too.  If I’m the top paid person, then, people should strive to be paid as well as I am.  We should still work to get up there, we’re still valuable.  There are still small promotions that can pay out.  If they want you bad enough, you work your way to the top, and you make enough noise, then they will pay you.  There is no reason to go back to fighting for a $100.  I know there is going to be a lot of under cutting going on.  Same way with the men.  I’ve got my price and that’s how it is.  I’m not fighting for a t-shirt and a hotel room anymore, and I don’t think that anybody else should either.  Most fans argue daily over who is the best P4P fighter in the world, and it usually comes down to Fedor vs. Anderson Silva.  What is your opinion on who is the best?

Tara LaRosa-  I don’t know, I’m just one of the best.  Another one of the best in the world is a guy you train with in Philly… Eddie Alvarez.  Do you guys get to tangle at the gym often?

Tara LaRosa-  We mix it up.  We have a good time in there.  Eddie likes to wrist lock me, he thinks that’s funny!  He gets a kick out of that because he knows it pisses me off so bad.  That’s kind of like a running joke.  We get to mix it up.  We got a good group of guys over there.  I really enjoy training here, it’s a lot of fun.  If the opportunity presented itself, could you see yourself in the UFC, if things changed with Zuffa and Dana?

Tara LaRosa-  Yeah sure.  Talk to my manager.  That’s all I have to say.  Yeah, the AFL is cool.  They are open to promoting with other people and lending out their fighters and stuff like that, so I don’t see why not.  We would just have to work things out so both sides are happy that’s all.  Just like with any of the promotions.  I have nothing against Dana or the UFC.  Dana cracks me up, I think he’s funny as hell.  With the WEC losing some of their bigger weight divisions, it seems that they would be a perfect place to add some women’s divisions.

Tara LaRosa-  I happen to agree 100% with you.  I think that the WEC would even be a better place for women than the UFC.  Since it is smaller weight fighters, faster paced fights, it’s just an overall different atmosphere, it’s  kind of a different show.  I think that would be a great place to tell you the truth, definitely.  When it comes to rules, how do you feel about the two, 3-minute rounds that we got used to seeing in EliteXC?

Tara LaRosa-  The time limit should be 5 minute rounds for men and for women.  I don’t know where this 3 minute crap came from, and that’s exactly what it is… crap.   That’s not the sport.  The sport is a lot more dynamic, there is a lot more things that go into it.  People like to try to compare it to boxing, but boxing is so one dimensional.  All you have to do is throw hands and knock your opponent stupid.  That’s great and everything but, there is a lot more to us.  You got the boxing aspect, you got the Muay Thai, with the kicking and the clinch, the elbows, the knees.  You got the wrestling aspect, the ground game, whether it be GNP, whether you are a jiu jitsu artist.  All of that takes a lot more time to put together than just standing there and punching some dope in the head.  That’s why I think our rounds need to be longer, regardless of whether it’s men or women.  I don’t know where this came from…  Honestly I think it was Gary Shaw putting the 3 minute rounds on for women because, maybe he is chauvinistic,  he thinks women can’t handle it, that we are these dainty little flowers, we can’t handle five minutes… They are the ones that did that, and others kind of followed suit.  A lot of people blamed it on the CSAC which is complete shit too because there is nothing in their rules that say that women’s MMA has to be 3 minute rounds.  It is up to the promoter entirely, so there is nothing in the rules for the athletic commission in any state to say that it’s limited to 3 minutes or 2 minutes or anything like that.  Do you ever get on the internet and hit the forums like Sherdog or The underground?

Tara LaRosa-  Sherdog is… no I don’t go to Sherdog.  I read The Underground from time to time.  There is some real assholes on there.  I do read it from time to time.  I do, I‘m one of these people that like to see what’s going on in the sport, what people are saying about it, what people think.  I try to stay in touch with that, instead of cordoning myself off and just being the stuck up pro fighter that doesn’t care, or take into consideration what the fans think, or feel, or want.  Thanks for spending time with  Are there any shoutouts you’d like send out, or sponsors to thank?

Tara LaRosa-  I want to think my team- Philadelphia Fight Factory.   My strength and conditioning coach Zack, Steve Haigh, Ricky Lee, Team ROC, and Aitor “Spenser” Canup.  My training partners Brandon Gardner and Rusty Cook, and Greg Thompson one of my instructors.  I have to think my management for sure.. .NCFC, Matt Stansell, Jeff Clark, they‘re the best ever in the whole world.  I have to thank my family for sticking by me!

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