On March 7th and 8th over 1,400 grapplers hit the mats at the Arnold 2009 World Grappling Championship in Columbus, Ohio. Among all those competitors was a little lady by the name of Christina Sears. As part of PRO MMA’s (promma.info) “Grappling Spotlight”, we wanted to introduce our readers to this remarkable young lady. At only four-foot-eleven and right around one-hundred pounds, do not tell her she is too small or too weak to do anything. It all started with her wrestling in high school and now she is placing at the NAGA Championships. By the way, she probably bench presses more than you…no joke. PRO MMA proudly introduces, Christina Sears:

PRO MMA: Hi, Christina. How did you get into BJJ and what is you grappling background?
CHRISTINA: I actually started wrestling in my second year of high school. I’ll admit my first two years were the worst, I was too small and I couldn’t put any of the techniques together.  A new coach who took over felt the women’s wrestling team was a waste of time and a distraction and cut it off. I was furious. I worked with a guy who started jiu jitsu and I went with him to a class. Mark Simon at Hamilton School of Martial Arts (HSMA) noticed I had some wrestling talent and suggested I come to the grappling class. So I did, and I ended up falling in love with it.

PRO MMA: Where have you trained?
CHRISTINA: HSMA gave me the basic tools I needed to better my skills. After five years at HSMA I met some great people in MMA and started training at Cutting Edge MMA in Caledonia (not to far from me). The coach over there, Bryan Edge, is a small statured guy who is very technical. I fell in love with him as a coach and his gym and the guys I was training with. They stepped up my skill level another few notches. I train at HSMA once a week and Cutting Edge 2x’s a week just to mix it up a bit. I also started strength & conditioning training with Adam Morden of Steel City Crossfit. He put me through workouts that would literally break me, break me into tears, break me mentally, and just simply break me. But it prepared me mentally and physically for competition. I also started training with Simon Marini a talented MMA Fighter at 155lbs division, who is also a talented personal trainer. He put me through my heavy lifting and my sports specific training. 

PRO MMA:  How does your family feel about your grappling and competitions?
CHRISTINA:  In high school I didn’t tell my mom I went from basketball to wrestling, she would have lost her lid. I eased her into it by telling her I had a “tournament” at a high school. When she walked in I suspect she thought she was in the wrong place when she saw mats instead of basketballs. I ran up to her and made her watch me compete, now she loves it. It’s a high for her to have me on the mat competing. She’s driven me to every practice, was at every tourney and was great when it came time for my brother or I to cut weight. Then when I got into jiu jitsu she was a bit worried because there is more at risk but she still went to every tournament which was harder for her to watch because I was always out-weighed but she now says “you’re sore? Too bad, deal with it, it’s part of the game.” Ha-Ha! My dad didn’t mind the wrestling but when he found out about the jiu jitsu he too was worried, but they are both quite supportive, as are my brothers.

PRO MMA: Now I saw some video of you lifting weights and was amazed at the amount you were lifting for your size. How much do you usually work out with and how much has weight training helped in your grappling?
CHRISTINA: Well, at first we tested to see just how strong I was, with me training with men all the time and competing with heavier women and never having the advantage of someone my size, Simon figured I was a lot stronger then what I look so he tested those waters. He put me on this lifting program that seemed to work for him and he drove me to do what he knew I could do and never accepted “I can’t, I’m too small.” I started out with the weight all women should be able to lift which is 65 pounds, and I would do squat, dead lift, strict press, floor press. I did run into some injuries, I sprained my back which put a damper on my heavy lifting pretty much all together for about 4 weeks. Then four or five months after that I bulged a disk in my neck and was out for 4 weeks with that too. But now I’m making an effort to stay on track and work my way back I’m lifting 150lbs for my squats, Strict Press 70lbs, Floor Pressing 90lbs. With my back healing still we are working with low weight for my dead lift and doing a lot of reps and eventually I will work my way back to 115lbs and continue to get stronger.

PRO MMA: How long have you been competing at NAGA?
CHRISTINA: This was my second time competing in a Naga competition. Two years ago I competed I was 98lbs and was bumped into a heavy weight division because there was no women, of course I was too small and lost my first bout and was eliminated. So I figured this year with putting on 15 pounds, and all this new training I was doing it was time to test it out, and I was lucky to have someone my size and someone bigger to work with this year.

PRO MMA: After I saw you lifting those weights and then I started watching the video of your competition, I felt sorry for your opponent. Do you think you surprise people with your strength?
CHRISTINA: I think I might have surprised them, I almost always have people come up to me after grappling matches and stuff in disbelief I can even hold my own in there with some of the women, and now I don’t look any bigger unless I have a short sleeve shirt on or something but for the most part I’m not thick and butch and I think with me being 4’11 my look is very deceiving which is fine by me. Even in training a lot of the guys notice a difference, and it just means I’m progressing nicely. I don’t let it get to my head, I know I still have a lot of work to do.

PRO MMA: You got second place at the Arnold’s. How many matches did you have and what class were you in?
CHRISTINA: There were four women in the 119.9 and under advanced no gi (including me). So they just paired us up I think maybe by height or something. My first match was against a girl who wrestled, has done bjj, and is into judo, I knew she was going to be a good go. But in the same sense I’ve done all of those as well so I knew I would be able to give her a good go. We circled it was weird I’ve never fought anyone my size or my height before so I felt like I wasn’t low enough, maybe wouldn’t be quick enough. She shot in and I sprawled pretty hard because I’m use to the guys just driving for that take down and right away I went for a front choke (like my coach does to me when my head is down) she tripped me and I managed to get a tighter grip for that guillotine choke and reclose my guard and ended up submitting her in the first thirty or so seconds. I shocked myself honestly. I was shocked about how strong I felt.

PRO MMA: What went down in the finals?
CHRISTINA: The second girl was a beast and cut weight to get into the small division, she was pretty cut and thick so I knew she was going to be a tank. For the first two minutes we stood up both of us trying to find our grips neither one of us backing off, our heads were grinding into each other and finally I saw an opening for a take down and I thought go for broke and I went for it, I got her leg however her weight over-powered my shot and I turned over and she was in my side mount, eventually easily making her way to mount. From there I was trying to lift her off without being caught she was pretty strong, but I slipped up and she tapped me with an arm bar. Even though she was strong I was fairly confident in myself and I wasn’t tired and I felt great. I knew I could go head to head with her, which is why I went for the take down. I had a lot of respect for all the women who competed all of them came to compete and were in great great shape and it was an honor.

PRO MMA: Why do you think the other girl won in the finals?
CHRISTINA: I think she won because she deserved it, she trained hard came in shape, she was probably the heaviest out of the rest of us which played a huge factor for her, and she showed me what I need to work on so I’m going to take that and work on it and use it to get better. I would rather submit to a perfectly executed technique like hers then something sloppy and forced you know? She had skill and she showed it and I respect her and hope to see her out again next year.

PRO MMA: How do you feel about MMA?
CHRISTINA: I think MMA is a very demanding sport, since doing my MMA reporting I’ve really got an inside look at what goes into training for a fight. Its not all glory and TV time, like Frank Trigg once said it’s a working man’s sport. One minute you can be the next big thing the next you can be on smaller shows just trying to work your way back up. I don’t think people appreciate what goes into it and would much rather hide behind a screen or in a crowd and criticize fighters about what they should have done or could be doing better.

PRO MMA: Do you train any MMA? Have you or do you plan to compete in MMA?
CHRISTINA: I have been training MMA with Bryan at Cutting Edge, but with being fresh out of college and working and everything else trying to get my career started I don’t have enough time to put into my boxing and Thai boxing right now. I do work the ground stuff and what not though all the time so when I’m ready and my coaches feel I’m ready I wouldn’t mind stepping into the cage. It’s another step in this sport and I mean I love the sport so much why not test out the waters? Maybe down the road it might happen.

PRO MMA: What’s next for Ms. Christina Sears who wears so many hats?
CHRISTINA: Well, I’m going to continue training, and getting faster and stronger and better, I know I still need a lot of work and I’m pretty interested to see what happens. I also am doing a lot of MMA reporting, trying to get my name out there, get known, because I’m eventually going to try and start up my own production studio. I want to do promo DVD’s, documentaries, highlight reels, weddings, anniversaries, etc. I love editing, its another passion I have, maybe go back to school and become a teacher down the road somewhere who knows… There is so much I want to do and I’m only 24 so I have a lot of time on my hands!!!

Video of Christina Sears at the Arnold’s NAGA

Video of Christina Sears weight training

To read Christina’s training blog and how she trains on a regular basis as well as a complete account of her experience at the Arnold’s NAGA, check out her website at www.ladyjag.wordpress.com. She also does some MMA writing / reporting at www.christinasears.com, so check that out as well. She has a really good in-depth recent interview with Michael Bisping on there. 

By:  Jack Bratcher

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