From the Land of the Rising Sun: A talk with Roxanne Modafferi, a PRO MMA exclusive

Times are changing for women’s mixed martial arts.

It’s rare enough to see a woman’s fight headlining a show at any level in MMA, and yet this weekend we get to see just that, with Strikeforce stepping up to the plate with multiple title fights on their big August 15th card, anchored by the main event between Gina Carano, and Chris “Cyborg” Santos.

One of MMA’s top female fighters, Roxanne Modafferi (13-4-0) knows the significance of the bout first hand.

“I think this is huge for women’s MMA because the general public is now exposed to high-level professional women fighters.” Modafferi told PRO MMA (promma.info)

“I hope it’s a good exciting back-and-forth fight which will prove to many skeptics that not only can women fight, but that we aren’t delicate dolls that will break.”

Women are constantly battling those exact stereotypes every time they step into a ring or cage to engage in combat.

“We are not only fighting our opponents, but fighting for a place, or position, in this sport.” Modafferi said.

A self proclaimed “mat rat”, a young Modafferi participated and excelled in multiple martial art disciplines, starting with Taekwondo, then moving to Kempo, judo, and then jiu jitsu.

As her love for grappling and competing grew, Modafferi dreamed of being the first woman to fight in the UFC. Although the UFC has not embraced and added a woman’s division at this time, organizations such as Strikeforce and Bellator are raising the bar with exposure for the women.

Roxanne has stepped into the cage and battled MMA stars such as Tara LaRosa (17-1-0) and Shayna Baszler (9-6-0), boasting a 13-4 record as a pro fighter, but has yet to fight in 2009 due to limited opportunities for her to showcase her skills in the ring or cage.

A loss to Baszler has served as a constant motivating factor in Modafferi’s career, but Baszler is just one of the fighters on her list.

“I’m chomping at the bit to avenge myself.” Modafferi said. “I also want to rematch Tara Larosa, and I want to fight Amanda Buckner (11-5-1) and Sarah Kaufman (10-0-0).”

Most of the female fighters are cordial or even friendly outside of the cage or ring, and Modafferi counts many of the other fighters as friends.

“I’m friendly with most other female fighters, to be honest.” Modafferi told PRO MMA (promma.info). “I chat with Tara LaRosa on the phone sometimes, even while plotting how I’m gonna kick her butt someday. I’m sure she’s thinking the same thing. It’s great!”

As women’s MMA continues to garner much praise, and ever growing popularity in the U.S., the support for the ladies has come at a far slower pace overseas and in particular, in Japan.

Roxanne contributes this issue to one of culture, and although the sport has been around longer in Japan, women’s MMA is growing at a far faster pace in the U.S. then abroad.

Japan is slightly behind with stereotypes for women compared to the West.” Modafferi told PRO MMA (promma.info). “Cute and girlie is in, as opposed to the impression I get in the States, where MMA is sporty and cool.”

Cultural differences aside, the fact that Modafferi resides full time in Japan presents geographical challenges to her being signed to a major organization such as Strikeforce, or just fighting in the U.S. at all.

The situation is worsened by the fact that it is very common for male fighters from Japan to get fights in the U.S. with little or no issue at all, which frustrates Modafferi in her quest to show the world what she is capable of.

“I feel so isolated here in Japan and want to tear my hair out when promotions fly in other fighters but not me.”

Although there have been talks of Modafferi possibly landing at Strikeforce, nothing is definitive at this time, as to where and when she will be fighting next.

Despite the challenges of finding fights, the alternative of moving back to the states, really isn’t an option for Modafferi with her career as an English teacher in Japan.

With the exploding growth and popularity of social sites, Modafferi is a consistent participant on many sites and regularly interacts on forums and sites such as mma.tv, and fightergirls.com, in addition to her Myspace account (username roxyfighter), and Facebook page.

Being an American in Japan brings it’s own social issues, and although her linguistic studies at UMASS prepared her somewhat for living in Japan, there is nothing like being an American living abroad… especially when you are a female professional mixed martial artist.

“Often the Japanese can’t understand why I behave in certain ways, and I’m looked at critically for it.” Modafferi said.

“But nobody tells me directly, so I never know. It’s like ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do, but we’re not going to tell you how to behave like a Roman.’” Modafferi said. “I have to guess.”

Being in Japan for several years to pursue her career both in and out of the cage has required sacrifices for the young fighter, including missing her parents, holidays, honey mustard and the occasional turkey.

Despite the challenges that lay in front of her, as a fighter living in Japan, Modafferi is staying where she is, and is determined to show the world what she is made up at the highest levels of MMA.

Roxanne would like to send the following thanks to the fans:

“Thanks to my manager Shu Hirata for his hard work, to the fightlinker.com guys for all the support and publicity, and all my friends on myspace to post nice comments on my blog. And to you fans who are reading this! Thank you!!!”

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