Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a combat sport whose diverse move sets draw from several individual martial arts, giving the sport its name. While 2006 UFC Hall of Fame inductee Randy Couture adapted boxing and Greco-Roman wrestling for the octagon, and current women’s superstar Ronda Rousey is a former Olympic gold medalist in Judo, the sport is built around a series of takedowns and pins designed to force opponents to submit matches. Sherice Griffiths is a film director and MMA fighter, who spoke to us about her experiences in the sport.
How long have you been training in MMA?
I’ve been training for MMA for about two years off and on. I train Boxing, Kickboxing and Brazilian Jujitsu and occasionally do a combined class ‘MMA’ which is where you mix all of them together.
Where do you currently train?
I train with Legends MMA team in staines but I have been to a few different gyms depending on where I am.
What is your training regimen like?
Training varies weekly; I used to train very heavily, 5 times a week around 3 hours a day. Since our gym was burnt down in an industrial fire it’s meant having to train around twice a week due to not having a permanent venue. In between this I try to go to the gym and work on my cardio and weights to stay in shape. I also do a bit of boxing at home using some pads when I get home in the evenings.
Have there been any obstacles that have affected your training?
The main obstacle has been the fire and not having a stable gym that has the proper equipment. The other obstacle is working full time in London. This has meant lots of turning up late and reduced time to train as it’s hard to get back in time to make a class. Our gym used to be open full time and be open late, which meant that we could just drop in when we finished work and there would always be something to do. Now it’s very strict times at our local leisure centre which means if we miss it, that’s it. Finding a balance is very difficult when you have to work.
What do you do when you’re not training?
I’m a filmmaker as well as a martial artist which means I have a lot of projects on the go. One of the things I love most is filming MMA events; I regularly film MMA Showdown which is a big event my coach runs every few months. I cover all of the fights and edit them for his YouTube channel.
How often do you compete in MMA?
I regularly competed in MMA every few months to build my skills and abilities. I fought in my first official cage fight in March 2014 and would love the opportunity to do it again when I have the facilities to do a proper training camp.
Which fight has been the most challenging for you and why?
My first cage fight was the most challenging fight. This was challenging because I was still very new to the sport and had a desire to step into the cage as soon as I got the chance. It was hard because there’s a lot of things to consider before you even think about stepping into the cage. I found the weight cutting process very hard, I love to eat, so this was a very depressing time for me! It’s also challenging because you always want to train more, and wish you could have just had longer to prepare. I think every fighter feels like that before a fight but its such a rewarding experience. I didn’t win, but I felt amazing after the experience.
Any favourite moments during training or fighting?
My favourite moment was during my first BJJ [Brazilian jiu-jitsu] tournament. I won my first fight based on points, I was so shocked at winning I couldn’t believe it when they raised my hand in the air. It was a great feeling. I think any moment when you are recognised for getting something right in BJJ especially is a great moment. It’s a very hard sport so when you do well, you can’t help but celebrate.
Have you ever quit or considered quitting? Why/why not?
I don’t think I could ever quit MMA. It’s hard to find time, and it’s not the best situating regarding irregular gym housing, but it’s part of who I am.
Would you say you’re addicted to training? If so, what is it that you find so addictive?
I would say so yes. I love it, it gives you a huge rush when you train. I found MMA when I was in quite a dark place in my life. I was hurting and angry and I needed an outlet. It wasn’t long before I was hitting the gym every day to get my fix from training. What I love about it is that you have to be there in the moment. You have to focus on what you’re body and mind are doing. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had a bad day, you’re defending you’re striking you’re living in the moment. How could you not get addicted to that feeling?
While MMA, and combat sports in general, are presented to the public as predominantly, and even inherently, male occupations, the success of Rousey has placed a woman in the media spotlight of the sport. Her undefeated record in matches, and personal interest in the typically non-sporty fields of Pokémon and World of Warcraft, has made her into a favourite for existing UFC fans and a thoroughly human beacon for newcomers to the sport to flock to. While men still dominate the sport, this is a change Griffiths wants to see continue.
What advice would you give to the women who are new to MMA or are interested in starting?
I’d say the best thing to do is just go and try it. It can be really scary walking into a gym for the first time if you’re a girl. But the truth is they don’t care if you’re a girl they’ll treat you the same. Believe me you don’t get any special treatment. It’s such an empowering sport that I think all women should try it at least once. I introduced some of my friends (who are girls) to it and they have all really enjoyed it. It’s a great way to get in shape and just build your confidence.
How can we get more women into MMA or martial arts in general?
I think it’s a case of just showing the world how many women are already doing it. Martial arts have always been seen as quite a male thing to do but that’s just not true. With such athletes like Ronda Rousey advocating the sport women have already started to get more and more involved. I think Ronda is a great role model even if some people don’t like her. She is a prime example of how powerful women can be, to the point where she probably could wipe the floor with most of the mens’ divisions in the UFC. She doesn’t give up and doesn’t let anyone tell her she can’t do something.
Interview by Christel Dee; introduction by James Patrick Casey
London – 2015