For those of you active in the social media realms you might have noticed a large movement towards female involvement in the sport of MMA. I have always been a firm believer in equality in the fighting sports and very happy to see this. In my experience at Muaythai World Champs, the females divisions are often more hotly contested as they are required to develop more skill and technique as they cannot rely on simply strength alone.There seems to be 2 names out there in South Africa really pushing for their rightful places as females competing in the sport and looking for equality, I have decided to interview them and possibly help them on their quest.
First off is Kerry-Anna Mathieson from South African Women’s MMA. Kerry-Anna is a full time BJJ and MMA athlete at Rio Grappling Club Springs. She has dedicated her time to creating a platform for Female MMA athletes and competitors in SA via the SAWMMA facebook page and twitter account. She is very dedicated to the sport and compete in BJJ tournaments whenever she can. She the current FILA SA Submission Grappling Champion in GI and NOGI. She won the African Abu Dhabi WPJJC trials in 2012 and won Silver at worlds hosted in Abu Dhabi later that year. She trains in Muay Thai, Kickboxing, BJJ and wresting.
Hi Kerry-Anne. Firstly just want to thank you for your time today in answering some of my question. To start off how did you get into Martial Arts & more specifically MMA?
My, lets call it intrigue, started in early 2010 when I first saw the Carano vs Cyborg fight that happend in August the year before. There were some men fights on the card that I wasn’t really interested in. Enter main event, Gina and Cris Santos, I was taken aback with how tough these ladies were and still are. Obviously knew nothing about MMA at the time other than the resounding need to do it. Some time passed and my need and initial love subsided but did not all together disappear. In early 2011 I saw a post Francois Groenewald put up on Facebook, advertising ladies MMA classes, after much nagging on his part I eventually made my way into Rio Grappling Club in Springs. Turns out there was one lady doing MMA and it was combined with the mens classes. I stuck it out and my focus swayed more towards BJJ which still today remains my passion. Jp Kruger has been doing the Muay Thai classes at Rio for some time, so I guess you could say I have had equal exposure to both the stand up arts and groundwork. My intention in the back of my mind has always been to fight MMA, the problem up until now was the lack of competitors.
What is it about the MMA that you enjoy so much that are so involved?
I don’t know what it is about MMA that I love so much to be honest, I can’t say it’s the glam or fame or any of that because MMA in this country has seen some shoddy shows, from fighters warming up by candlelight and fighting in broken cages etc. Yet I was still there wishing I was fighting that night. I think if I really examine my love for it, it would probably be the fact that there are so many ways a fight could go, the nerves, the build up to weigh in, the training, the desperation at times. I guess its safe to say it’s everything about MMA that I love, and when women put in as much hard work and training as what men do, fight like a superstars in the cage, what’s not to love?
You are running the South African Women’s MMA Twitter and Facebook accounts. What is this all about? How did it all start & what is your plan for all of it?
Sheer frustration drove me to start the SAWMMA revolution. One hears of Female fights happening in more than one promotion in South Africa, but they don’t seem to effectively market these ladies. It’s like quantum physics, you know it happens but where and how, know what I mean? This is the problem I’ve faced as an MMA athlete and especially now that I have managed to locate some female fighters. They are boasting tremendous MMA records like 5-4 (Nuraan Noordien) and 4-2 (Andrea Hill), how did this happen without all of us MMA fans knowing? I can only put it down to the fact that there has not been a platform such as this in WMMA in South Africa as yet. It was time and I made it happen.
My SAWMMA ideal is to grow the need for WMMA. When people start to appreciate WMMA like I do, see that its not just a phantom sport, that it is happening for real, more women will inescapably feel the need to train and fight.
Seeing as MMA is still small in South Africa and we are generally quite a conservative country, how do you see the growth of females involvement in the sport? Is there space for it?
MMA in SA I think maybe isn’t getting the credit it needs, yes in in relativity compared to the US it is small, but compare it to the likes of Australia, I think we are very close. EFC Africa has given the sport an excellent platform in which to grow successfully. It is however the fans and amateurs that make the sport, we are the ones that have the horses reins albeit a pony at the moment, we know what direction we want to go and are headed straight for it. Likewise is WMMA, I started the page with the hopes of getting a couple likes here and there and maybe one or two women coming forward. The response to the proposed Women’s MMA in South Africa has far surpassed what I ever expected, it has made me realise that there is a definite need for women in the sport and SA MMA fans most certainly have space for it in there hearts however conservative they may be.
Locally and internationally who are some of the females you look up to?
Obviously everyone loves Ronda, she has done what women have only dreamed of doing. For me personally though, Liz Carmouche standing up to Ronda and almost finishing her in her UFC debut makes me a huge fan. Others like Bec Hyatt, Rose Namajunas, Alexis Davis, Felice Herrig and Tecia Torres have me watching reruns of Inivicta FC over and over.
In your view, what is needed to grow the sport of MMA in the female community, both from a spectator’s perspective and an athlete’s.
There is most certainly a demand for WMMA, the biggest hurdle we face at the moment is getting women to commit to MMA, in order for that to happen we need to find female friendly gyms and promotions that can nurture the sport for us. Creating a database of ladies like I have so far is what I think needed to be done to get this in effect. Ultimately we need to see the WMMA fights happen and when they do, I hope that the media coverage is good enough to encourage other women to do it.
Do you find the gym environment intimidating considering the general macho ego that is often associated with the gym environment? If not currently, at least when you first started out? If so, how would you as a female prefer your male counterparts to act towards you to make feel more comfortable and welcome?
It is extremely intimidating and I think this is the first reason why a potential WMMA would walk in and straight out again. For me its not and wasn’t really intimidating, Francois did a great job of welcoming me in and giving me more than what was necessary in terms of private lessons and acclimatising me to the sport. My love for BJJ and MMA overrode any awkward feelings I might have had at the time.
It is extremely hard for me to train like I want to, either guys underestimate you and you get nothing out of the training or they go all testo on you and feel the need to display their dominance because they have ego issues and couldn’t bare to lose to a girl. So as far as difficulties go it remains that there are so few women involved in the sport. So until we have copious WMMA’s in my gym I wish my men counterparts wouldn’t willy nilly around me and make excuses not to roll with me or spar with me.
What advice would you give ladies wanting to start out in MMA or any Martial Arts for that matter?
Commitment is key. You do not become a master of the art in 3 months. If you do, you’re in the wrong martial art. It’s hard work, but very rewarding and being able to submit guys bigger and stronger than you is just an awesome feeling.
Weight cutting in general is a big subject in combat sports, many do not realise the damage one does to one’s body in the process if not done correctly. This for females is often even harder, especially if they are on their monthly cycle when they hold extra water amongst other hormonal changes. How do you deal with this issue if it is an issue in your view?
I don’t think that hormonal changes should be an issue with regards to weight cuts. I’m reminded of an interview with Ronda Rousey where the reporter asked her if she felt she was at an advantage with regards to cutting weight because her boobs were smaller than some of her opponents. Cutting weight is a science and should be practiced in controlled environments. You get to learn how your body works and what to do and what to avoid when cutting weight. Its all apart of rolling with the punches in my opinion. Besides if it were an issue, I’d at least take comfort in that my opponent is probably experiencing similar issues. For me, I have successfully cut weight in the past for international competitions and will continue to do so for my upcoming fights.
Anything you would like to add?
Thanks for taking the time to chat to me, I’m pleased that my SAWMMA page is grabbing due attention.