I would like to thank Roxanne Modafferi & the good people over at the Ultimate Fighting Championship to agreeing to write this weekly blog for Mass-MMA.com. We hope this blog enhances your viewing experience on Wednesday night’s and the insight of a Team Tate member. Thanks again & enjoy!
When my teammate first asked me, “Are you going to TUF tryouts?” I thought he was joking. Then another fan on Twitter has asked the same thing. When my shocked brain comprehended that the UFC was actually having females on TUF, I begged the boss of my English school for the time off. Surprisingly getting it, I quickly dropped a thousand dollars plus change on a plane ticket from Tokyo to Las Vegas. I enjoyed being reunited with old friends, foes-turned-friends, and potential opponents.
As fate would have it, I was honored to be selected to actually compete for the show. Bless my supervisor and manager for giving me a month’s time off for my “training camp.” It’s true, though – it was a training camp! I only told the truth to my mom, my head coach, and one of my best friends before disappearing into the chaos and secrecy of The Ultimate Fighter season 18.
We were secluded to our hotel rooms at first- luckily, I had the final volume of The Wheel of Time to keep me company. I texted Tara occasionally, read a ton, and tried to deal with the immense amount of anxiety, which I’d never experienced before. Even before my Strikeforce title fight against Sarah Kaufman I didn’t feel so anxious. Everything was on the line. Getting into TUF would mean a resurgence of my faltering career. My winning streak was broken by the infamous powerbomb slam (which is like one of the first things that comes up when you google my name! Nooooo! ). My record spiraled downward with unsuccessful cuts to 125 lbs against top athletes in that weight division.
I HAD to win my elimination fight. It embodied the very essence of my dream and ultimate goal- to fight in the UFC someday. After ten years of fighting and double that of training, my body is feeling the wear and tear, so I knew this might be my last chance. I might not have time to slowly climb the ranks as a younger fighter might. It was also very important to me to show my coach that I could do what he taught me. I had joined Groundslam over one years ago. Katsumura-san and BJ Kojima-san especially taught me a lot.
After weigh-ins, I found out I was fighting Valerie Letourneaux. Tara LaRosa and I conducted stealthy ninja-like research, by making notes of who was at interviews and doctors checks at TUF tryouts. Then, we compared notes via Facebook once we got home, after looking everybody up. We hadn’t been able to get much info about her, except that she trained at GSP’s gym.
I was happy to have Brian Caraway in my corner. I had met him once when he came to Japan for UFC Japan (and fought one of my training partners Mizugaki, but we won’t go there). But I felt comfortable with him there. Once the fight started, I felt more experienced than I ever have before in a fight. Brian’s coaching helped, and I after a tussle, managed to take her back and got the choke. I have been focusing on rear naked choke lately, and variations of them, one being my hissatsu waza (finisher move). I’m thrilled to have gotten it.
The win rejuvenated my self-confidence as a fighter – yes, I do belong in the cage – and I knew I won the most important fight of my life. I was so happy.
I wasn’t able to see everyone else’s fight, except for Tara vs Sarah. Before the match-ups, we all were looking forward to getting into the house together. It was a shame one of them had to lose. I honestly thought it was even and should have gone to a third round. I was friends with Sarah before actually meeting her at tryouts, and Tara was an old friend and former opponent. Her loss crushed me. But that’s the world of MMA. We fighters step on other people’s dreams to reach our own. We have to recognize that and appreciate it. That’s why it’s important to respect your opponents.
I was very inspired by Dana’s speech. “Sometimes you wake up, and you don’t feel on. But make sure you leave everything in the cage.” I was also honored to be picked by Miesha. I like Ronda a lot, so I would have been happy on either team.
My adventures were just beginning.