Roxanne Modafferi isn't a household name in the US. She might not even be a household name in Japan, unless you are in her English class. Modafferi pays the bills as one of the world's top female MMA fighters by teaching English in Japan. She trains at the gym that has produced names like Caol Uno, Yushin Okami and K-Taro Nakamura.
She doesn't stop there. "In order to expand my horizons as a fighter, this year I've started visiting big brother Hiroyuki Abe's AACC morning class, and have been taking lessons with Former King of Pancrase Kiuma Kunioku. They are both fantastic coaches," Modafferi said.
Modafferi's record stands at 13-4. Most of her wins coming by outworking her opponent in a decision. She has only been finished once in a fight, by submission, and has never been knocked out.
Modafferi has always been athletic. Born on September 24, 1982, in Wilmington, Delaware she took up Tae Kwon Do at age 13 and moved on to Kempo and Judo in high school. By college she was training in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai.
When she saw her first UFC on TV, she admits it wasn't something she thought she would do and actually thought it was scary. But as more students who she trained with took up fighting, she decided to accept the ultimate challenge and become a professional fighter.
"Everyone always asks me why I fight," Modafferi says. "I used to try to think of some philosophical answer, but it's really just fun. It's also the ultimate challenge for your strength, technique, and your heart. You really meet yourself for the first time on your journey into the ring or cage."
When asked when her next fight is, she responds, "I wish I knew."
Such is the case for talented women in the sport of MMA.
Modafferi is analytical in her views of women's mixed martial arts. She believes the casual fan still isn't interested in seeing women beat each other up. Hardcore fans recognize the talent and professionalism of top level female fighters and look for matchups in larger organizations. Other female pros are all scrambling with their resumes, trying to get big fights. Some matchups have been good and some have been bad, like the recent Cyborg vs. Akano debacle.
"We have the responsibility of not only representing ourselves, but representing all female fighting in general," Modafferi said.
Modafferi loves her job as an English teacher in Japan, but admits that if she lived in the US, she might get more chances to fight. It is hard for US-based promoters to fly a top level female fighter in from Japan. In Japan, she has difficulty finding women her level and size to compete against.
Being a female fighter is full of disappointment. Modafferi was supposed to face Tara LaRosa in the AFL/Iron Heart Crown Event in Chicago, but the fight was canceled on two weeks notice.
"I feel like I'm standing on an island waving my arms, screaming, ‘Notice me!’ MMA is crazy because it's like a job you can't do even when you want to. And the better resume you have, the less likely you are to be chosen."
However, Modafferi has found a way to deal with the disappointment: "Ice cream!"
When she is away from the gym, Modafferi catches up on some of the top US shows like 24, Heroes, and Prison Break. She also enjoys reading, keeping up with her blogs, and trying new foods.
"Last week I ate barracuda," Modafferi said.
She has also been called a ninja when it comes to Dance Dance Revolution, and proudly boasts that she can do nine-step expert songs. That could really be considered training footwork!
Modaferri draws inspiration from her new coach, Kiuma Kunioku. She had lost the fire to fight until she started working with him and now admits she is dreaming of punch-kick combos. She also admires Aaron Riley's never-die fighting spirit and thinks Matt Serra is the man, both in terms of skill and personally.
Like all fighters, Roxanne has her rituals. Before a fight, she will enjoy eggs and pancakes while watching some classic Dragon Ball Z, and post-fight she enjoys a chocolate milkshake.
Tara LaRosa was Modafferi's toughest opponent to date.
"I'll never forget her physical strength, and how she mounted me for most of the third round when we fought in MFC in 2006,” Modafferi said. “Next time we fight, I'm going to show her what it feels like."
It could be a great rematch in the making. Modafferi is currently in talks with StrikeForce and is hoping for the best.
If you have any questions or comments for Jacob, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jacob Nuesser is a certified Jeet Kune Do instructor and trains at Hackneys Combat and FLO MMA. He is also the co-founder of FIGHT CHIX Apparel.