Rosi Sexton breaks the stereotypes of what the casual fan expects a top woman’s MMA star should be, Rosi is tough as nails, but she’s quite shy and describes herself as a geek, she’s a beautiful woman but won’t exploit it to gain fans or matches and probably the smartest woman in MMA.
Rosi Sexton owns a doctorate in the math sciences from the prestigious Cambridge University and not being satisfied she’s currently three-fifths of the way through earning a degree in osteopathy. Currently she owns a 9-1 record with her only defeat coming to Gina Carano. Carano incidentally came into the fight over the 135lbs limit.
I had the privilege of chatting with Ms. Sexton about her life and her career let’s have a look.
Rory Gold: I have to admit, while I was while I was researching your background I was so caught up in your doctorate, your other educational pursuits and the fact you are doing it all while raising a young son I forgot I was writing an MMA article.
Honestly, I’m amazed at how you balance it all, do you have any secrets you can let me in on.
Rosi Sexton: I’m still looking for the secrets myself! When I figure it out, I’ll let you know! My life seems like chaos most of the time—there are always things that don’t get done, but somehow it all seems to work out.
I think the key is that I spend a lot of time working things out in my head—so if I’m driving or cooking, or even just walking along I’ll be running through takedown counters in my head, or thinking about the patient I’m writing my case study on, listening to a lecture or going through a bit of revision for an exam.
That extra thinking time really helps.
Rory Gold: What was it like growing up, were you a tough kid?
Rosi Sexton: My parents live near Reading. I had a pretty “normal” sort of childhood—if anything; I was a bit of a geek at school. I definitely wasn’t what you’d think of as a “tough kid.”
Rory Gold: You live and train in Manchester now, so let me get this question out of the way first, who do you support, Man City or Man U?
Rosi Sexton: I have to say, I don’t really follow football that much. I enjoy watching a good match occasionally, but I don’t have a favorite team. If I was forced at gunpoint to take sides, I’d go with Man City.
Rory Gold: You received your Doctorate in Math Science, that alone would satisfy most people but you are back in school taking a four-year course in osteopathy. What degree do you plan on pursuing next?
Rosi Sexton: I was thinking of becoming a fighter pilot and taking up brain surgery!
Seriously though, after this degree I’m done with university! Osteopathy is something I love with a passion—I’ve finally found what I want to do when I’m done fighting. I’m particularly keen to work with sportspeople and fighters in particular.
I don’t think I’ll ever stop wanting to learn new things though. I like to have something to focus on, and I love the feeling of being able to do something that I couldn’t do yesterday!
Rory Gold: That’s a fantastic attitude.
Rory Gold: After reading previous interviews and chatting with you in the past, you come across as a genuine and I hate to say it like this, a sweet girl. What drives you to get into the ring and fight? What did mom think?
Rosi Sexton: I got into it through martial arts. I first started taekwondo when I was 13, and then moved on to Japanese jiu jitsu when I went to university. Around the time I was going for my black belt, I had a bit of a crisis of confidence.
I felt like a bit of a fraud because, although I’d been spending all this time doing martial arts but I’d never actually been in anything resembling a real fight. I had no idea whether I’d be able to handle that or not.
That was when I first saw a documentary about Mixed Martial Arts on TV; I knew straight away that it was something I wanted to do. At first my plan was to have a couple of fights, just to prove to myself I could do it, and then get on with my life.
I was doing my doctorate at the time, and I just assumed I was going to find myself a job sat behind a desk somewhere.
As it turned out, I got hooked on the MMA and here I am! It still seems strange to me sometimes, like a dream. I keep wondering when I’m going to wake up and find that I’m really a bored 30-something management consultant!
I didn’t tell my parents about the MMA for a long time. They knew I did martial arts, but I didn’t show them exactly what kind of martial arts! Then they looked me up on the Internet, which was probably not the best introduction to what I do! They’ve been very supportive, although I’m sure they’d prefer it if I had a more conventional career!
Rory Gold: You prefer to fight at 125lbs but you’ve fought at 135lbs and against a woman who weighed in well over 135lbs. Is fighting at 135lbs something you plan to do again?
Rosi Sexton: I think 135 is definitely too big for me. I walk around at about 130 when I’m in shape, and at 135 you have girls who are cutting down from 145 or 150 lbs. If I was to change weight class, it would more likely be a drop to 115 than a move up.
I fought at 130 against Debi Purcell though and given the right opportunity it’s something I might consider again. There are a few of the lighter 135 lb-ers such as Roxanne Modafferi and Amanda Buckner who I think would be great to fight.
Rory Gold: You’ve never missed weight, while some other big names in the women’s fight game have. Can you take us through your training regiment?
Rosi Sexton: My training is slightly different for each fight. It depends on who I’m fighting, what my game plan is for that fight, what weight it’s at and what’s going on in my life at the time.
The thing with being a single parent to a small child is that everything is constantly changing as he gets older. Just when you have a routine all worked out, it all shifts again.
He started school recently, which forced me to completely rethink my timetable, but I think the schedule I currently have is working really well for me. I’m feeling really positive about what I’m doing right now.
As far as cutting weight goes, that’s something I take seriously. I think making weight is part of your obligation as a professional fighter. I don’t often have to cut a lot of weight, but when I do (Rosi will be cutting to make 120 lbs for Bellator) then I have a set plan that I stick to with targets to make.
My nutrition is important, and when I’m training hard, supplements form an important part of that. I’m lucky to be sponsored by PhD Nutrition (phd-supplements.com) who takes care of that side of things for me.
Rory Gold: You have a background in Tae Kwon Do, you train in BJJ and your boxing skills are solid, is there an area of your skills that you tend to lean on or fall back on when the fight isn’t going your way?
Rosi Sexton: I used to think of myself mainly as a grappler. In previous fights, I’ve been much more comfortable on the ground than on my feet. I think that in the last few years though, that’s changed. I’ve started to become a much more all round fighter.
Rory Gold: It was announced this week that you will be on an upcoming Bellator Fighting Championship show, can you tell us when your first fight will be and against who?
Rosi Sexton: Bellator have just announced that I’m fighting Jessica Aguilar on 19 June; I think that’s their season finale. I was due to fight her on their first event, but she had to pull out with an injury. Now it’s back on and I think it’ll be a great fight.
Rory Gold: Can you give us your insight on Jessica as a fighter and without giving away any secrets how will you prepare for this fight? Will preparing for her be different than other fighters?
Rosi Sexton: Jessica Aguilar trains with American Top Team. I met her when we were both in Vancouver together with Bodog, and I liked her. She’s a talented fighter with lots of heart.
I think this is going to be a great fight. I think her biggest strength is her grappling—as is mine, so I think there’s potential for this to turn into a fast technical ground battle.
I do prepare slightly differently for each fighter. Of course, the fundamentals are always the same, but we also look at how their strengths and weaknesses match up against mine, and how we can take advantage of that.
Of course, no fighter is the same from one fight to the next, so we’re always working with old information. That’s why it’s important for any plan to be flexible.
Rory Gold: Who are the fighters that you feel you have to beat in order to prove you are the “No. 1 ranked fighter at 125lbs?
Rosi Sexton: I think I’m already ranked No. 1 at 125 lbs. There are a couple of big fights I’d like. Tara LaRosa has been dropping to 125 recently, and I think that could be a great fight. Megumi Fujii has also fought at 125, although I think her best weight is 115. That would be another exciting fight for me.
Rory Gold: I would love to see you and Tara square off, I’m sure it would be a fantastic fight.
Rory Gold: Woman’s MMA is starting to gain acceptance among North American Audience with BodogFight promoting women during their run, Strikeforce and now Bellator both put women on their cards. How do you compare the North American MMA Fans to the British fans?
Rosi Sexton: MMA is better known in the US than it is in the UK – although it’s growing rapidly here, the US is still a few years ahead. That means the audience is slightly different. In the UK I think there’s probably a higher proportion of “hard core” MMA fans—people who really understand and train in the sport.
I think that makes it easier for women’s MMA to gain acceptance. Generally the most educated fans, and people who train and fight themselves seem very receptive to female MMA. The limiting factor in the UK has been the number of female fighters.
At SBG we have a great women’s team—we might have two or three world class fighters and several talented up and comers on the mat at any one time—but we struggle to get opponents!
Rory Gold: You put on an entertaining fight every time out, I loved the Debbie Purcell fight, you made Carina Damm tap-out and before the Windy Tomomi fight ended pre-maturely it was one of the best shows on the card. Is that something you go into the ring/cage looking to do, entertain?
Rosi Sexton: Thanks! I think as fighters we have to realize that this is a form of entertainment as well as a sport, and that being exciting is important as well as winning fights.
Having said that, I don’t think about “entertaining the crowd”—I think about finishing the fight. If a fighter gets in the cage with good cardio, good skills, intensity and an intention not just to win, but to finish the opponent, then that in itself makes for an exciting fight.
Rory Gold: What has been your favorite of your nine wins so far?
Rosi Sexton: The one that I’m most proud of is my Cagewarriors title fight against Dina van den Hooven from Holland. It was my first fight back after having a baby—my son was seven months old at the time, so preparing for it was a huge challenge.
It was important to me to prove to myself that I could still compete, still be an athlete as well as a mother. It was a tough fight, at the time Dina was tearing up the European grappling circuit and she’d just knocked out the girl who beat Cyborg.
I think a lot of people were writing me off in that fight—it was a great feeling to get back in there and show what I could do in front of a home crowd.
Rory Gold: We’ve seen with Gina Carano and Kyra Gracie, and some other women in the sport using sex appeal to promote themselves, you’re obviously a beautiful woman, yet you haven’t followed their lead. Is it something you have considered to boost your popularity? Have you ever felt pressure from promoters to play up that angle?
Rosi Sexton: It’s a tricky one. On the one hand, I’ve become more aware of the importance of how I present myself—after all, we’re in the entertainment business, and if we want to get paid, then we need people to want to watch us.
At the same time, I don’t want to turn myself into something that I’m not. I do this sport because it’s something I love, and because I want to find out how good I can be. Being popular is helpful for getting fights, but at the end of the day, I’m not here to be a celebrity or a model.
I don’t think promoters put pressure on us directly to present ourselves in a particular way, but often there’s a sense that the women who do, get the better opportunities and purses.
That’s natural I guess—it’s a business after all but it’s a shame in some ways because I think it detracts from the integrity of the sport. I can think of fantastic female fighters who have been overlooked because they don’t have the right image. That’s a huge waste of talent.
Rory Gold: Thank you and very well said. I think it’s a fair assessment that Women’s MMA will not match the popularity of the Men’s among the general public but what do you think is the best-case scenario for Women’s MMA?
Rosi Sexton: I would like to see women’s MMA become integrated with men’s MMA. In the same way that you have multiple weight classes in men’s MMA and each weight class brings something different and is entertaining in a different way.
What’s starting to happen is that many events are looking to add one or maybe two female fights to a card. I think that’s the way forwards—if we can get female weight divisions represented in some of the larger organizations, opening up opportunities for women to compete on a bigger stage.
I think Strikeforce are doing good things with the heavier weight classes—135 and 145.
Hopefully they will eventually come to their senses and start using five-minute rounds instead of threes for the women! It’s early days for Bellator, but they seem to be moving in the right direction.
Rory Gold: Rosi, you seem like a woman that is never satisfied to just be, you’re a Mother, a doctor, you’ve been a MMA Champion, what’s next in the list of accomplishments for Rosi Sexton?
Rosi Sexton: I’m just focused on getting through the next six weeks! I’m fighting Jessica Aguilar on June 19, and then I’ve got exams to pass a week later! After that...we’ll see what comes up.
Rory Gold: Thanks Rosi it was a pleasure, best of luck against Jessica Aguilar. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Rosi Sexton: I’d just like to add a thanks to (coach) Karl Tanswell and all my training partners at SBG Manchester (http://www.sbguk.co.uk/). I honestly believe we have one of the best female teams anywhere in the world, and having them to push me makes all the difference.
Thanks for reading