Interview with female MMA fighter Jen Aniano
Name: Jen “Tink” Aniano
Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Height: 5′ 0″
Weight: 115 lbs.
Family: Single with a Boston terrier named Jake, a pit bull named Casey, and a bearded dragon named Willis.
How long have you been training in mixed martial art?
Started wrestling at 15, MMA 2.5 years ago and jiu-jitsu 8 months.
What weight class do you compete in?
I walk around at 115lbs. Amateur I take match-ups mostly much bigger than me. When I turn pro within the next year or so I will be fighting at 105lbs. I am waiting to finish my intensive masters program at UofM before I go pro.
Where do you currently train?
Self Defense Academy of Michigan under Motor City Boxing and Jamel’s Jiu-Jitsu Academy.
What’s an average week’s training schedule for you, including any other type of training you do? (CrossFit, other martial arts, etc.)?
I just started my masters in June; however, when I am training full time I am in the gym 6 days a week. A typical Mon/Wed is BJJ 6-7 MMA 7-9:30. A typical Tues/Thurs is BJJ 7-9. A typical Friday MMA 6-9. Typical Sat is BJJ from 10-12 MMA from 1:30-4. Since I am now living in Ann Arbor and I am in class 9 hours a day I am taking a hiatus from BJJ and concentrating on MMA. I am at the gym Mon/Wed/Fri/Sat. Tues/Thurs/Sun I do rounds in my apartment alternating 5 min on a stationary bike, 5 min ground and pound rounds, 5 min shadow boxing, 5 minutes on a heavy bag, 5 min with resistance bands. I basically do that until I cannot stand it any longer. As you can imagine I do not entertain at my apartment as my living area is pretty much a gym with a tv.
Who influences you most in your training?
My trainer Dom O’grady. He shaped me. I have a wrestling background. Other than that I owe him everything I have accomplished. He is a brilliant fighter and I respect him and trust his training unconditionally.
Have you ever quit or considered quitting? Why/why not?
I have had a bad few weeks. I lost a fight I should not have lost and did not deserve to lose. And I grappled like I left my brain at home this weekend. The last few weeks have been a big adjustment period in my personal life as far as school and some other stuff that has gone on. But I am at this point where I am searching deep to find out what I really want and need. After I lost for a second a thought maybe I was not cut out for this. But then I realized I was born to do it. I could not live without MMA and without my teammates. I love this sport it is my life. I have never quite anything before and I do not ever plan on quitting. As that saying goes “I am a wrestler and I will reap what I sew.”
Would you describe yourself as addicted to training? If yes, what about it is so compelling? If not, why not?
Yes, I just cannot live without it. I need an outlet. Going to the bars and living the “young single life” is not my thing. I need structure.
How often do you compete in mixed martial art? In jiu-jitsu?
As often as possible I have only had 4 MMA fights in 2.5 yrs because of my small size. BJJ I would say three time per year.
What benefits do you see to being one of relatively few women in the community? Disadvantages?
Advantages are the door is wide open disadvantages are I have to knock the door down to get through. There are a lot of people that support us but a lot of people that don’t. Another disadvantage is finding opponents small enough for a fair fight. Also the disparity in talent and technique between amateur and pro is astounding. You have to be very, very, very good to make it as a pro female fighter.
What are your short and long term goals?
Short term to complete this masters program and still train hardcore while also getting a few fights in. Long term goal is to be a pro.
What advice would you give to the women who are at the beginning of their mixed martial arts or jiu-jitsu journey?
Chin up. Everyone has to win and everyone has to lose. Let every experience teach you what you must improve on to move forward.
How do we get more women into this sport?
I believe chicks have this thing where they are very territorial. If you are the only woman on your team often times you do not want other chicks on the team. I don’t know why women get all petty like that but sometimes they do. So if you are a female MMA fighter be good to the women that try to join your team. Mold them and
shape them into good fighters. Training other women really does help your own game so embrace them.
Do you have any nicknames?
My trainer has this theory that you should never give yourself a nickname. It is something that has to happen and cannot be forced. So, “Tink” unfortunately happened to me. :) I have loved Peter Pan since I was a little kid, actually Hook is my second favorite movie too, so I have Tinkerbell attire. I showed up at the gym one day I had to cut some weight for my first MMA fight and I had this fleece Tinkerbell sweatshirt that had been my cutting sweatshirt since high school wrestling. Thus I was dubbed Jen “Tink” Aniano.
Anything else you’d like to add to help our readers get to know you better?
Watch for me out there. I plan on making the big leagues in the next two years.
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