MMA Mom’s: Up close and in your face!
The fighting world of MMA has plenty of room for various types of fighters, arts, personalities, and organizations. MMA gives men and woman the opportunity to display their skills, abilities, and strength. Where do MMA mom’s fit in? In an arena where woman have worked hard to gain and maintain a place; do they need a category of their own? I coined the title MMA Mom for those extra special ladies, who are well deserving of respect.
In searching for answers and making the decision to enter the world of fighting as a mother of two; I spoke with Lina “Fight Angel” Kvokov, who was recently recruited by Team USA: Ladies of Pain to fight in Fatal Femmes Fighting: Call of the Wild Battle that took place on April 3, 2008; Melissa “Cat Killer” Vasquez, who trains out of Dragon’s Den Gym (Hammer House); and Kristi Bowersock, a Grand Champion, manager and trainer to both amateur and professional fighters. Each lady discussed their experiences as a fighter and a mom to give us a look inside, just what it’s like to be a MMA Mom.
After several emails and text messages back and forth, being careful not to intrude on her training or family time; I finally got the opportunity to speak with Lina “Fighting Angel” Kvokov.It was 10pm on a Thursday night. When most young hotties were gearing up or headed out to find the local party hot spot in ATL, I was at home waiting for Kvokov to call. Kvokov, who was also in for the night, called me up and was ready to chat. She was just getting in from a day of rigorous training. Kvokov sounded cheerful and energetic. She probably could have gone a couple more rounds. Kvokov was ecstatic about doing the interview, and I was very eager to interview her. We started the interview by just getting to know a little more about one another. I told her how I was a mother of two (ages 3 yrs and 8 months), a student in a master’s program, a wife, and trying to decide whether or not to get into professional fighting. As the daughter of a martial artist and a background in Hopkido, Tae Kwon Do, Mizan Do, and street fighting; MMA has always been a part of my life. If given the chance to fight professionally, I would take it in a minute. The only question is, “How would a career as a fighter work out with my role as a mother?” That’s how the story got started. My quest for answers was very interesting to Kvokov.
Kvokov went on to tell me about her 2 year (and counting) career in MMA. After loosing a street fight, an ex-boyfriend of hers sparked her interest in MMA as a way to defend herself and she’s been going strong ever sense. Her current professional record is 0-1, after loosing to Tamara Parks by an arm bar submission, in a Fatal Femmes Fighting bout that took place on April 3, 2008. Kvokov had to cut around ten pounds for the fight and does not want to fight at 135 lbs again. Kvokov trains two times a day, five to six days a week with 3rd eye Jiu Jitsu and Noels Fitness. She is a divorced-single mother with four children; Twin boys, age 15; a 10 year old daughter; and 9 year old son. Putting an ex-husband, a string of looser boyfriends, rough times, and negative comments behind her; Kvokov moves forward with a positive outlook on life, MMA, and the future.
Kvokov laughs after I asked her if she had ever been discouraged from fighting or heard negative comments about woman with children fighting. She stated, “I have been told that I should not fight, I should be a Ring Girl, or just date a fighter.” Kvokov feels that a lot of women fighters do not get the respect they deserve. “Women put in the same time, training, and have just as much dedication to the sport as men. We deserve the same respect.” Kvokov added that she has even received shit talk from other females. Kvokov does not let it bother her. Her children fully support her fighting career. “My kids watch me fight and train. They are proud of me and understand that I do what I do for us as a family.” Kvokov adds that if the kids asked her to stop, she would do it in a minute. Kvokov states that she has been to school, was a good wife for twelve years, and even held several great paying jobs; but she loves training and fighting and does not know what she would do if she was not fighting anymore. Kvokov adds that fighting makes her happy and she wants to stick with it as long as she can. She even jokes about being a fighter as a grandma and using a walker, with her grandkids cheering her on. Kvokov would like to fight until she has had at least five professional wins. She has dreams of being a school teacher some day.
I ask Kvokov what the biggest downside to being a MMA Mom is, and she said it would definitely have to be the fact that she misses out on quite a bit of time with her kids. “I know sometimes they miss me. My youngest asks if I’m going to training again. Then I wish I could be home with them, but I gotta go train” Kvokov answers in a low tone. She cheered up as she expressed how excited the kids are about her fighting. Kvokov says they love it and think it is cool that their mom can kick butt. Kvokov added that as a MMA Mom, you have to remember that your kids and your household come first. I asked Kvokov if she feels like a “normal or regular” mom. She laughed and said, “Yah! I do the same things every mom does. I love my kids, cook, do laundry, help them with homework, do family things together, and just try to be there for them when they need me.”
Kvokov admits that some of the toughest times for them came when she struggled to pay bills and they are currently without a vehicle. She relies on friends, her trainer, and neighbors as a source of support and strength. “It is really important to have a good support system for any fighter, but more important when you are a mom” she states. When Kvokov needs additional inspiration and motivation, she looks to Jeremiah 29:11 and also remembers how Dori, from Disney’s “Finding Nemo” just kept swimming. Her advice to those making the decision to enter the world of MMA is, be dedicated, eat right, train hard, put God and your kids first in your life, think positively, make a plan, and go with what your heart feels if it makes sense. Kvokov seems to be wise beyond her years, spirited, and someone I’ll keep in my corner for a lifetime.
Kvokov would like a rematch with AJ (Adrienne Jenkins) at some point. She lost to AJ earlier in her career, in what was deemed an Amateur Fight. Kvokov states that she thinks the fight would end differently next time around. Kvokov and I ended the interview by talking a little more about our kids, and discussing contact information. She would like to be contacted via MySpace at http://www.myspace.com/bitchy_russian.
Next, I spoke with Melissa ‘The Cat Killer’ Vasquez. I called her up on a Saturday afternoon. Vasquez was multi-tasking. She was spending time with the kids, getting ready to go to the gym, and trying to get her van started up. I apologized for interrupting her, but she said it was okay, and that she was happy to be apart of the article. Vasquez thought the article was a great idea and she was glad someone was interested in MMA Moms. I asked Vasquez how she became a fighter. She told me that she saw some women fighters on television. “I had a friend who was fighting at the time. I told him that I could do better than the girls that were fighting on T.V. My friend told me to go for it and I did. I won my first fight in 38 seconds and I just kept going after that” she said very proudly. Vasquez has been fighting for over a year and her current record is 6-3.
I asked Vasquez if she thought women fighters got the respect they deserved and if there was a double standard as to how they were viewed verses men fighters. Vasquez paused for a moment and sighed. She stated, “Yah, I think so. These days, women fighters do get the respect they deserve. Maybe not earlier, but they do now. As far as double standards…sure there is, just as it is with every thing else in the world.”
Vasquez is not under any on-going contracts, but she was contracted to fight for Fatal Femmes Fighting bout that took place February of last year. Vasquez states that she would not mind fighting for them again. She is currently managed by Kristi Bowersock.
Vasquez is very pleased with being a fighter. She told me that she feels a sense of self-fulfillment, enjoyment, and balance of her mind, body, and spirit. “I’m very driven and if I fall down, I just get back up. Fighting teaches you that it’s possible, even in other parts of my life” Vasquez replied with ease. She added that she is very strong mentally and physically and always prepared for a challenge.
Vasquez was already a mother of three when she began fighting. She has a one year old daughter, and two sons; ages 10 and 11 years old. Some of the roughest times for her, were when her boyfriend moved out. With no financial support, she worked single and double shifts as a waitress and tried to train at the same time. “It was almost impossible and I did not get to train like I wanted to. I loss three fights during that time, due to lack of training and exhaustion.” Vasquez sounded like she was living the frustration all over again. She wants a rematch with those fighters and feels that the fights would end differently this time around. I say go for it. I’ll be cheering for her.
Vasquez states that currently every thing is going a little better. She and her boyfriend are back together, she is home during the day, and trains at night. “I have a really great support system. My mom, boyfriend, and a fellow fighter’s wife really help me out a lot” Vasquez states. She went on to say that her kids were her motivation to keep on fighting and they like the fact that she fights. Vasquez added that her kids watch the fights, train with her sometimes, and it works out well for their family. I was interested in hearing how a typical day went for Vasquez and how she managed the two roles (both mother and fighter).
Vasquez exhaled and stated that it wasn’t easy, but she is home most of the day and the older kids are at school. She cleans up, takes care of her toddler, and does things around the house. When her sons are home she is involved in whatever is going on with them and their needs. She makes sure the kids are fed, have everything they need, and then she is off to train. Vasquez stressed the importance of trying to maintain structure and a sense of stability for the children. She would not want to do anything that made them question her love for them, or harm them in any way.
Vasquez and I spoke more about MMA. She states that she is a stand-up as well as, ground fighter; but she prefers stand-up mixed with a little ground-n-pound. To turn the beast on once she enters the ring, Vasquez reminds herself, “That chic has my money and I gotta go get it from her!” You can find Vasquez training at the Dragon’s Den; Hammer House. She trains twice a day, about six times a week in all areas of MMA. Overall, Vasquez is pleased with her career in MMA. She likes the respect and attention that MMA-in general, is getting. Vasquez states that her only concern at this time is with some dishonest promoters. She spoke of an experience in which, she was told of a fighters’ weight and experience before hand; but when she arrived to fight...it was the total opposite. She added that sometimes your opponent may change all together. Vasquez states that the pay is pretty good, but she would not mind if it were more.
We concluded the interview by talking about my decision and her advice for other MMA Moms or woman making the decision to become one. Vasquez told me to go for it if it was what I really wanted to do. Her advice for other Moms was to make sure they had a strong support system, put their children first, trained, stayed strong, patient, and to surround themselves with the best trainers, fighters, and friends. Vasquez can be contacted through MySpace at www.myspace.com/dziredonecdk.
Last, but definitely not least, I had the pleasure, honor, and privilege of speaking with Kristi Bowersock. Bowersock is a Grand Champion in Karate; holding a Grand Master’s Belt. She is currently a mother, wife, recruiter, trainer, friend to many fighters, manager, mentor, and former fighter. Very nervous about this interview, I put it off, and then finally called her up. I introduced myself and was surprised that Bowersock had time to speak to me. She told me that she did not mind helping out with the article and was glad to hear it was in the works. Since Bowersock is not currently fighting, she explained that she would address the area of MMA from a trainer, recruiter, and manager’s point of view and experience. That sounded great to me.
Bowersock is an MMA Mom of three teenagers. Her children were youngsters when she started her more than ten year career in MMA. They have watched her train, fight in NASKA holding a Grand Master’s Belt in Karate, and there every step of the way in her current roles. Bowersock has always tried to make home life as normal as possible for the children, and provide everything they need to grow and prosper in life. She and her husband have always instilled morals and values into the children. Although Bowersock was a fighter, she encouraged her children to fight only when they needed to defend themselves. “If it safe and you can, it is better to walk away…no matter what your skill level, fighting should only be used when you have too. It is important to always use your head” was one of the messages Bowersock told her kids.
As far as MMA is goes, Bowersock says she believes it is getting better for woman. Thanks to UFC and Spike TV, MMA is getting a lot of popularity and the public is interested in watching and keeping track of anything related to MMA. Bowersock reflects on woman like Michelle Waterson, Julie Kesdie, Lana Stefanac, etc; who have really worked hard, strived for greatness, and overcome many obstacles in order to get where they are. Everyday women who do MMA train, fight, and go the extra mile it takes to be the best. Although things have changed a great deal, there is still room for more improvements to be made. Bowersock talked about the entertainment part of the business; everyone stereotypes women and networks would rather sell what they deem to be a “sexy girl fighter” than girl fighter’s who don't walk around like Paris Hilton and love to shop and carry Prada etc. They all need to be commended.
I listened as Bowersock spoke. I did not really have to ask many questions because the words rolled of her tongue as if she read my mind and the minds of those who were interested in hearing her story. Bowersock spoke of her experiences as a manager and trainer. “In the earlier years, I remember being ignored in fighters meetings and having my hand-wrappings questioned by the men at the events. It was just crazy. I could not believe that just because I was woman…all of a sudden I was supposed to be less effective at my job; my passion” Bowersock states as I continue to listen, and felt in the moment with her. She told me that people do not understand the positive affects MMA has on the whole person.
Bowersock states that MMA requires skill, intelligence, dedication, strength, endurance, self motivation, and creativity. The fighter uses pieces from many different areas and applies them to fighting and in everyday life. Ultimate Fighting is really, Ultimate Success, Ultimate Sacrifice, Ultimate Training, and Ultimate Everything. Fighters are involved in the world of MMA and in their own lives. Getting back on her own family life, Bowersock discusses her interactions with her children.
Bowersock states that although her children are teenagers now and pretty much independent, they still need their mother. She helps them with school, gives them advice, supports their different interest, and spends as much quality time with them as she can. Bowersock stresses the importance of making sure you constantly talk to your children. “Rather than make promises you may break and disappoint them, Moms should make sure their children understand that in order for mommy to do what she does and put food on the table…she may miss a game, recital, spelling bee, etc. Let them know that it does not mean that you love them any less” Bowersock states sincerely. She makes time for family meals, vacations, proms, graduations, and to referee sibling rivalries.
Bowersock’s advice to MMA Moms: It’s important to have a plan, schedules that are meant to be adjusted, patience, and determination. Moms need to evaluate how serious of a fighter they are and how far they want to take a career in MMA. She adds that along with their duties as fighters, moms have to realize that the job is not done once they leave the gym. Moms have to go home, cook, put kids to bed, and laundry. Her tone was very passionate as she continues. Bowersock states that she is so excited about the future of MMA. She adds that there is a new breed of fighters and they are really switching things up. Bowersock pities people who don’t understand female fighter’s because they fight 10 times harder in order to keep up in a male dominated area.
You can find Bowersock on the road, ringside, in her fighters’ corner (yelling…Pound it! Pound it! Elbow! Elbow!), and at Dragon’s Den: Hammer House. The gym is said to have a family type of atmosphere, where egos are checked at the door and everyone is there to train and push one another to be the best they can be. If you are a fighter in need of management, training, or advice, a fan, interested in business deals, or anything else; Bowersock can be reached at email@example.com or www.myspace.com/fullcontactmma.
I could have continued to talk to each of the ladies for several hours. I was not able to include all of the information I received in the article, but I am grateful for the opportunity to share this much. This article was meant to serve as an aid in helping women make decisions, educate people on women in MMA, and provide some insight into the lives of three MMA Moms. Special thanks go to Sam with Ladies of Pain and Ilan Lewinger, with Fatal Femmes Fighting. They helped me get in touch with the fighters. I can be contacted at www.myspace.com/1zakiya.