FeMMA: A True Professional

MMADieHards.comCorrespondent IApril 17, 2009

Written by Jacob Nuesser

Tara LaRosa is disgusted that Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos did not make weight…then blamed it on her menstrual cycle! This is UNACCEPTABLE and UNPROFESSIONAL, and shows complete lack of dedication!

This was the status update on Facebook from highly regarded, but under-promoted women’s MMA fighter Tara LaRosa. LaRosa is currently the No. 1-ranked female Bantamweight fighter according to WAMMA.

With a 17-1 record and unbeaten since 2003 it is easy to see why she deserves that ranking. What is interesting is that many of her wins come from common opponents with the likes of Gina Carano, who is wildly regarded as the face of women’s MMA.

Tara LaRosa has never missed weight.

LaRosa has always been athletic. She grew up playing field hockey, basketball, and softball. While she was in college she joined the judo club.

Field hockey came and went, but the judo evolved into no gi grappling, Brazilian ju-jitsu and Muay Thai. She started fighting in MMA in 2001.

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LaRosa is a Bodog Champion and has fought in Hook and Shoot, SmackGirl, XFO, and recently, Extreme Challenge. She is a Jersey girl at heart, but now lives and trains in Philadelphia at the Fight Factory.

Under the guidance of Steve Haigh, Ricky Lee, Zach Makovsky and Michael Rankin, LaRosa cross-trains in all disciplines as well as strength and conditioning. She is a complete mixed martial artist who has nine submission wins and three more by way of KO.

Before a fight, fighters backstage will sleep, grapple or hit pads. LaRosa’s ritual is a bit different.

“It seems to be a ritual for me to get really incredibly nervous before a fight,” LaRosa said. “It starts about 7-10 days out from a fight, then in the locker room before a fight... I can’t stop straightening things up. I also listen to music a lot to calm my nerves... and after I warm up, until I am called to the ring... I dance.

"I’m the only one that can hear the music from my ipod, but I’m just dancing away like I’m in a club. I’m fairly certain that anyone who has seen this is convinced that I’m a nut case! It helps me keep the nerves under control.”

LaRosa doesn’t have one specific influence that brought her into fighting, but she appreciates the work ethic of wrestlers. She cites Randy Couture and Jens Pulver as fighters she has looked up to.

She is also a fan of the “little guy divisions” and enjoys the fighting skills of Miguel Torres, Zach Makovsky, Nat McIntyre, Uriah Faber, and some of the 155ers: Eddie Alvarez, Joachim Hansen, Frankie Edgar, Clay Guida, and Diego Sanchez.

When asked what she thinks of the current state of Women’s MMA she responds, “I don’t really know what to think...We finally have internationally recognized rankings through WAMMA for the four largest women’s weight classes (115, 125, 135, and 145), and there are again opportunities for women to get television exposure again from Strike Force, and Bellator.

"So, I guess it’s moving forward again, from where we seemed to have stalled with the demise of EliteXC and BodogFIGHT.”

The trick for promoters outside of the UFC is to stay in business long enough to expose and promote women’s MMA to the general public. Often, like the men’s lighter weight classes, female MMA matches are fast paced with a greater emphasis on technique. Gina Carono’s fights are often Fight of the Night candidates.

Does the UFC need to add a women’s division for women’s MMA to thrive? LaRosa doesn’t think so. “I think it just needs to be marketed correctly, and in the right places to gain exposure,” LaRosa said. “The UFC would be nice though. I would imagine that the WEC would pick up a women’s division since it kind of fits there pretty well.”

The WEC is creating a home for lighter-weight fighters, and perhaps women will find a home there as well. If female fighters are going to be taken seriously, just like any fighter, they need to treat the sport with respect and professionalism. This is where some think a few of the highly promoted females have fallen short.

Carano has repeatedly missed weight, and recently, Cyborg missed by several pounds. As two of the top female draws, this is completely unprofessional. Both Carano and Cyborg are fighting much lighter fighters.

Josh Barnett has some strong feelings on Cyborg’s weight issues . “Her (Cyborg) victory is hollow and her turning a blind eye to her lack of professionalism is deplorable,” Barnet said.

“Never once was an apology uttered. Never once did I see one act of accountability. I don’t know how to say it in Portuguese, but Cyborg is deserving of no respect and no praise. If you were ever a fan, I’d find someone of better character and better heart.”

That person is Tara LaRosa.

LaRosa takes the sport very seriously. “Missing weight is a cardinal sin,” LaRosa said. “When you neglect to make weight, it shows a lack of professionalism, lack of dedication, and a huge lack of respect for your opponent, the promotion, and the sport and everyone in it... especially, when it is a highly publicized event.”

But is it actually harder for women to make weight? Not according to LaRosa. “No, it is not that hard for a woman to make weight... regardless of wherever you may happen to be during your menstrual cycle. I’ve had 18 fights over seven years, and I have never missed weight.

"Sometimes the cut has been easy, and sometimes it has been really tough... it tests your resolve. To me, training and making weight for a fight is the most tedious and grueling part of the whole sport...the actual fight itself is easy! So, I’m very disappointed with this epidemic of persons both male and female that are missing weight.”

The promoters have been smart so far in the building of Cyborg and Carano. They are often fighting women who are moving up in weight just to fight them. This gives them the illusion of dominance.

When compared pound-for-pound, LaRosa thinks there is more talent out there that isn’t being pushed. According to LaRosa there are a lot of tough and complete female fighters out there, likeMegumi Fuji, Rosi Sexton, Michelle Tavares, and Roxanne Modafferi.

“These women have more complete skill sets in MMA, and much more experience,” LaRosa said.

Would LaRosa want to fight Carano or Cyborg? “I’d be interested in fighting Gina or Cyborg, but something would have to be worked out since they are two weight classes higher than what I am fighting at currently,” LaRosa said.

LaRosa doesn’t want to compromise her career as a top fighter at 135 lbs. for the lure of being an overnight sensation at a higher weight class. She feels that being lured to fight in higher weight classes can often be a taking a fight your set up to lose.

She is currently in negations with Strikeforce, and hopefully the 135 lb. talent-rich women’s division will begin to get the promotion and exposure it needs. Women’s MMA needs professionals to advance the sport, and one of the most talented is waiting for her shot.

For more information on Tara LaRosa visit http://www.taralarosa.net
Jacob Nuesser is a certified Jeet Kune Doinstructor and trains at Hackneys Combat and FLO MMA. He is also the co-founder of FIGHT CHIX Apparel (www.fightchix.com). To read more of Jacob's writing, please check out www.mmamadness.com.