Jiu jitsu and jetsetting. Those two things represent a lifestyle that many folks in MMA circles aspire to, but for Ottavia Bourdain, it's everyday reality. Her husband is Anthony Bourdain, the star of The Travel Channel's top rated show, No Reservations, and Ottavia is beginning to make a name for herself, as well, on the jiu jitsu tournament circuit. Although only a white belt, she managed to snag a silver medal recently at Grappler's Quest. That's not too shabby, considering she just started training at Renzo Gracie's Academy seven months ago. In a recent TapouT Radio interview, Ottavia talked about future tournament plans, crossing over to MMA and a variety of other topics.
Interviewer: How did you get into MMA and jiu jitsu?
Ottavia Bourdain: I've only been doing jiu jitsu for seven months. I'm a total rookie. It actually started with kickboxing. I started doing kickboxing after the birth of my daughter in 2007, and I really enjoyed it. I went to see Elite XC in New Jersey in 2007. Gina Carano was fighting, and I was like, 'Wow! I want to do this too' so I started watching fights on TV and got more and more into it. A couple of the guys at my muay thai school are students of Renzo Gracie, so this past September, they told me I should try jiu jitsu. I tried it, and I like it even better than muay thai. Now I'm obsessed with jiu jitsu.
Interviewer: You recently picked up silver at Grappler's Quest. That's quite an accomplishment for only seven months of training.
Ottavia Bourdain: I train with Igor Gracie five or six times a week. He's the best. It's because of him, and I'm lucky I can train with him. I definitely learn faster than people who just go there and take the regular classes.
Interviewer: Do you have any plans to go to Brazil to train with some of the masters there?
Ottavia Bourdain: Oh yes. It was my husband's idea. We were both really drunk and having dinner. He says. 'You know, I'm thinking about next season. I think we should go to Rio, and I think you should take a fight there.' So, we are leaving on May 6 to go to Rio, and we are taking Igor with us. I'm taking a jiu jitsu match, and it will all be shot for my husband's TV show.
Interviewer: Why don't you eat pasta, and if Tony (husband) made it for you, would you eat it?
Ottavia Bourdain: At the beginning of our relationship, before I started training, I would eat pasta, but now I no longer eat any wheat products. I barely eat any carbs. But yeah, at the beginning, he made pasta...eh, I mean, he's a good cook, but his Italian food is, eh...so-so [laughs]. He cooks steaks, lamb, all the meats very well, but Italian food is not his forté.
Interviewer: Does Tony ever train with you?
Ottavia Bourdain: No. I tried to make him do martial arts. I tried to make him train a little bit with weights, but no way. I tried and tried, but I failed miserably. He has trained with me a couple of times at home. One day, he left for a couple of weeks, and I didn't tell him, but I ordered a bunch of Zebra mats, a grappling dummy, and a punching bag, and I converted one of our rooms into a gym. When he came home, I was like, 'Surprise! Let's roll.' He's patient, so a couple of times, he let me use him as my grappling dummy, but then we had a little incident where I accidentally hit his jaw, and he couldn't swallow for a week. He said, 'OK, that's it. You can do that at the gym.' It was my elbow that hit his jaw, but I really didn't mean to do that. [laughs]
He has always been very supportive. Since day one, we've never had a problem. He comes to fights with me now. If he's available, and there is a fight, he's coming with me.
Interviewer: Have you trained with Renzo yet?
Ottavia Bourdain: Not yet. I train with Igor and Luciano Cristovam. I've never trained with Renzo, but I love him. He's there all the time, and he's just great. He's larger than life and is one of the nicest men I've ever met. I just love going there. It's like you breathe a different air. The temperature is different. It's like its own universe. It's like a big family there.
Interviewer: Why don't they let you train with the girls?
Ottavia Bourdain: [laughs] I don't know why. I mean, I'm really strong, and I try to roll light, but it's really hard for me. I'm still a white belt, so maybe I will learn eventually, but even if I try not to use my strength, it just comes natural. Igor is like, 'You hurt me. I don't want you to train with the girls.' It's kind of to protect them. We had a couple of accidents, and they're like, 'No more. You're banned from the women's class.' Then I go to Grappler's Quest, and I get beat up by a woman [laughs].
Interviewer: How was the experience of competing for the first time?
Ottavia Bourdain: Grappler's Quest was my first competition, and I was prepared physically. I trained so much, but I was not prepared emotionally for it. I arrived there, and it was a complete meltdown. I was so anxious, I completely freaked out. I didn't really have time to be anxious for the first fight, because when I got there, it was already time, but the last fight, I had a major panic attack. My feet were numb, I was seeing dots of light and my head was spinning. I was like, 'Oh sh*t!'
For my next fight, I'll definitely have to prepare myself mentally. I will probably start doing some yoga here and there, because it was really bad. That adrenaline rush, it didn't feel good, for sure. It's just one more reason for me to get right back in there and beat this, and I'm really looking forward to my match in Brazil.
Interviewer: Do you train gi, or is it just no-gi?
Ottavia Bourdain: When I started, for a couple of months, I trained with the gi, then I tried no-gi, and I loved it. Now, Igor wants me to train gi again, because my match in Brazil is a gi match, so I've been back training with the gi. Igor said I need to be really good in the gi before I go back to no-gi, so that's what we're doing. That's the plan. In a few months, I also might take an amateur MMA fight.
I train all the time. My daughter is in school from 8 am to 3 pm, so I spend about three hours a day between Renzo's and muay thai. So why not take a fight? I'm not a spring chicken, and this is not going to be my career, but I want to try. I don't want to be 40 years old thinking, 'Why didn't I do it? Now it's too late.' I want to try it once, and then we'll see how it goes.
Interviewer: How old are you?
Ottavia Bourdain: I'm 33.
Interviewer: What are your thoughts on women's MMA?
Ottavia Bourdain: I'm really excited about this all women's promotion, Invicta Fighting Championship. I think it's a great direction for women's MMA.
Interviewer: Will you be attending Invicta debut event?
Ottavia Bourdain: I'm not, because that is my birthday, and I already have plans in NY, but I plan to go to all the other ones. I'll definitely be watching the stream. I'm not going to go out until the fights are over.
Interviewer: What did you think of the Rousey/Tate fight?
Ottavia Bourdain: I was actually supposed to go to that fight, but I got the stomach flu and couldn't go. I had my plane tickets and hotel room booked and everything, but I was puking chunks left and right, so I didn't go.
For me, that was probably the most anticipated fight of the year. I was really looking forward to that fight. Ronda did a great job promoting it. I think more female fighters should do that. They should put themselves more out there like that. I think the talent is there. There are a lot of great fighter girls now, and they should put themselves out there more, let people know that they exist. This new Invicta promotion is definitely going to help, too.
Now, my daughter just started doing muay thai. She turned five just two days ago, and I really wanted to wait. I tried to make her do ballet and gymnastics, but she's like, 'No, mom, I want to fight.' That's all she sees around the house. We have UFC posters, and we watch the fights and jiu jitsu video, so I took her to my muay thai school, and she's doing great. She loves it. She asks me every day to come with me, but for now, it's just once or twice a week. I'm really proud of my little warrior princess.
For me, fighting just comes natural. My mom did the same thing when I was a kid. She wanted me to do ballet, and I tried to, but I'm just not graceful. The ballet teacher told my mom, 'She's hopeless.' I tried piano, I tried gymnastics, I tried sailing. Nothing came natural for me. For me, this comes natural.
Interviewer: How did you feel when you heard about Overeem testing positive for TRT?
Ottavia Bourdain: I'm not really that surprised about Overeem. If he's allowed to fight, and he wins, I think everybody is going to be like 'Yeah, but...' He's going to be haunted by this thing forever. I'm kind of hoping Mark Hunt is going to fight in his place. I am jumping on the bandwagon. I'm rooting for him. I've been following him on Twitter, and he's hilarious. I hope he's going to get the shot.
Interviewer: What fights are you most looking forward to seeing?
Ottavia Bourdain: I'm looking forward to the Jonny Bones/Rashad Evans fight. Jonny Bones is going to win, for sure. I'm a big Jonny Bones fan. He's great. I actually had the chance to train with him. They did this Paradise Warrior Retreat last May. I attended, and he was one of the instructors. He was so nice. He took the time to explain things to me. Since then, I've been a big fan. I go to all of his fights, and this one coming up will be the first one I'll have missed.
I'm also looking forward to Urijah Faber/Dominic Cruz rematch in July, which is not officially announced, but I'm sure it's going to happen at UFC 148. I'm a big, big Urijah fan, and this time, I think he's going to win.
Follow Ottavia via her Twitter,@OttaviaBourdain