Invicta's seventh event is stacked. Top tier talent is bursting at the seams, and for diehard fans of women's MMA, the long wait will finally be over. Among the quality athletes featured is a Scottish push kick powerhouse named Joanne Calderwood. She holds a pristine 7-0 record and her fights are always action packed symphonies of violence.
Recently, my MMA Sentinel co-host, Iain Kidd interviewed Joanne, and it's probably a good thing, because as I sat recording that interview, I swear I could only understand every third or fourth word. If I was able to decipher a whole sentence, I was doing well. When you put two Scots on the phone together, their vocal pace naturally increases to an incomprehensible speed that most Americans find impossible to understand.
The few times I was able to make out what they were saying, I was tempted to jump in with my own questions, because I do follow Joanne's career, but by the time I could unmute myself and formulate words, they were already discussing something else, the theory of relativity, no doubt.
Anyway, Iain got a great interview with her, and fortunately for me, he transcribed it, because I'm absolutely certain my transcription would have made no sense at all. During the interview, she talked about her upcoming fight, training style, the possibility of fighting in the UFC and more. Here's what she had to say:
MMA Sentinel: You're fighting Katja Kankannpaa this weekend at Invicta FC 7. She's maybe not the most familiar name to most fans, but she's ranked third in the world at strawweight, and she's definitely going to be a tough fight. Did you specifically ask for a fighter who was ranked higher than you, to start climbing your way towards the title?
Joanne Calderwood: Throughout my career, my managers have pretty much dealt with making my fights, and now with me being with Invicta, the promotion is dealing with the matchmaking. While I was in Kansas for my last fight for Invicta, they basically said they were thinking of Katja next. Obviously at the time I was concentrating on my opponent, but we knew that after the fight Katja would be next.
She's 8-0-1 and I'm 7-0, so I think this is a perfect step up for me. She's above me in the rankings, so it's worked out perfectly. As always the matchmakers at Invicta have really come through.
MMA Sentinel: A lot of people are kind of billing this as a sort of style versus style matchup; she's very much a grappler, and you're based in Muay Thai. I've seen you training before and I've seen you in there with guys with 30lbs on you trying to take you down, and trying to throw you around with no success. Do you think that maybe people from outside the UK are underestimating your grappling a bit, or that they think you'll be an easy target because the UK doesn't have a wrestling background?
Joanne Calderwood: I don't think they're underestimating me, I just think they're praising me for being an exciting stand-up fighter, which a lot of people appreciate. In my second fight, I took Lena Ovchynnikova to the ground a few times, but then when I watched the fight, I heard the commentary, and they were saying, ‘Oh, she doesn't want to stand with Lena.' So I was like, ‘Wait a minute, it's an MMA fight!'
I'm not going in there thinking, ‘I'm going to stand up with this girl,' I'm quite happy to go to the ground and grapple. I love clinching and I love wrestling, so I just wait and see what happens when I'm in there, but I don't think anyone underestimates me. I would hope not anyway, because I'm a professional athlete and I'm not going to go in there unprepared, or only with my striking behind me.
MMA Sentinel: Your striking is probably better than more or less any woman in the world at your weight class. Do you still spend a significant amount of time sharpening it up, or do you spend most of your time just focusing on putting everything together and working on your complete MMA game?
Joanne Calderwood: Outside of fight camp I still hit pads, because I love it and it gets frustration out, and I'm still sparring because we've got a great Muay Thai group at the Griphouse who always have fights coming up, but when I'm in a fight camp there's so much to do, and my coaches prefer to focus more on game planning and specific things that will come up in the fight. I'll still be hitting pads and still be sparring, though.
When you fight in MMA it starts standing, so for me to do an MMA camp and not still do my striking training would be pretty not right [laughs]. It's just that I don't really need to spend that much time on my striking, because I have 10 years of practice behind me, but obviously you still need to keep learning new stuff and keep trying to improve your technique.
MMA Sentinel: Speaking of training specifically for opponents and game planning, in pretty much all of your Invicta fights you've had one or two changes of opponent. Does that get in your head a little bit, or are you able to ignore it and let your coaches worry about that?
Joanne Calderwood: I pretty much leave it up to my coaches. James Doolan, my coach, will give me a game plan, but he knows I'm just going to go in there and let my stuff go and react. We'll go over some of the techniques that I'm going to use eight weeks before the fight but it's mostly just tiny little details. If you go into a fight thinking, ‘Oh I need to do this, and I need to do that,' you're thinking too much and you're not reacting.
Reacting is the one thing I'm good at; I just go in there and I react and listen to my corner, and that's basically all they ask from me. It's worked for me so far, and I think that's just the kind of fighter I am.
MMA Sentinel: The UFC confirmed recently that they're going to be adding a women's strawweight division; is that something you've been keeping your eye on?
Joanne Calderwood: I think it was last Friday, I came out of sparring and my phone was on fire with tweets, messages and phone calls. I was like, ‘what's going on here?' We hadn't heard anything yet. It was massive news, but my main focus is this fight, and I love it at Invicta.
Obviously, I'll need to wait and see what the rest of the girls do, because I want to fight the best. I'll follow where the best go, so if the other girls go to the UFC I'll be trying my hardest to get there, because I want to be number one, and I want to fight all the best in the world. It's not about the fame and stuff, I don't fight for that, if I go, it'd be to fight the best in the world.
MMA Sentinel: Recently Rab Whiteford, another fighter who came up as a Dinky Ninja, made his UFC debut at UFC Fight Night 30 in Manchester. Excluding yourself, who would you say is the next person from the Griphouse, or from the Dinky Ninja Fight Team, most likely to get a call from the UFC?
Joanne Calderwood: There are so many. Because you're working there with them, you feel they all deserve a shot. I think it'll probably be Graham Turner, who has just turned 23 and has more pro fights than his age, which is pretty crazy. He's fighting on New Year's Eve in Cage Warriors for the featherweight Cage Warriors title, so I think he'll be next.
MMA Sentinel: The last time I was up at the gym you were sparring primarily with guys. Is that still the case?
Joanne Calderwood: Yeah. Although they're all guys, I've still got a lot of smaller guys to train with, because everyone I fight are kind of midgets... well, not midgets, but smaller than me; I'm kind of tall for the weight class. I've got a kind of team of guys who are midgets I train with, they're all smaller than me, but they're heavier than me. It works out perfectly. I'm not sparring or training with big heavyweights, our setup means I can rely on smaller guys being there to train with, but they bring it; they don't take it easy on me.
MMA Sentinel: If you could fight one person, living or dead, for any reason, who would it be and why?
Joanne Calderwood: Myself. I would love to fight myself and see what it would be like. That sounds weird, but I think I would like to feel how I hit people, and try to counteract that. It would be interesting to be in my opponent's shoes thinking, ‘how do I beat her?' and I would be the only person who would know how.
You can see Joanne fighting this weekend at Invicta FC 7 and follow her on twitter @badmofo_jojo.