Invicta FC 6: Joanne Calderwood interview exclusive (video & transcript)

Image courtesy of Invicta FC

Invicta FC strawweight, Joanne Calderwood gives an exclusive interview to Bloody Elbow readers via our man in Scotland, Decado aka Iain Kidd.

As many of you know, I have a little podcast called MMA Sentinel, of which Bloody Elbow contributing member, Decado aka Iain Kidd is a co-host of. Recently, he went out to Joane Calderwood's gym and sat down with her for a great video interview and I wanted to give it our readers here, exclusively. It also comes with a shiny transcription that Iain very kindly provided. Hope you guys enjoy it.

It's not easy to find the Griphouse Gym in Glasgow, It's not a big health centre, nor does it have a store front, and there certainly aren't any signs leading you to it. However, there's a sign outside an unassuming door, letting you know you're at the right place, and that's what counts.

When you get inside, three flights of stairs await you. On the second floor is Griphouse Polska, the Polish division of the Griphouse gym. Top floor is home to the Dinky Ninja Fight Team, and the person I'm here to see, Joanne Calderwood.

I get up to the top floor and head into the gym. It's a nice set-up - A small cage to your left as you walk in, a full size ring beside that, and the rest of the floor is mats with heavy bags everywhere. No one is here to mess around. Everyone is either sparring, hitting a bag or stretching, including Jo.

She notices me standing around, looking slightly lost. I'm trying to work out how to get from the entrance to her without getting in someone's way, and she comes over. I've heard her voice before, but I'm still caught off guard by how soft and unassuming it is as she introduces herself. She tells me she'll be sparring in the cage in 20 minutes, and to set up wherever I want to get some shots.

I watch as she does about 8 rounds, a fresh opponent every 4-5 minutes, every one of them a guy who outweighs her significantly. The thing that impresses me most is how quick she is to act on the instructions of her coaches. The second someone points out an opening, a way to get up, a movement, she's on it like lightning. That and an awesome spinning back kick.

Once she finishes up, she takes us through the gym's shop to set up for the interview. There are a couple of sofas, and no one around. Perfect.

While the camera gets set up, we chat about how quiet and softly spoken she is, and she tells me 'That's why I shave my head, so I can be more scary!' We all have a laugh at that, but there is definitely an element of truth to it. Jo is an interesting character. On one hand, there is an almost shy, sweet girl, who is extremely friendly, very softly spoken, even reserved. On the other is the Glaswegian scrapper with a half shaved head and several brutal knockouts to her credit.

She has a witty edge to her personality, as well, and anyone who follows her on twitter will quickly notice. It takes her a little longer to come out of her shell in person, but watching her interactions with her training partners gives a real insight to her inner comedienne. At one point during the interview, someone interrupts, coming through the door to grab a snack and a set of scales and Joanne's wit comes to the surface.

'You've fucked it, Micky. Anything to get on camera with your top off' an air of bemused exasperation, softened by a disarming smile, gives a glimpse of how Jo is with people she is comfortable around.

We get settled and jump straight into the questions - Joanne still has a busy day of training and physio ahead, and she practically lives at the gym.

You started your fight sports career with Muay Thai, how did you get involved in that?

I was doing swimming and got bored of that, of getting up early in the morning, and my little brother wanted to try Thai Boxing, so I went with him to keep him company... and to get a few digs in at him! I fell in love with it and wanted to complete in it. At the start it was just twice a week, nothing serious, but my mum tells me once I got my driving license I started going all the time. Once I got my own car, I started spending all of my free time there.

I started when I was 13, 14 and really started dedicating myself when I gave my job up to do this full time, which was when I was 21 or 22. I started getting to a point with Muay Thai where I was fighting good girls, girls who were fighting full time as well, so I had to make that decision. I was lucky enough that Guy Ramsay at The Griphouse gym gave me a job to support me, so I could give up my day job. I done that and haven't looked back since.

At this point I talk a little about her Muay Thai career, saying 'so you ended up with a record of 13 and 2, I think it was...' She starts laughing at me '19 and 2!' [more laughter] 'Close!'

You had a very successful Muay Thai career, what made you decide to switch to MMA?

I think I got the right opportunity at the right time. I was maybe only getting two fights a year, at most, in my Thai career. Even then Guy had to bring girls over from different countries to fight me, there just weren't many opportunities, so I started training MMA and here I am.

How did your fights in Super Fight League come about?

I took that on short notice, four weeks, and I can't really remember how it came about. I think James, my manager, got an email after seeing through twitter that they were looking for someone. That was only my second fight, which is crazy looking back on it.

How did you get involved with Invicta?

Twitter! It's all coming back to social networking, which is a great thing. Someone tweeted Shannon Knapp, and the Shannon messaged me on twitter, asking if I was under contract with SFL, because she had seen my SFL fight and liked what she saw. She told me to pass my details onto Invicta's matchmaker, Janet Martin, so obviously I did that straight away.

Opponents being changed and her former opponent getting the main event slot

Invicta knows what they're doing, and this will only be my seventh fight. Obviously I'll fight anyone, but I have people looking after me - my managers and Invicta, they're going to be looking out for my future. I'm pretty easy, I'll do whatever James or whoever tells me to... Within reason!

Since then Joanne's opponent has been changed yet again, her response? 'Nothing I can do about it, these things happen, main thing is they have someone.'

How much weight she cuts to reach 115lbs

Ooh, you should never ask a female that question! Usually I walk around at just above 60 kilos (about 135lbs) and I'll diet down, then cut between 1 and 3 kilos (two to seven lbs) in water weight. It's always different, so sometimes it's a bit hard if it's 3kilos.

Training solely with guys who are much bigger than her

I definitely think it helps. A lot of people say 'oh why don't you travel and train with girls?' But I love my team, and they know what I need from my fight camp, so I'm not going to change it.

Most instrumental person in helping her transition to MMA

James Doolan, my manager, coach and partner. He's been in the game a long, long time. As long as I'm a good student, he's a good coach. You have to work both ways and dedicated your time.

The amount of time that people put into my fight camp, this is my way of repaying them (by working hard). It's about respect, really. They're putting the time in for you, they're going out of their way to help you get to a high level, which is amazing. The best thing I can do in return is be the best person in the cage and win for them.

Is her high-level striking past an advantage, or does it make opponents more likely to go straight for the takedown?

It works both ways. They could be like 'I want to stand up and show that I can knock her out'. I just wait to see what my opponent comes up with. All of the girls in Invicta are similar, but different. I look forward to fighting them all.

Any fighting style she would like to emulate?

Not really, I kind of want to be my own fighter, my own style. I do look at guys like Anderson Silva and respect what he can do and think 'Wow'. I like how calm he is in his fights, I think that's very important, especially in the situations he gets in, but I'd like to be different from everyone else.

You're very soft spoken in person, but very boisterous on twitter, what would you say is the 'real' JoJo?

If I know someone, even people that I don't know, I like to have a laugh and stuff with them. I don't know, I think (my twitter personality) comes from hanging out at the gym all day. I know where to draw the line, I would never be the way the guys talk, I'm still ladylike, which is the softly spoken side.

Is it a long term goal to fight in the UFC?

If they get the 115lbs girls in, I want to be there. At the moment Invicta are doing a great thing, I'm just looking at the Invicta belt, that's my goal just now. Obviously the UFC would be nice for the team and for the opportunities it would bring. Wherever the fights are, that's where I will be.

I focus day by day, fight by fight. Everything happens for a reason so I just wait and see what happens.

Does Invicta cover all travel expenses for corners etc?

Invicta cover everything, right down to the hairdresser who does my hair, which is awesome.

Do you watch much MMA?

To be honest, I don't watch much MMA. I concentrate on my team, if they've got fights coming up. I like helping them train and seeing them progress, but I don't like watching them fight, I don't like going to the shows. James watches all the time, but I don't really watch.

Is Social Media something you do to further your fight career, or do you just like hanging out on twitter?

Because I have nothing better to do? [laughs] Nah, I love talking to people. I love my job in here, in The Griphouse, I meet new people every day and that's kind of what it's like on twitter. I like talking to people, hearing their stores and just talking shit, really.

Job at The Griphouse

My official title is 'Professional Fighter', but I'm here during the day to show people around, give them information on the gym, on classes, tidy up, keep the boys in line - I've got a massive stick for that!

You can find JoJo on facebook at and on Twitter

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