Julianna Pena's catastrophic training injury several weeks back sparked a heated debate in the MMA community regarding the safety issues of female fighters training with male counterparts. MMAFighting.com's Luke Thomas spoke with several prominent female competitors, including UFC veteran and current Invicta FC matchmaker Julie Kedzie, regarding the topic.
Kedzie, who went 0-4 in Strikeforce and the UFC, did not distinguish between men and women when it comes to becoming a "world-class fighter." She believes that developing a fighter's ability is directly related to the quality of her training partners, and not simply the amount of men she trains with.
"I don't think you can be world-class fighter without training with good training partners." Kedzie said. "Whether they're male or female, I think you just have to have the right training partners. If you have a whole bunch of men, but they suck, then no, you're not going to be a world-class fighter. If you have a whole bunch of women and they suck, you're not going to be a world-class fighter. If you have a whole bunch of men that are really good, then you'll probably rise to the occasion, likewise with women."
While many female competitors have given responses such as speed, intensity and strength when asked about the benefits of training with men, Kedzie believes that the most important characteristic is their durability during sparring sessions.
"Their durability. You can hit a man pretty hard. They may say 'ow', but they probably won't and that might be their ego. You can get a sense of how hard you can hit. "It's nice to go with someone that's stronger than you. Many women are stronger than me as well, but it's nice to go with someone that's always stronger than me so that I can get a sense of how hard to go in an actual fight."
While Kedzie sees the durability as useful, it has also gotten her knocked out in training sessions. She blames herself though, as she would take advantage of the opportunity and increase the pressure.
"The only times I've been knocked out in training has been by men, not women. I would take the blame on myself for that because it wasn't that they were going too hard for me. It was mostly they were going light and I was going too hard. It's not that they would actually have too much pressure on me, but that I would slam into them."
What bothers Kedzie the most about training with men? Their constant need to correct her mistakes, as well as those of other women around them.
"They always try to correct you. Especially if you're the lone women in the room, everybody just finds some reason to correct you, some reason to try and teach you more when sometimes you're just there for your workout. That drives me bananas. I have a lot of confidence in my own abilities. 'Oh, that's wrong! That's wrong' tends to get my hackles up even more. 'Oh, she's a girl. Let's show her what to do.' I hate that."