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Dear Roxy: ‘What changes would you make in MMA?’

Roxanne Modafferi tackles your questions, Happy Warrior style, in her ‘Dear Roxy’ column for Bloody Elbow.

Roxanne Modafferi walks to the cage ahead of her fight with Casey O’Neill at UFC 271.
Roxanne Modafferi walks to the cage ahead of her fight with Casey O’Neill at UFC 271.
Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

It’s time for another edition of Dear Roxy, where the ‘Happy Warrior’ goes toe-to-toe with questions about fighting, training, and life in general.

Last time around we talked about channeling your inner warrior in the face of difficulty and self doubt. We also looked at some good ways to relax during training camp. And some tips on what it takes to make it to the big leagues of mixed martial arts.

This time around I’m fielding questions about promoting yourself as a woman in the combat sports sphere. I’m also looking at potential changes that could be made to improve the sport of mixed martial arts. And what it takes to have good communication with your corner during a fight.


“Dear Roxy,

“As a female fighter, I’m surrounded by other women in my promotion that rely on using their sex appeal and bodies to gain traction and followers. Other than the actual fighting, how do you feel you were able to stand out and successfully promote yourself without those tactics? More followers as I start out can help me get more sponsors (which pays the bills), but I’m trying to figure out what kind of content will get and retain an audience when I’m surrounded by women just pulling their bits out (which is fine for them, just not my thing). I coach kids and I really want to keep a good image that they can look up to, while also trying to appeal to a broad audience.” — Jessica

Dear Jessica,

Yes, I understand completely. I also am not one to use female charms to get viewers, except when I cosplay. Other than fighting or that avenue, it’s honestly hard. It’s best for a fighter to have something unique about them that makes fans want to watch. That’s the main key. Be visually attractive, have a fight style that’s unique and appealing to watch, or be personally interesting. The later is my choice. Thankfully, I was on the Ultimate Fighter so fans could see my personality and come to like me. Therefore, they cared about me as a person and wanted to watch me fight.

I’ve seen lots of comments on message boards saying, “I like her so much that I don’t want to see her fight and get beat up! I hope she doesn’t fight Valentina!” It’s partly a dig at my skill that they think I’m going to get beat up, but I don’t mind. At least they like me. I recommend showing your hobbies or past times other than fighting on social media. If you like mountain climbing, post pictures. If you have interesting training methods, like hammering a giant tire and then flipping it repeatedly, that would be fun to watch.


“Dear Roxy,

“If you were able to, what changes, if any, would you make in MMA? Why?” — Joel R.

Dear Joel,

UFC 275: Shevchenko v Santos
With more weight toward grappling, this could have been Santos’ belt.
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

I’m not thrilled that the Unified Rules seem to make it harder for the grappler to gain points. I understand the point of damage being important. Officials don’t want someone to wrestle the other fighter to the ground and win by control. However, fights start on the feet, which is advantageous to the striker. It’s hard to get someone to the ground, and according the unified rules, all the effort and skill that it takes counts for nothing unless “some damage” or “attack” follows. The rules don’t recognize the effort and skill of a takedown, which I think is advantageous to the striker again. I feel like Unified Rules lean towards the striker. As a jiujitsu-lover, I wish that weren’t the case. In the case of Taila Santos vs Valentina Shevchenko, I think if the Unified Rules gave more credit to ground dominance, there would be a new champion right now. This is ‘Mixed Martial Arts,’ not ‘kickboxing with grappling.’

One could argue that in an actual street fight, strikes and damage counts the most because that’s what hurts the opponent. However, this is a sport and sports have points. I can see it both ways.


“Dear Roxy,

“I’m particularly interested in the mental aspect of the game, specifically how fighters and their corners communicate during the fight itself and between rounds. How do you pick up on your corner’s instructions during the fight? Thanks again.” — Squib2012

Dear Squib2012,

I think everyone is different. When I’m actively fighting, I’m in a state of mind in which I don’t really understand sentences and thought processes that include strategy. If my coach says in the fight or even in the corner, “So you have to draw her out to make her think you’re retreating, and then if and when she steps forward, you feint a kick and then shoot or both…” Almost none of that goes in my brain. If my corner-man says, “Okay, double jab then uppercut. Try Jab, low kick then switch back.” My brain can process the technique names and I remember it and can do it. I’ve had great success and also great struggles in my career with coaching and cornering. I really like it when a corner-man just yells out the name of combos.

UFC 271: Adesanya v Whittaker 2
Coach Jonny Parsons talks last minute strategy before the fight
Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC

I also need them to be specific. For example, if I’m being trapped on the bottom in half guard against the cage, and my cornerman yells, “Get up!” that’s not helpful. Cool, how exactly do I do that? I need my cornerman to yell, “Okay get up on your right elbow…try and pull your bottom leg out and put it against the fence. Get to your right knee. Wall walk! Push her face with your left elbow.” That’s how I operate.


If you’d like to submit your own questions for ‘Dear Roxy’ feel free to email me at basilisk875@yahoo.com, with the subject line “Dear Roxy”, or reach out on twitter @RoxyFighter with the hashtag #DearRoxy. Or simply leave your questions in a comment below on Bloody Elbow. Look forward to hearing from you all soon.