|Posted by Mark Figula on November 15, 2010 at 5:01 PM|
By Mark Figula, The Mouth of MMA Senior Editor
As the sport of MMA continues to experience explosive growth, the profile of its fans takes on a surprising diversity. Sometimes what is more surprising though, is the people that take that extra step and actually join the fray! Whether it be in a cage or in one of the constituent sports to MMA - like submission grappling - the kinds of people choosing to compete are no longer limited to the "tough guy" sector.
In this, our first Up & Coming Fighter Profile, we have a fun Q&A with Canada's Jessica Branco. Jessica has been traveling the world to test her skills against other girls on the mats and she's picked up quite a legion of friends and fans in the process.
Mark Figula for TheMouthofMMA.com: What got you started with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?
Jessica Branco: I'm the kind of person who needs challenge all the time. I have a lot of energy to spend and I think sports is the best way to use your energy. I'd been a fan of Ultimate Fighting for a couple years already and I was so curious about the feeling of fighting! My favorite part always has been the ground fighting and I wasn't sure about getting hit in the face, so I decided to do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu first!
Mark Figula: Do you find it difficult to get good female training partners?
Jessica Branco: I have to admit that we have the best girl team at BTT [Brazilian Top Team] in Montreal! I'm lucky we have a couple of girls in all different weight classes and different belts. My coach's wife is a black belt and almost my weight so its perfect for me! BJJ is growing really fast for girls right now because it's a sport that you can compete without getting injured. I think the best is to train with guys and girls. It makes you work on different aspects of the sport!
"As soon as you get a good position on them,
they freak out and use their strength..."
Mark Figula: Do guys ever get shy about rolling with you?
Jessica Branco: There's two different kind of guys!!!! You have the ones who are really ''macho.'' They think they are gonna hurt you so they don't really fight with you! As soon as you get a good position on them, they freak out and use their strength, which is bad because you can't do anything with that!!! The second type of guy is the one who can control his strength and roll with you seriously. That's perfect because he put himself on your level! I think some guys are uncomfortable and others think it's their chance to have the attention if they roll with the girl. Either way they get used to it!!! You become one of the boys with time!!
Mark Figula: I understand you've been traveling all over to compete. Can you tell us about some of your most notable experiences?
Jessica Branco: I will always remember my first tournament! It was the Abu Dhabi trials. That tournament was all belts mixed and I was training for four months only! I was worried about fighting a black belt, but I ended up fighting a blue belt. Thank god, because I was gassed out after a minute!!! I did good though, for my first fight! But nothing will beat my experience at the Mundials in California. It was my biggest tournament and I went there with the desire to win! I trained hard for that and everything was perfectly timed, so I did well! I was happy.
Mark Figula: What was it like getting your blue belt?
Jessica Branco: I truly believe Blue Belt is the most important step in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. White belt is the beginning; you learn the basic positions, sweeps, and submissions. Normally you compete two to three years as a blue belt because its time to discover your game. You're comfortable with the basics so you have to develop every position, find out what you like and dislike. It's time to understand all the options you have in every situation. I feel lucky I had my blue belt quickly and now I'm enjoying discovering my sport. I train with a lot of different people because I have the chance to travel a lot. It's time to build my game! June 19th is the day my coach put a blue belt around my waist and it is for sure one of the best moments of my life.
Mark Figula: What are your long and short term goals as a BJJ fighter?
Jessica Branco: I'm training hard now for The Abu Dhabi trials. I got third place at the worlds this year but the ultimate goal is ADCC for sure! It's the biggest tournament in the world. All the best fighter are going there. I compete because I want to be the best... If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best!! I'm 100% focused on my next tournament because it's my chance to earn a place in Abu Dhabi and win the trip. I'm a blue belt but I'm training for a year only. I'm still a baby in the martial arts world. It's gonna be hard and the most important tournament I've had but I'm going there with the fire inside! Long term... I want my black belt for sure and to keep on competing as a black belt and maybe coaching!!!
Mark Figula: Do other girls treat you differently at all when they find out you compete in a full contact sport like this? How about for guys?
Jessica Branco: People are usually impressed by that!!! I look like a cute girl and I'm nice to everybody but... I'm a tiger inside! A lot of girls want to train with me, they admire what I'm doing because it's not common for a girl to fight often like I'm doing! People around me know it's important and I put my heart in every training session! As for guys...They all wants to fight me!!! They don't believe me at first, but they realize I'm no joke when it comes to my sport!!! We have some good advantage as girls, because guys wants to help us. We are different because we are not another guy at the gym!!! If you are smart, you can use this to your advantage. I owe everything I know to my coach, my training partners and everybody who believed in me and helped me.
Mark Figula: Have you ever had to use your training in a real life situation?
Jessica Branco: Not yet!!! Hopefully it will never happen, but we never know!! Streets fights are dangerous and stupid because it's not a fair game. I dont want to use it outside the gym, but if I have to use my skills one day to defend myself I will do it for sure!
"I'm planning on having my MMA debut around July."
Mark Figula: Do you have any interest in entering the MMA fight game at some point?
Jessica Branco: YES!!!! I wasn't sure at the beginning because it's not everybody who can handle being hit in the face and all over the body! MMA is definitely brutal. Winning or losing you won't go out of the cage the same way you get in it!! But it's definitely something I wanna do. I'm training for it and next year I'll be in that cage. I'm planning on having my MMA debut around July. First of all I wanna compete in Abu Dhabi and the Mundials again and after i'll be ready to fight MMA!
Mark Figula: As a fan of MMA, who are your favorite fighters - Male and Female?
Jessica Branco: My favorite female fighter is Cris Cyborg Santos... this chick is fighting like the men. I love it and I wanna be that kind of fighter! My favorite men fighters are BJ Penn and Jose Aldo... Hopefully we're gonna have the chance to see the match up one day!!! I like GSP and Anderson too!!!
Mark "The Ezequiel" Figula is the biggest wuss to ever enter a cage... the most spindly chickenass dude to ever tap out at NAGA... the boy who was told that the pen is mightier than the sword... and thus he writes. Check out his home page of scribblings at www.markfigula.com.