Roxanne Modafferi reflects on her pioneering career in MMA and explains her decision to retire: “My brain health is really important”

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After 18 years, Roxanne Modafferi is finally hanging up her four-ounce gloves.

Modafferi announced last week that she plans to retire after her Feb. 12 game against Casey O’Neill at UFC 271. At 39, with her status as a pioneer of MMA forever assured, “The Happy Warrior “is ready to face the next chapter of his life.

“A few fights ago I decided I really, really wanted at least 50 fights,” Modafferi explained Wednesday on MMA time. “So I was like, okay, I’ll at least do that and see what happens.” And then over the last year or so, I felt like the punches and blows to the head in training affected me more than before – like, when I was trying to beat myself up. to come out, I had a headache afterwards. And I was like, ‘No we can’t have this.’ My brain health is really important, so I started wearing headwear.

“I’m fine [taking punches] in a fight. I just realized, okay I’m getting up there with my mileage – it’s probably a good time [to stop]. I don’t want to start having concussion symptoms. I want to quit before this happens because I have heard about some people who, before they even turned pro, had to retire. So I just wanna pay close attention to my brain health and hit 50 [fights] seems to be a very good achievement for me.

Modafferi’s swan song against O’Neill will officially be the 45th fight in his professional race, but Modafferi has also had five exhibition fights in his two stints on The ultimate fighter, who brings his final total to 50.

She won 28 of her 49 combined fights leading up to UFC 271, and her resume basically reads like a who’s who in women’s MMA history. From Smackgirl to HOOKnSHOOT to Invicta FC at UFC, Modafferi has had a frontline ticket to watching women’s MMA go from an afterthought to a renowned attraction on the world stage.

“I totally exceeded my expectations,” Modafferi said. “When I started, everyone was broken by like [age] 32 years old, so I thought that when I turned 30, at the latest, I would retire – and now I just turned 39. Plus, I didn’t expect to fight for the belt. My goal in life was to fight in the UFC, so I fight in the UFC – I think it’s 11 times already. It’s so cool.

“So fighting for the belt was kind of a bonus. It’s a shame I didn’t get it, but I had this experience so it was great.

Looking back, Modafferi cited two fights in particular as his favorite moments of his pioneering MMA career. The first came in 2013 when she faced Valérie Letourneau in the playoff round of TUF 18. With his octagon dreams finally within his grasp, Modafferi smothered the future UFC title challenger with a bare rear choke midway through the first round to earn his place in the show. She made her official UFC debut later that year.

“It changed my life,” Modafferi said.

The second memory she cherishes most came five years later, when Modafferi faced former Invicta FC flyweight champion Barb Honchak in the TUF 27 final. Modafferi had already lost to Honchak in 2011 , succumbing to a third-round submission at a regional show in North Carolina, and was determined not to let her second chance slip through her fingers. She ended up finishing Honchak with a TKO in the second round.

“Defeat, my old defeat, weighed on me for seven years,” Modafferi said. “And [Honchak] was such a monster in my mind. That I was able to finish it, it was such a cool achievement for me.

Modafferi won’t have the same story with O’Neill, of course.

She said on Wednesday that she would have been ready to fight anyone for her UFC start – the undefeated 24-year-old was just the name the matchmakers sent her. And as her last chance to perform on the biggest stage in sports neared, Modafferi joked that she was going to throw everything but the kitchen sink at O’Neill for as long as the fight lasted.

“She’s as good as anyone, and she better be careful because anything I’ve ever wanted to do in a fight and haven’t tried it yet, I’m going to try it,” said Modafferi said with a laugh.

“Fly, spin, roll, magic, kamehameha. I don’t know. You imagine.”

As for the sequel, Modafferi teased that she had a “tentative plan” for her post-retirement life, and although she declined to reveal what exactly that plan is, she said it was the one that excited him for what awaited him. She also plans to participate in jiu-jitsu often and believes the ability to move away from MMA on a daily basis is likely to lead her to follow the sport more ardently as a fan than she does now as a fighter.

Most importantly, Modafferi is happy to walk away with her health largely intact.

“Most people wake up with pain every day as they get older. Well I spent most of my youth waking up in pain and then I’m going to get old and wake up in pain but I guess that’s the life I chose, ”Modafferi said. .

“I think I’ll be fine without major brain damage because of these decisions. I have several things that are torn that can’t grow back, so I’m sure I’ll feel the consequences later, and just little things here and there. But I’m going to try to stay with my trainer Lorenzo at least once a week and try to stay strong, and maybe even more than once because all these jiu-jitsu guys are building up now. So who knows? I think I have few things here and there, but for the most part, I’ll be good with my brain.

So after 18 years as a pioneer in the game, what does “The Happy Warrior” want her legacy to be?

His answer is simple, but also his par excellence.

“I would like people to remember me as a martial artist,” Modafferi said. “Not like a brawler or a fighter. A martial artist who always does his best and is like a Power Ranger, fights baddies, does his best and is a good martial artist. This is what I would like.


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