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The journey of an aspiring fighter: A new chapter #1

Published On October 23, 2014 | By Helen Harper | News

After much consideration, I have decided to revert back to the old name for this blog “The journey of an aspiring fighter”. A few reasons, the main ones being that I am still an aspiring fighter, and I am still on a long ass journey. I do also feel that after a blog break, the new chapter is quite appropriate.

So, what’s been happening since I’ve been gone?! It’s been almost 7 weeks since my last post which feels like a lifetime in blog-land. My main achievements have been beating a girl almost twice my weight in a grappling tournament, getting a new sponsor on board and above all winning my third pro MMA fight.

I’ll start with the grappling tournament: I was due to fight the week before at MMA Showdown Vs. Simona Soukupova however she had to pull out 6 days before the fight due to an injury. I’m not going to lie, I was absolutely gutted and may have eaten an entire tub of Ben & Jerry’s. Don’t judge me. Grapplers Showdown was the following week, so the team that organise both events kindly invited me to compete there instead.

There was only two of us in my weight class (-55kg) so I won the first match and picked up a gold medal. the absolute however was a different story. There were 6 of us in total, which made 3 initial match ups. A mixture of tiredness and injury forced several of the girls to retire but one girl just kept on coming. Jacquie Epelle was her name and I knew I had to beat her. Jacquie was not just significantly bigger than me, but she is also very technical – my worst nightmare!

One of the other girls told me Jacquie had never been beaten – well this was fuel to my motivation fire. I had to do whatever it took to get my hand raised. Now, one piece of information that is critical to this story is that I LOVE to work from guard. It’s my absolute comfort zone (so much so that my boyfriend has banned me from submitting him from guard so that I am forced to try other options!) Despite several warnings not to end up on my back, I did and stayed there for the majority of the match.

I attempted a submission unsuccessfully three times from guard, and was starting to lose all hope, but my fourth attempt was a success! I managed to submit Jacquie with an arm bar from guard, my all time favourite submission! Unfortunately the match absolutely wore me out as it went almost the full 6 minutes so I lost the final match on points – but none of that mattered to me!

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Moving on to my new sponsor, an absolute game changer for me. I am sure all you training ladies can sympathize with me on this one: Sports bras. Why must they be so damn uncomfortable? You will be pleased to know I have officially found the solution. No kidding I could spend my entire day in one of these bras and still not want to take it off for bed.

It was absolutely by chance that a friend of mine mentioned she had a new sports bra range out (STR8_CHEER) and would I wear it in my next fight? Of course I agreed, and as soon as they turned up I was like a kid at Christmas and had to go and work out immediately. I could not believe how comfortable the bras were, my favourite “Jupiter” (it’s pink) was the one I wore for the first session. When I say the first session, I actually ended up doing a Strength and Conditioning session, followed by a Jiu Jitsu session and then taught (Personal Training) for two hours and forgot that I was even wearing a bra it was that comfortable!

If you happen to want to try the bras out for yourself and are in the UK, use the discount code “Hellraiser” to take advantage of cheaper postage. If you are in the USA, I strongly advise following @STR8_CHEER on Twitter for all the latest deals as there are many!

If you are looking for something a bit different for Christmas, you can get them personalized too (like mine) which is ultra cool and guaranteed to impress the lady in your life.

rainbow“Rainbow”

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“Jupiter”

The last event in the trilogy, and easily the most exciting, was my third pro MMA fight. Having had the previous fight canceled so soon before this bout, I was more than ready to get in the cage and show everyone how hard I’d been working. I had completed the fight camp for the fight that never happened all apart from the last week so I felt on fine form.

Unfortunately then “disaster” struck. I use the inverted commas because I am fully aware it was only a disaster to me. I became sick for two weeks with stomach pains, I tried to train through it, but I did miss a few sessions when the pain was too severe. The pains had just started to ease up when I came down with the flu (my body hates me).

It was the first time in my life I have had the flu, and it is something I would not wish on my worst enemy. I was shaking violently for 5 days straight, with hot and cold flushes. When I say hot and cold I mean boiling hot, I feel like I am inside a volcano to freezing cold I feel like I am lying naked in an igloo. What’s that about? Apparently my body was trying to regulate its temperature or something. Clearly wasn’t doing a very good job. As well as all that, my entire body was achier than leg day, but all over!

As I said, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I couldn’t train for a week and it was two weeks until the fight. By the time I was well enough to train I only had a week before weigh ins.

Fighter by name, fighter by nature. I did consider pulling out of the fight, for approximately 3 seconds, and then realised there was no way I was going to voluntarily pull out of something that I wanted to do THIS bad. So I deliberately stayed off social media for a while in case the promotion saw I was ill and wouldn’t let me fight. A little bit silly, but I had to fight, I had to get in that cage if it killed me.

When it finally came to weigh in day, I felt amazing. Easily the best I have felt being that light. There was no sauna or bath at the hotel so I went to the gym to run and start sweating. Of course I was wearing a bin bag under my hoody which is oh so attractive, good job I wasn’t looking to pull!

I got to the weigh in, and although the gym scales had told me I was dead on 52kg, the weigh in scales told me I was 52.8kg. The weight allowance for strawweights is 52.2kg-52.7kg so this meant I had another 0.1kg to drop. For the non-fighters out there who have maybe never experienced a weight cut before I’ll for in to a little more detail.

The weigh in was on a Friday at 11am. I had stopped all food and drink at mid day on the Thursday. On an empty stomach and completely dehydrated I ran for an hour at 8.30 on the Friday morning. When I got to the weigh in at 11am and found that I was 0.1kg over I knew I needed to sweat a little more. By this point your body is lacking moisture to sweat out, so it takes longer to sweat. I skipped for 20 minutes in as many clothes as I could find and finally made weight at 52.7kg exactly.

My opponent, Nayra Acosta, had done nothing all morning (I could hear her in her hotel room talking extremely loudly in Spanish) and strolled on to the scales also at exactly 52.7kg. This made me happy for a few reasons: 1. She was naturally lighter than me, so when I came back up to my walk around weight of 56kg I would be bigger than her. 2. If I was bigger it would probably be because I was stronger (judging by our physiques). 3. Whether psychological or not, I felt like I had the edge over her and this gave me confidence for the fight.

The last couple of Muay Thai fights I had in Thailand really taught me to chill out about fights, and it was very apparent during the day leading up to this fight. My boyfriend and I went shopping during the day, after an amazing hotel buffet breakfast (much needed after the weight cut). We then arrived to the venue around 4pm and stayed there until the fight.

I felt extremely relaxed (bar about 10 minutes after the rules meeting when the ref told me I wasn’t allowed to wear spats – since when was that a rule?!) My fight was 10th of 14 fights, so I knew I had a while to wait. I did my usual and had a nap under a hoody in the corner of the room (you have no idea how nice that feels before a fight) and generally chilled out with the other guys in my corner.

I decided at the very beginning of the night that our corner (red corner) was going to be the better corner, and every time someone walked in the room I said, “Welcome to the winning corner”. I was actually only messing around but it turned out 10 of the 14 fights were won by the red corner which is a pretty impressive number. Positive thinking DOES work!

Jesse (from Shinkick in Woking, where I have been training Muay Thai) was cornering me along with Gareth (my boyfriend and best training partner ever). Jesse wrapped my hands at the beginning of the evening, so that by the time I went to fight, the wraps felt like extensions of my hands.

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I didn’t fight until around 10.30pm so I was ridiculously ready to get in the cage. I had butterflies, but far more of excitement than nerves. I actually felt for the first time, this is my job. This is what I am meant to do with my life.

My walk out song started playing and I just couldn’t help but smile. If you’ve never heard Len – Steal my Sunshine, go ahead and try not to let it brighten up your day! It’s just not possible! I couldn’t believe the response from the crowd either. I was the first on the UK vs. Gran Caneria card, and the crowd could not be more in to it. To make it even better, my table (I had 9 friends to watch me) was right next to the entrance of the cage. I was absolutely buzzing.

From what I remember, and my memory may be a little hazy on some details, but around the first two minutes of the fight were standing. I definitely got a few good punches, but I had two lumps swelling on my forehead (one each side so it sort of looked like devil horns were trying to escape). I completely zoned out, and forgot I was in a fight – in my head we were sparring. Although this was good from a relaxing point of view, it also meant I forgot that I had corners. They kept shouting ‘right kick’ at me, but it wasn’t until I had heard them about 3 or 4 times that I remembered they were actually shouting at me.

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After the first few minutes I remembered what Andy (Roberts, my head coach) had said to me, “If you don’t know who’s wining the round, just take her down. Then you will win the round, even if it’s just by a take down.” So I went in to the clinch and tripped her leg for the take down. It is one of my favourite take downs and one I felt very comfortable doing it, so it came very naturally. Once she was on the ground I knew I just had to keep her there.

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The ref gave her three verbal warnings to defend herself, and I have to admit I wondered why he didn’t stop the fight sooner. She wasn’t able to defend herself at all so I just kept landing the punches. I tried a few elbows but they didn’t seem to be making as much impact as the punches, so I ended up mainly punching although I do love an elbow.

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After what seemed like forever (but in reality can’t have been more than about 2 minutes) the ref pulled me off her and I jumped around like a 5 year old that’s just been told they’re going to Disney Land. I could not stop smiling. I got my hand raised. Me! My hand! I won!!!!! Can’t even begin to describe how good that felt.

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I was rushed into the post fight interview, which I absolutely do not remember. I rambled on about a load of (let’s be honest) crap but Simon (Cafferty, the interviewer) did a great job of keeping in professional and informative. Somehow I managed to shout out all my sponsors but if anyone feels that I should have mentioned them, yes I probably should. As I said, I don’t remember it. The main person I know I forgot was Jesse who cornered me and has helped me loads with my Muay Thai! That I feel bad about.

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I want to say a massive thank you to Say Uncle (John and Lisa) for having me on the show. Also all the photographers, runners, refs and judges. The show was very well run and had a massive audience which is always great for a fighter. Of course my thanks and appreciation in bucket loads goes to Jesse and Gareth for cornering me; Gareth (again), Scott, Matt and the other guys at the gym who have continually helped me with extra sparring sessions; Andy for letting me represent his gym (Andy Roberts BJJ); and last but definitely not least, my ever growing list of sponsors – Xbrain, Battle Balm, Pony Club Grappling Gear and STR8_CHEER.

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About The Author

English Mixed Martial Artist fighting out of Andy Roberts BJJ and Legacy BJJ with a pro record of 4-1.

One Response to The journey of an aspiring fighter: A new chapter #1

  1. Vassilis says:

    Helen Harper, you’re beyond awesome really, well done girl!

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