As one of the very best female fighters in mixed martial arts for close to a decade, Tara LaRosa has faced a who’s who of the sport and has emerged victorious in all but two of her 20 career bouts. She will face Takayo Hashi in a five-round title fight for DaMMAge Fight League on November 24th.
After reigning over the 135-pound division, LaRosa dropped down in weight to 125 pounds in 2009 and now looks to solidify her legacy in a second weight class. As she trains for her bout with Hashi, LaRosa speaks exclusively with MMARising.com about her training, goals and future in the sport.
Tara LaRosa began her professional MMA career on April 13, 2002; losing only to the then-best female fighter in the sport, Jennifer Howe, in her first 19 fights. LaRosa’s résumé is without question one of the most impressive of any female fighter in MMA and she has beaten many past and present stars. The first and only BodogFIGHT Women’s Champion suffered her first loss in seven years this past May in a highly competitive rematch with close friend Roxanne Modafferi and now has her sights set squarely on defeating Hashi and capturing yet another title belt.
MMARising.com: Thank you for taking time out for this interview, Tara. How is training going for your title fight against Takayo Hashi?
Tara LaRosa: Training’s good. A whole lot better than last time!
MMARising.com: Are you excited to return to 125 pounds and face a high-level opponent in your first fight back?
Tara: Yeah, definitely. It’s great to be back at 125. The catchweight was only for Roxanne, so it wasn’t something that I am normally looking to do. That was just a one-time deal, so I’m totally happy to be back down at 125 and having an opportunity at that weight. I had been kicking around the idea of going back to 135, but it was one of those opportunities where I felt like I should stay where I’m at and I think it’s better anyway.
MMARising.com: You’ve mentioned recently that you are nervous going into the fight. Is this normal for you and will it subside before the fight?
Tara: This is routine; I get nervous before every fight, every time. This is my 21st fight and I get nervous every time. I usually get real bad 7-10 days out, all the way up until the fight. The nerves never really go away. I mean, of course, it’s a big fight and it’s in New Jersey. All of my family is going to be there, and my friends and supporters, so I feel that there’s pressure to do well. Takayo Hashi’s really good. She’s a very good opponent. I faced her once before in Abu Dhabi [submission grappling] and I’m sure that she’s looking for revenge, so I’ve got a full plate.
MMARising.com: This bout will be a five-round title fight. Do you feel that the extra time will help or hurt you?
Tara: I think it’ll definitely help me. The longer I fight, the better that I seem to do. I’m better in the later rounds, so I’m looking forward to that. I’ve always had pretty good cardio and it usually just takes me a bit to get going. Once I get past the feeling-out process and start figuring out what I’m doing, things tend to go a bit more smoothly. I’m pretty stoked that I’ve got five rounds.
MMARising.com: Takayo is coming off of a disappointing performance in her Strikeforce title fight with Sarah Kaufman in February. How do you see this fight going, and do you think that she will slow the pace down or come out aggressively?
Tara: I’m not sure how much pressure she’ll put on herself to perform up to other people’s expectations. If she’s smart, she will play her own game and do whatever works for her, and won’t listen to criticism and come out doing something crazy to be exciting. I would hope that she would play her game and come out cautious at first, and then do whatever she needs to do to win. That’s what we’re supposed to do, right? I know that, for me, when the fight’s going on, I’m not in there worried about what someone said on the Internet about how the fight has to be fast or slow or whatever. I’m going to do what it takes to win and that’s how it goes.
MMARising.com: Takayo is primarily known for her ground game, though the fight with Sarah was contested almost entirely on the feet. Which areas, if any, do you feel that you hold an advantage over Takayo and are there any areas where you feel that she has an edge?
Tara: I know that her ground game is very good, so I think that we’ll probably match up pretty well. I have no problems with going to the ground and seeing what she’s got. It could go to the ground or it could stay standing. It just depends, but I’m pretty good at going with the flow in a fight and taking the fight where I feel it needs to be. For advantages, I’m not sure. I don’t think that she has any advantages over me and I don’t think that I have any significant advantages over her. I might be a little bit bigger than she is, but her last fight was at 135 pounds.
MMARising.com: If you are able to beat Takayo, do you plan to stay at 125 pounds for the foreseeable future or is a return to 135 also a possibility?
Tara: Anything’s possible, but I really like fighting at 125. That’s the weight class that I fit into really well and it’s too bad that the bigger shows haven’t picked it up yet. I keep hearing rumours that this one’s going to do it, or that one’s going to do it, but so far it’s a whole lot of lip service and I haven’t really seen anything tangible. I’ve got opportunities at 125, so I’m going to take those until they run out. I’m hoping that something will come along shortly that will be quite prosperous.
MMARising.com: You’ve been ranked at or near the top of the 125-pound, 135-pound and pound-for-pound rankings for quite some time, but don’t receive the same recognition that some other top fighters do. What do you feel needs to happen for that to change, and would you be interested in fighting for a larger promotion like Strikeforce or Bellator?
Tara: I think that I really just need to get back in the mainstream media by fighting for a mainstream show. Strikeforce is pretty much it, but Bellator is fairly visible as well. Everybody knows Gina Carano, Cris Cyborg and Sarah Kaufman, but the only reason [fans don’t know about me] is because I haven’t fought on those shows. I’d just need to go to one of those weight classes; either back up to 135 or move down to 115. And, of course, be successful. Nobody remembers a loser, right?
So, that’s what I think I need to do to get my name back out there, and I’m just kind of hoping that one of them will pick up 125 soon.
I’m willing to go wherever there’s an opportunity, but I’d like to stay at 125 because that’s my weight class. For 115, I might be able to make it once, but I don’t know that I could make it in a [Bellator] tournament format with three weeks in between fights. I really don’t know if that would be possible and I don’t want to enter into a contract that requires me to do something that I’m not 100% sure that I can do. I’m realistic with myself and my capabilities.
Fighting at 135 is a possibility and is more tangible, but I’m pretty small for it. I walk around at 134 every day, so it’s tough to face women who get back up to 155 in the cage after cutting weight to make 135 and rehydrating. It’s one of those things where the sport has evolved, and especially for women. It’s at a much higher level than it used to be, and we’re not all walking around at a regular weight and only cutting a few pounds. It’s a lot more scientific and people are taking it much more seriously. There’s a lot more plans for eating now and fighters are much more skilled and well-rounded. You have to make some smart decisions.
MMARising.com: You have consistently put on exciting performances throughout your career. How much would that help you in terms of gaining a larger fan base if you were to fight for a promotion like Strikeforce on Showtime?
Tara: I definitely think that it would help. When you’re in a ring or a cage, the fans are looking at the fight and they’re looking at the pace and style. I think that my fights and skills speak for themselves. I think that a lot of people would be fans of my style if I was fighting for a bigger show and I think that a lot of them would stand up and take notice.
MMARising.com: Who are some other fighters that you would like to face in the coming year? A fight with Carina Damm, which was initially considered for the DaMMAge Fight League card, has been rumoured for quite some time. Is that still of interest to you?
Tara: For sure. If you can make it to 125, come one, come all. Carina Damm, absolutely. I had thought Rin Nakai, but she’s gone up in weight now and that may not be an option anymore. Rosi Sexton, Aisling Daly, give me Zoila Frausto! I’m all about it. I’m pretty stoked to be fighting Takayo Hashi and it’s pretty cool that she’s coming down to 125.
MMARising.com: Looking ahead, how many more years would you like to compete in MMA and what are your primary goals for 2011?
Tara: You know, I’ve been thinking about that a whole lot lately. On January 8th, I turn 33 and I can feel my biological clock ticking. I would love to settle down and start a family and open my own gym, but I know that I can’t do that while I’m still fighting. I’m happy and doing well, and training’s going all right. I don’t see myself quitting anytime soon. I’ve still got some things to do and there’s some girls who have come up the ranks that I’m excited to possibly face. I think that I’ll be around for a while.
MMARising.com: For newer fans who may not have seen many of your fights yet, what would you most like them to know about you and your career?
Tara: I’ve been around for a while and I’ve seen and done a lot in this sport. My style has held up and people seem to like my fights. They like the pace and they like what I bring into the fight, so just take a look for yourself and make your own judgments.
MMARising.com: Do you have any final shout-outs to family, friends and training partners?
Tara: All of my family and friends, and my team at the Philadelphia Fight Factory, of course. Thank God that I’ve got some people supporting me and helping me out by encouraging me.
MMARising.com: Thank you very much for taking the time out for this interview. Best wishes for your title fight with Takayo Hashi on November 24th.