Interview With Roxanne ModafferiSeeking an imminent return to competition from her home in Kanagawa, Japan, multi-time world champion Roxanne Modafferi speaks with about her career accomplishments to date and her aspirations to debut for Strikeforce.

As an American-born and trained fighter living in Japan, Roxanne has a very unique background, but she uses her time away from MMA to educate those around her.


Teaching English to students in Japan on a full-time basis, Roxanne still finds time to be one of the very best female fighters in mixed martial arts. Already the holder of numerous championships, and having once been the #1-ranked female fighter in the world, Roxanne now has her sights set on competing among the elite in the Strikeforce 135-pound women’s division.

Please note that this is a repost of our original interview here. Hi, Roxanne. Thank you for taking time out for this interview. As you are a student of many martial arts disciplines, what was it that first sparked your interest in combat sports?

Roxanne Modafferi: The Power Rangers first got me interested in fighting. “Beat up the bad guys” sounded pretty good, but after I started Tae Kwon Do, I found that I loved it and tried many disciplines after that. Prior to making your debut in MMA, you had trained in Tae Kwon Do, Kempo Karate, Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and also became the North American Grappling Association (NAGA) Fighter of the Year in 2002. How important was it to your MMA career to have such an extensive background in each discipline?

Roxanne: I’d say that I developed personally and spiritually through all of those experiences. I met many people and learned many things, but as far as training goes, I don’t think that Tae Kwon Do helped my kickboxing ability. However, Judo and jiu-jitsu became my “backbone,” so to speak, and shape my current style. When you were training early in your career, did you ever see yourself becoming as successful of a fighter as you are now?

Roxanne: Let’s say that my “career” started as soon as I decided that I wanted to try MMA, which was my Freshman year of college. By then, I had gone from Tae Kwon Do to Kempo, back to Tae Kwon Do, then to Judo to BJJ to grappling/kickboxing. As soon as I decided that I wanted to fight pro, I also decided that I needed to set a goal.

The highest goals that I could think of were: A) being the first woman to fight in the UFC, and B) to beat every single woman in the world. Now, who knows where women’s MMA is going? Maybe the UFC isn’t the best place for women? Maybe it is the future? You have one of the most unique backgrounds of anyone in the sport today, as you were born and raised in the United States but now live and train in Japan. Do you still teach English to Japanese students or have you made a full-time transition to MMA competition?

Roxanne: I still teach English to Japanese students full-time, and do my best to train MMA as much as a professional would. I think that the only woman who can actually earn a living in MMA is Gina Carano right now. As part of the respected Wajyutsu Keisyukai network of gyms in Japan, your teammates include Yushin “Thunder” Okami, Keita “K-Taro” Nakamura and fellow female standout Takayo Hashi, as well as many other talented competitors. Which fighters do you train with most often and whom would you consider to be your closest friends at the gym?

Roxanne: I used to train with them way more than lately. To be honest, Okami is no fun to train with because he’s twice my height and weight, so he sits on me and just laughs. K-Taro is always fun to train with. He’s an excellent teacher, and once he takes your back, it’s all over. He’s trying to learn English, and we’ve hung out a few times.

Hashi is probably one of the strongest women in the dojo, but she is always walking in just as I’m walking out, so we don’t train together that much. My best friend and the person I train the most with is Sakura, who is a “freshman,” so to speak. She just had her second pro fight.

I’m building my own training partner, which is a challenge in and of itself, especially when having to teach MMA in Japanese. Also, another fighter I look to for advice is former Shooto Champ Hideki Kadowaki. After making your pro MMA debut in late 2003, you picked up three straight wins and were then set to face your toughest test to date – and the toughest test possible at the time – against Jennifer Howe at HOOKnSHOOT: “Evolution” in November of 2004. When you first heard that you would be fighting Jennifer, what were your initial thoughts?

Roxanne: I had no idea who she was. It was presented jokingly to me, actually. I’d e-mailed promoter Jeff Osborne, telling him that I wanted to get on the card. He said he’d try to find me an opponent who had similar experience (I was 3-0). “You wouldn’t fight Jennifer Howe or anything, hahaha,” he said. However, her opponent cancelled and I jumped at the chance.