Interview With Adrienna "AJ" JenkinsAt just 28 years of age, Hawaiian native Adrienna “AJ” Jenkins already sports one of the more impressive records in MMA’s women’s division. Now making her home in Iowa, she has battled her way through the local scene in hopes of getting a chance to showcase her skills in Strikeforce.

Victorious in her first-round bout in the inaugural Freestyle Cage Fighting Women’s Bantamweight Grand Prix, Jenkins now has her sights set on her semi-final matchup with tough veteran Jan “Cuddles” Finney. Jenkins discusses her career and future in this interview with


Adrienna Jenkins grew up in Kauai, Hawaii and made her mixed martial arts debut at the age of 22 when she faced Keri Crothers at WEC 9 in 2004. Gradually making a name for herself in and around the MMA-rich state of Iowa, Adrienna now looks to take her career to the next level as she battles seven other challengers for a Strikeforce contract. In this exclusive interview, Adrienna discusses her career to date, her thoughts on the FCF tournament and plans for the coming year. Thank you for taking time for this interview, Adrienna. To begin, can you talk a bit about what first sparked your interest in martial arts and when you first began training for MMA?

Adrienna Jenkins: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me! I originally started training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under a Relson Gracie affiliate in Kauai, Hawaii in high school. I had a friend that was really into it and invited me to take a class. I was hooked from then on. I moved to Honolulu (Oahu) for college and attended the actual Relson Gracie main school, then met instructors at HMC (Hawaii Martial Arts Center) where they had Muay Thai classes. Cross-training led to a few amateur fights and my pro debut in the WEC against Keri Crothers. You are one of the most experienced female fighters in the sport, but newer fans may still be unfamiliar with your career. Has competing primarily in and around Iowa been a positive for you in developing your skills or would you have preferred to be competing for bigger shows across the country?

Adrienna: Of course I would have loved being in bigger shows, but I’ve basically decided that experience helps. When I was offered fights, I took them. I knew that I wanted to start small to be the best in the state and try to spread outwards. I’ve done amateur MMA here as well as Muay Thai, boxing and wrestling/grappling tourneys. Every fight was a positive and a learning experience. Whether I won or lost, I’ve met some great people in Iowa. If I do well in the FCF tournament, hopefully it will lead to bigger venues. With an official record of 17-2-0 (and I’ve been told that you actually have 20 or more victories), your record is among the most impressive in the entire women’s division. Are you more focused on racking up wins or simply putting on exciting fights for the fans?

Adrienna: LOL. Lord, I wouldn’t say impressive. Yes, I’ve won, but it doesn’t mean that I didn’t take an ass-whooping to win, haha. Putting on good fights shows my coaches and training partners that I actually listen to them and that their time invested in me is worth it. I think that, because some of my opponents aren’t as well known, they still felt like a victory to be proud of. Quite a few had fight experience outside of MMA and across the ring looked like they were worth the fight.

I try to remind myself that most of my fights were a while ago at a time when FEMMA was still growing. I was grateful for an opponent in the first place. It has been nearly three years since you last suffered a loss in MMA – to EliteXC veteran Kelly Kobold – and you’re currently on a lengthy winning streak. What lessons did you learn in the fight with Kelly and do you feel that losses only make you stronger?

Adrienna: Definitely. I realized with that fight just how much of fighting is based on being healthy mentally. At that point in my life, I was mentally weak. I was easy to break and it showed in the fight. Kelly is actually a very nice lady. She was supportive after the fight and gave me positive feedback, and I wish nothing but the best for her career. To date, you have never gone to a decision in your entire career. In fact, until your most recent fight, you had never been outside of the first round. You are clearly a proven finisher, but do you feel that fights ending quickly can sometimes be a negative, in that you don’t get to display many of the skills that you’ve developed in training?

Adrienna: I really don’t think about it too much. You know, I just try to watch for openings. Listen (to my team) and watch. I honestly train for hard, decision fights as if it’s going to be a hard three rounds. It’s just ended up the way it has. I feel that you can’t really predict a fight; you can just try to impose what you are good at. If you are good at that, you will find that it works in your favor. You are currently a part of the inaugural Freestyle Cage Fighting Women’s Bantamweight Grand Prix, which will crown a tournament champion who moves on to compete in Strikeforce. What are your thoughts on the FCF tournament thus far?

Adrienna: Oh man, it’s been a great experience. The first round was a bit stressful due to weather issues and all of the girls making it in safely, but once everyone made it in, it was great to watch this caliber of women. We all made weight successfully and performed great. Everyone was so nice and cordial with the event, staff included.

I really enjoy fighting on all-women cards. There was an event in 2004 (HOOKnSHOOT/Shooto) put on by Jeff Osborne. I met Kelly Kobold, Jan Finney, Jennifer Howe, Roxanne Modafferi and Tara LaRosa, all of the greats. This is when we were all mostly getting started in the sport. I fought Shelby Walker that night and one of my closest friends, Molly Helsel, fought as well.

Honestly, it was such an awesome experience being surrounded by all of these unique and talented girls and it kind of felt that way with the FCF tourney. You feel like you are at the right place, at the right time, with all these girls that share the same love. Good stuff for sure. In the opening round of the FCF Grand Prix at FCF 39, you submitted tough challenger Sarah Schneider with a rear-naked choke in the second round. She had put on a very solid performance in the opening round, but you battled back strong to pick up the victory. Can you talk a bit about the fight and what you think the key moments were in leading to your victory?

Adrienna: Haha, I remember looking across the ring behind Sarah and seeing Lana Stefanac behind her giving her instructions. My coach (Pete Peterson) says, “AJ, hands up, good base,” and I’m thinking, “Hell yeah I’m keeping my hands up! Do you see Lana over there??” LOL.

Sarah is overall a tough girl. I mean, she put up a tough fight with Tonya Evinger, submitted Kaitlin Young and Julie Kedzie, and fought Jennifer Tate to a close decision. She’s talented. I wanted to fight safe, not stupid. I knew that I had decent submission defense, so I thought to use my wrestling to keep a good base and survive the first, then watch for openings. It worked. It was definitely a submission workshop. I went from being in something, to getting something, to being in something again. There were spots that left her open for shots on the ground and I believe that that helped.

Afterwards, I saw Lana backstage helping Sarah on finishing the submissions that I was stuck in. I jumped in and asked, “How can I defend those better…?” Sarah and I were both getting help from her. I know that we have both learned from the fight and her whole team was nice and professional. Were you surprised that Sarah was able to take the fight into the second round or did you expect that she would pose a tough test for you?

Adrienna: Not surprised at all. I feel like I had a different mindset for this fight. Like I said, she’s talented. I’m grateful for the win and can’t wait to see when Sarah’s next fight is!