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Dear Roxy: ‘How do you keep a straight face?’

The Happy Warrior is back!

Fans and other fighters ask me a lot of interesting questions, and I wish my experience and knowledge would help everyone, so I decided to create a “Dear Roxy” advice column. Each month, I’ll take your most interesting questions about sparring, training, and life in general and answer them to the best of my ability. Hopefully we can all learn a few things along the way.

Last time we talked about planning workouts in the gym, making sure you choose your partners wisely and get the kind of useful experience you need while working out. We also talked about taking care of your body and addressing potential underlying causes of injury, especially establishing stretching, strength, and conditioning routines to ensure your joints suffer as little stress as possible.

This week, we’ll talk about putting on your gaming face, creating a welcoming culture in your gym, and surviving the Ultimate Fighter.

Dear Roxy,

How do you manage to keep a straight face after taking a blow to the shin, or an already broken nose, or other parts of the body loaded with nerve endings? Does the adrenaline of combat mask the pain or does it take a conscious effort not to let the pain show? – From ClowntimeIsOver

Dear ClowntimeIsOver,

Indeed, adrenaline masks most of the pain. From what I remember from my distorted reality during my fights, it was more the blows to the head that bothered me. If I was hit very very hard on the side of the head, it was like blinking my eyes very slowly. The world stopped, or disappeared for a moment, then came back. Only I felt slower. This physical reaction that I felt bothered me the most.

I experienced being mentally stuck on game plans afterwards. For example, if the strategy was to try to throw strikes to close distance and then make a takedown, I would go after the takedown like a Terminator. Even though they didn’t work and I should have changed the strategy for more kicks or punches, I kept doing the same thing and failing. At the start of a fight, I would be more lucid. It depended on how hard the person was hitting. For example, Viviane Araujo hit extremely hard. She might be one of the top five hitters I’ve ever felt. If the other fighters’ punches weren’t so strong, I would be able to get through them and eat them more easily without being affected. I rarely felt pain.

As for the pain, I felt more sharp, stinging twitches when I was punched in the nose or an already bruised area. They were annoying, but I was more concerned about my opponent hitting me and scoring points. The little voice in my head said, “Oh no, it landed. You didn’t block that! The actual pain didn’t bother me that much.

As far as a poker face goes, that’s actually a pretty good point. I took a closer look at the unified rules and they state that judges are supposed to weigh more heavily strikes that injure or damage the opponent. If a fighter acts like the painful blow doesn’t bother them the least bit, the judges may well not consider it a significant blow. Therefore, a straight face would impact the outcome of a judges decision.

Dear Roxy,

What do you think of how MMA gyms/coaches deal with LGBTQ+ issues and how you think they should be handled, and any advice you may have for young LGBTQ+ people who are currently interested in or pursuing the mma? – Of, especially in his head

Dear MostlyInHerHead,

In the gyms where I have trained or given seminars, LGBTQ+ people are treated with respect and warmth. When I did a seminar in DC, I noticed that Bellingham BJJ labels bathrooms “gender-neutral bathrooms” to make everyone feel comfortable, although it’s only typical toilet and sink. I guess the alternative would be the ‘Women’ and ‘Men’ signs that you usually find hanging on plaques on doors. Owner Jeff told me that it was important to him to create an environment where everyone felt comfortable. I agree – everyone should have the opportunity to work out and have a safe haven from everyday stress.

The LGBTQ+ community should definitely learn martial arts for self-defense, as they tend to be attacked at statistically higher rates. As for competition, there are no set guidelines and there is a lot of conflicting data. Outside of competition, I think everyone should have the opportunity to train. Gym owners should welcome anyone to train and practice as much as they want, and in the places I’ve been they are welcome. All genders usually train together and the members get to know each other as people who love martial arts.

Dear Roxy,

Which TUF were you most nervous about, which one did you prefer? Did you prefer one coach over another? What was it like knowing you were more advanced in BJJ than some coaches and coaches? Is it easier (or maybe harder) to be in your hometown and want to go home, shower and sleep, but you can’t… but that’s just down the street (roughly). -From, Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

Well, before both, I felt lost and unsure of my next step. Before TUF 18, I was on a massive losing streak and my body was falling apart. Prior to TUF 26, I felt healthy and strong, also feeling like I had reached a higher skill level. However, I was unable to take my career to the next level due to the fact that my weight class (flyweight) did not exist in the UFC. I couldn’t make a living.

I felt more nerves and anxiety before TUF 18. I knew my career depended on this single fight to get into the house (against Valérie Létourneau). It didn’t matter how high level my jiujitsu skills were. Miesha Tate and her team were better than me at just about everything on TUF 18. Justin Gaethje and his team had a fantastic fight, and I had good hitting practice with assistant coach Luke Caudillo. Vinny Magalhães, whose jiujitsu is actually way above mine, was an assistant coach on TUF 26, so that was super cool.

It was definitely weird knowing exactly where I was going. When I first went to Vegas for TUF 18, I couldn’t recognize anything. When they drove us during TUF 26, I knew exactly where we were – 15 minutes north of my apartment. It was quite funny. I didn’t particularly want to go home. I wanted to beat three girls and win the title.

As for who I liked the most? There were great people on both seasons. I had a better experience and got along with more people on TUF 26. I’ll never forget how nice grappling coach Ricky Lundell was to me on TUF 18. Luke on TUF 26 was great supportive, and Justin is just a fun guy to be around in general.

Team TUF 26 Gaethje, 2018

If you would like to submit your own questions for ‘Dear Roxy’, feel free to email me at [email protected], with the subject “Dear Roxy”, or hit us up on twitter @RoxyFighter with the hashtag #DearRoxy. Or just leave your questions in a comment below on Bloody Elbow. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.