There can be no doubt, that no fighter in all of MMA has a more apt nickname than, Australian “Rowdy” Bec Hyatt. Bursting onto the international scene with her Invicta debut this past January, Hyatt’s popularity has exploded with a speed few have matched.
A war of words between herself and Austrian kick boxer Jasminka Cive, will explode into a war of fists on at Invicta FC 5, on April 5th.
Corey Smith: Despite playing a wide variety of sports, you gravitated towards MMA in 2010. How did that come about?
BH: I actually began training as a way to lose weight and at first I had no intention of fighting. I’m naturally fairly athletic and so for the most part of my early child hood I was active in sports, however once I grew into my teenage years, I fell into the wrong crowd, started getting into trouble and was regularly binge eating and drinking. At my heaviest before my first pregnancy in 2008 and two years before I started training, I was pushing 155lbs and then after that, much, much heavier.
BH: I wanted to lose all this burdening weight after giving birth to my first son, but at the same time I was unmotivated and very disinterested at times due to some of the influences in my life. Initially, I joined several fitness gyms, but I always found them to be boring and the exercises to be repetitive. So after being inspired by a John Wayne Parr kickboxing instructional, I sought out kickboxing lessons to drop my weight. After trialing a few clubs, I came across my now husband, Dan Hyatt, who at the same was a trainer of a local MMA team and the rest is history!
CS: Your professional debut was in October of 2011, after roughly a year of formal training. What led you to believe that you were ready after that length of time?
BH: In hindsight, I probably wasn’t ready to fight, but try telling me I can’t do something! At the time of my debut, I’d been training seriously for less than a year altogether due to the birth of my second son Enson and I was much greener than a lot of people thought. Before I had even stepped inside the cage I was receiving a bit of hype and I had some exceptions placed on me because of who my husband was, so there was already some pressure to perform.
BH: Leading into the fight, I had managed to lose the bulk of my second pregnancy weight and was feeling fit and confident, walking around at 119lbs. The fight itself was at 132lbs, and my opponent was cutting to make it. This didn’t bother me however as I genuinely believed I was going to win. It was heart breaking to be caught slipping with such a sloppy kick after dominating most of the fight. My opponent’s reaction after the kick says it all really, but despite the loss, this fight is still one of my favorites and I don’t have any regrets. I went on a four fight winning streak afterwards feeling no pressure, already having tasted defeat and knowing what its like to be knocked unconscious. If I could go back in time, I don’t really know whether or not I would change the result.
CS: You and current UFC Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey share the same nickname. Who do you think “Rowdy” suits more?
BH: If there can be a million fighters with the nickname ‘Hammer’, ‘Spider’ or ‘Pitbull’, surely there can be a few with ‘Rowdy’ too? In my mind, it’s just a word in the dictionary and by definition it means disorderly. Anyone that’s been around me for more than five minutes knows exactly how fitting this nickname is and I will change it for no one. Nobody owns rights to a word and by my last count, five other fighters use it as a nickname worldwide, but I would bet my butt that I’m the Rowdiest of them all by definition! Ronda Rousey has been fantastic for this sport and the growth of WMMA and I have no issues about sharing the same nickname as her, but I most definitely did not copy her! I was answering to ‘Rowdy’ from my family and friends well before I even knew who Ronda Rousey was and a little known fact is that my maiden name during this time was ‘Rebecca Rawlings’.
CS: To call you the undisputed female champion of social media might be an understatement if that’s possible. What draws you to such a high level of fan interaction?
BH: The reasoning for my popularity is simple; I appeal to so many different demographics. I’m a mother, I’m formerly overweight, I’m a fighter, I enjoy playing video games, I have tattoos and piercings and I know myself that I don’t have the appearance of a bush pig and sometimes play to that. From the outset, I’ve always made a point to put myself out there and to be sure that people to know my name and my image, so the level of my popularity and followers isn’t by luck or mistake, that’s for sure.
BH: My management and I have spent a lot of time over the past 18 months making myself as accessible to my supporters as possible and I make sure to interact with them as much as I can, so much so that I reply to over 50 messages personally a day! Without my supporters, I know that I wouldn’t be in the position that I am right now and I appreciate everyone’s unwavering support.
CS: Do you think that it’s important for a fighter’s career to use social and traditional media to further their career?
BH: I think it is incredibly important and I believe that fighters who think that their ability and fight results alone will take them to the top are naive. Do I agree with this? Of course not, but I accept it! MMA is sports entertainment and promoters more often than not care about how many bums you put in seats, as opposed to how great a fighter you actually are.
BH: Making people care about you and your fight is a big part of this sport now and the more marketing and exposure you can do or gain, the better for your career and image. I have no problem attracting attention or making headlines, good or bad, and I’m content with my supporter to hater ratio. I understand the importance of being a villain sometimes as well and am more than happy to play to that if it means a bigger fight or better opportunities for my career moving forward. Marketability is a part of the game as much as the fights themselves and as long as people continue to tune in to watch me fight, whether they want to see me win, or see me lose, I’m happy with that and have done my job.
CS: Invicta FC President Shannon Knapp stated that she had never seen anything like the amount of attention that you received from mainstream Australian media during your fight at Invicta FC 4. How important is it for you to promote the sport in your country? What are the differences in general state of MMA in Australia versus the US?
BH: I was very pleased when I heard Shannon Knapp’s comments as awareness and education is key when it comes to WMMA and it’s something I’ve focused a lot on here in Australia. I know that I’m in the best position out of any female fighter down under to promote this sport and I do my best to do so. No other fighter in Australia has ever achieved the amount of mainstream exposure I have, not even UFC signed fighters, so it’s been a great thing for MMA and WMMA as a whole here. In terms of differences between MMA in Australia and the USA though, to sum it up best, in Australia we have state governments banning the cage at the moment and the sport is more known as “cage fighting” than MMA!
CS: You stepped in on late notice to face Carla Ezparza for the inaugural Invicta strawweight championship at Invicta FC 4. What were thoughts when you received that call? Have you taken short notice fights in the past?
BH: I’d never taken a short notice fight up until that point, but I was also never not going to answer a call like that to step up. When your promoter comes a knocking and is in need of someone to save the day, it’s always in a fighter’s best interest to accept and I’m not naive to that fact. It’s certainly not cheap to bring a fighter over to the United States from Australia, so in some ways I felt indebted to the organization as well. But I still can’t believe that so many fighters turned down the opportunity, especially when it can only take one loss, mistake or injury to derail a contender’s title run.
BH: I have zero regrets accepting the fight and wouldn’t change anything other than the result, but even then I’m not too disappointed with my performance given the circumstances. Leading into the fight I was subject to a lot of negativity, being that I was a 10-1 underdog, with many MMA “experts” in their “expert” opinions suggesting that I wouldn’t last a single round. My original opponent even commented in a catty fashion that it would be an early night for me and the commentators were seemingly pro Esparza during the fight itself. The only people who believed I could win or perform were myself, my team and my supporters.
BH: So in many ways my performance was satisfying, while bitter sweet at the same time considering I could have potentially finished on a couple occasions. Make no mistake, I never felt in danger or was ever hurt during the fight and I could have continued for many rounds more. But in the end, Esparza definitely deserved her victory on points, she fought her fight, a smart fight and now I’m looking forward to EARNING my way back to an eventual re-match and title shot!
BH: The amount of experience I managed to gain inside and outside of the cage from that week alone has been invaluable. Even in defeat, I’ve benefited greatly from more exposure and career opportunities than a win over my original opponent would have ever brought me, so it wasn’t all that bad. I’m very thankful that I was given the opportunity and if I had my time again, even knowing that I would lose, I wouldn’t change a thing.
CS: What has it been like so far working with Invicta? What does working for a company like Invicta do for your in cage performance?
BH: In a word, the treatment I’ve received as an IFC fighter thus far has been AMAZING! I’ve never experienced anything like it in my career and I hope to call IFC my home for a long, long time to come. You get the genuine feeling that you matter to the powers that be within the organization and it’s been more than I could ever have imagined coming from where I have. I’ve been lucky enough over the past three years to be around a lot of promotions in Australia, but the professionalism from top to bottom of IFC events is on a whole other level. I’m very proud to have become the first ever Australian to sign and fight for the organization. Being able to experience the sport at this level, this early in my career has been a real eye opener. I have no doubt moving forward into the future that my time spent with Invicta Fighting Championships is going benefit me for years and years to come!
CS: What type of feedback and coaching do you prefer during a fight? Whose voice do you look to the most?
BH: During a fight and in-between rounds, I listen out most for my head trainer Malcolm Vanderaar’s voice. Mal’s been in my corner for all six of my fights to date and is very knowledgeable about the sport, the situations and he researches all my opponent’s styles and tells. I can’t imagine fighting without his voice giving me instruction and I definitely prefer to be told the truth between rounds. If I’m losing or under performing, I want to be told, I don’t want it sugar coated and I want to know what I need to do to win. I’ve seen so many corners give their fighters reassuring advice despite obviously losing the fight at the time and that would really frustrate me in the corner. Give me a kick up the butt!
CS: You are set to face Jasminka Cive at Invicta FC 5 on April 5th. How much do you know about Cive? Have you been able to review any video of her past fights?
BH: My team and I have reviewed a lot of tape on Jasminka, even before this fight was even signed as we anticipated the fight would be inevitable. In saying this, I’ve always been excited for this match up, but now I’m actually counting down the days after comments made by my opponent’s fiance recently. I’ve been accused of steroid abuse, being a junkie & having zero talent, so victory is set to be even sweeter on April 5 in Kansas City. Stylistically, this is a fan friendly fight, I have no doubt that everyone will be entertained. There is no mistaking that Jasminka is a strong and durable opponent, one that is not to be underestimated. I’m confident though that I’m going to punch Jasminka Cive in the face so hard, she’ll wish she was still back in Austria fighting gypsies in home made cages!
CS: Like most female fighters, you originally had to fight at a higher weight class in order to get a fight. What do you think about the amount of talent that seems to have flooded the sport recently, allowing more athletes to fight at their natural class?
BH: I think it’s fantastic and that a lot of credit is due to the personalities and popularity of fighters such as Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate and Gina Carano, in addition to the arrival of Invicta Fighting Championships and the opportunities on a world stage that the promotion presents.
BH: Even in Australia alone, the amount of female’s fighting now compared to when I first started training is nothing short of incredible. It’s definitely good to know that I likely won’t ever have to fight outside of my natural weight class again. At the end of the day, every single female fighter has two arms, two legs and a heart beat just like any man and if justified, a female should be afforded the same opportunities. It’s great to see so many fighters active now, not to mention the amount that are currently training and I have no doubt with women in the UFC now, it’s only going to keep getting bigger and bigger!
CS: Your husband Dan Hyatt, is also a professional fighter. How does that aid the both of you in your careers?
BH: It can be a blessing at times, but at others a hindrance. Dan is the reason I got into this sport and was my first ever trainer, manager and has played a huge role in my development as a fighter. Outside of that, he has also sacrificed his own training for my past four fights by looking after our two children so I’m able get the right training in. I know this frustrates him a lot, but it’s allowed me to train at a level I was never able to before and has been a big factor in me taking my training, skills and career to the next level. It’s definitely much harder when he is active but to be known as the first husband and wife MMA couple in Australia does come with a lot of perks and we can’t really complain from that end. Really, it’s just about someday soon finding the right balance so that we can both train and fight again to the levels that we want.
CS: In another interview, you stated that you enjoy playing video games. What are you favorite titles? What else do you enjoy doing outside of training?
BH: I try and get in as much game time as I can but with my increased training schedule since signing with Invicta Fighting Championships, I haven’t had the chance to play as much. I mostly hit up the Call of Duty series but I’m admittedly not very good and my K/D ratio is terrible! I do talk a mean game though and when I posted my gamertag on my fan page, my Xbox Live friends list reached its limited within five minutes and I was owned in every game thereafter! Other than gaming, I enjoy spending time with my two children, Enson and Zake, along with my miniature bull terrier puppy, Meaty and outside of that, any amount of sleep is a good thing, especially close to fight week!
CS: Lastly, MMA is as much a team sport as it is an individual one. Who would you like to thank?
BH: First and foremost, I’d like to thank all my supporters! As I always say, I have undoubtedly the best support base any fighter could ever ask for and a lot of the opportunities I’ve been given over the past couple years has been due to them. I’d like to also thank my trainers, Malcolm Vanderaar, Dean Wall and Mark Brady, and along with my training partners at Impact MMA in Brisbane for all the time and effort they put into me. In addition, thank you to coach Danny Higgins and Adrian Pang from Integrated MMA in Stafford and my American wrestling coach, former NCAA D1 wrestler Danny Galvan, for all the extra assistance they have given and offered to me. Lastly, thank you to my management at Alchemist Management and to all my existing and new sponsors for this upcoming fight. Without your support, I could not afford to do this sport. Please follow me on Twitter @RowdyBec!