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Janaisa Morandin Replaces Jodie Esquibel Against Livia Renata Souza at Invicta FC 25

Kansas City, Mo. — The fight card for Invicta Fighting Championships 25 has changed.

Strawweight title challenger Jodie Esquibel (6-2) has suffered an injury in training and has been forced out of her co-headlining bout against former champion Livia Renata Souza (10-1). Replacing Esquibel will be undefeated Brazilian Janaisa Morandin (9-0). The bout will now be a three-round, non-title affair.

Morandin has reeled off nine straight wins in her home country to open her career, including five by way of strikes. Normally competing as an atomweight, she will move up in weight to take on her countrywoman Souza.

Also, bantamweight Sarah Kleczka (0-0) will make her Invicta and professional debut against Amberlynn Orr (0-1). Kleczka, dubbed “Chucky,” was unbeaten as an amateur and replaces Kelly McGill-Velasco (2-1).

Invicta FC 25 takes place from the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino in Lemoore, Calif., on Thursday, Aug. 31. All of the action streams live and exclusively on UFC Fight Pass at 6 p.m. PT.

The updated fight card for Invicta FC 25 can be found below:

Bantamweight Title: Raquel Pa’aluhi (6-5) vs. Yana Kunitskaya (9-3, 1 NC)
Strawweight: Livia Renata Souza (10-1) vs. Janaisa Morandin (9-0)
Bantamweight: Alexa Conners (4-1) vs. Katharina Lehner (5-0)
Strawweight: Sharon Jacobson (4-1) vs. Kali Robbins (4-0)
Atomweight: Shino VanHoose (5-5) vs. Alyse Anderson (3-0)
Bantamweight: Amberlynn Orr (0-1) vs. Sarah Kleczka (0-0)
Bantamweight: Yaya Rincón (1-0) vs. Stephanie Egger (2-1)
Flyweight: Cheri Muraski (3-0) vs. Tracy Cortez (0-0)
Atomweight: Ashley Medina (0-0) vs. Jillian DeCoursey (0-0)

Tickets for the event can be purchased now through the Tachi Palace website.


About Invicta FC:

Invicta Fighting Championships is a world championship, all-pro mixed martial arts (MMA) fight series dedicated to providing female athletes with a major platform to hone their skills on a consistent basis. Founded in 2012 by longtime MMA executive Shannon Knapp, Invicta is committed to pioneering the future growth of women’s MMA by promoting the best possible match-ups between female competitors and identifying and developing future superstars of the sport. Follow Invicta on Twitter (@InvictaFights), Facebook (Facebook.com/InvictaFights), and Instagram (@InvictaFC) for all the latest information.

Invicta FC 25 Heads to California With Two Title Fights

Kansas City, Mo. — Invicta Fighting Championships is returning to California with a pair of title fights.

The promotion will make its inaugural visit to the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino on Thursday, Aug. 31.

In the night’s main event, Hawaiian Raquel Pa’aluhi (6-5) will face off with former title challenger Yana Kunitskaya (9-3, 1 NC) for the vacant bantamweight championship. Pa’aluhi has won four of her last five fights, most recently submitting Pannie Kianzad in the first round at Invicta FC 21 in January. Kunitskaya once again looks to secure gold after a pair of bouts against long-reigning champion Tonya Evinger in her two prior Invicta appearances.

Invicta gold is also on the line in the night’s co-main event as former champion Livia Renata Souza (10-1) aims to become a two-time champion against New Mexico’s Jodie Esquibel (6-2). The Brazilian Souza is coming off a first-round knockout finish of atomweight champion Ayaka Hamasaki at Invicta FC 22. Esquibel was also in action at the March event, besting former title challenger DeAnna Bennett by decision.

Invicta FC 25 will stream live and exclusively on UFC Fight Pass at 6 p.m. PT.

The current fight card for Invicta FC 25 can be found below:

Bantamweight Title: Raquel Pa’aluhi (6-5)  vs. Yana Kunitskaya (9-3, 1 NC)
Strawweight Title: Livia Renata Souza (10-1) vs. Jodie Esquibel (6-2)

Tickets for the event can be purchased now through the Tachi Palace website. Additional bouts for the event will be announced at a later date.


About Invicta FC:

Invicta Fighting Championships is a world championship, all-pro mixed martial arts (MMA) fight series dedicated to providing female athletes with a major platform to hone their skills on a consistent basis. Founded in 2012 by longtime MMA executive Shannon Knapp, Invicta is committed to pioneering the future growth of women’s MMA by promoting the best possible match-ups between female competitors and identifying and developing future superstars of the sport. Follow Invicta on Twitter (@InvictaFights), Facebook (Facebook.com/InvictaFights), and Instagram (@InvictaFC) for all the latest information.

Five Additional Bouts Added to Invicta FC 22

Kansas City, Mo. — Invicta Fighting Championships 22 has added five new bouts.

The night’s co-main event will feature atomweight champion Ayaka Hamasaki (14-1) moving up a weight class to take on former strawweight champion Livia Renata Souza (9-1). Hamasaki will enter the contest having won five straight fights, including back-to-back title defenses against Jinh Yu Frey and Amber Brown. Souza will compete for the first time since her Invicta FC 17 battle with Angela Hill.

Also at strawweight, former title challenger DeAnna Bennett (8-2) takes on Jodie Esquibel (5-2). The pair were originally slated to collide at Invicta FC 21, but the bout had to be rescheduled. Bennett will return for the first time since Invicta FC 16, where she engaged in a back-and-forth battle with veteran Roxanne Modafferi. Esquibel headlined Invicta FC 18 in July against Mexico’s Alexa Grasso.

Recent atomweight title challenger Jinh Yu Frey (5-2) battles undefeated Brazilian newcomer Janaisa Morandin (9-0). Frey came up short in her quest for gold at Invicta FC 19 after doctors stopped her bout due to a cut. Morandin has reeled off nine straight wins in her home country, including five by way of strikes.

Finally, two additional strawweight match-ups are slated for the event. Iceland’s Sunna Rannveig Davidsdottir (1-0), fresh off her decision win over Ashley Greenway at Invicta FC 19, welcomes newcomer Mallory Martin (1-0) to the Invicta cage, while unbeaten Kal Holliday (1-0) looks to build off her submission victory over Tiffany Van Soest when she takes on 19-year-old sensation Miranda Maverick (1-0).

The bouts join the previously announced bantamweight title rematch between champion Tonya Evinger (18-5, 1 NC) and Russian challenger Yana Kunitskaya (9-2, 1 NC).

The event takes place Saturday, March 25 from the historic Scottish Rite Temple in Kansas City, Mo. The event streams live and exclusively on UFC Fight Pass at 8 p.m. ET.

The current Invicta FC 22 fight card can be found below:

Bantamweight Title: Tonya Evinger (18-5, 1 NC) vs. Yana Kunitskaya (9-2, 1 NC)
Strawweight: Ayaka Hamasaki (14-1) vs. Livia Renata Souza (9-1)
Strawweight: DeAnna Bennett (8-2) vs. Jodie Esquibel (5-2)
Atomweight: Jinh Yu Frey (5-2) vs. Janaisa Morandin (9-0)
Strawweight: Sunna Rannveig Davidsdottir (1-0) vs. Mallory Martin (1-0)
Strawweight: Kal Holliday (1-0) vs. Miranda Maverick (1-0)

Tickets for Invicta FC 22 go on sale Saturday, Feb. 11 at 10 a.m. CT via Ticketfly.com. Additional bouts for the event will be announced at a later date.


About Invicta FC:

Invicta Fighting Championships is a world championship, all-pro mixed martial arts (MMA) fight series dedicated to providing female athletes with a major platform to hone their skills on a consistent basis. Founded in 2012 by longtime MMA executive Shannon Knapp, Invicta is committed to pioneering the future growth of women’s MMA by promoting the best possible match-ups between female competitors and identifying and developing future superstars of the sport. Follow Invicta on Twitter (@InvictaFights), Facebook (Facebook.com/InvictaFights), and Instagram (@InvictaFC) for all the latest information.

Invicta FC 21 Adds Four Additional Bouts

Kansas City, Mo. — Invicta Fighting Championships 21 has added four bouts.

Swedish bantamweight Pannie Kianzad (8-1) will return to action against Hawaii’s Raquel Pa’aluhi (5-5), undefeated Aspen Ladd (4-0) will take on grappling ace Sijara Eubanks (2-1), also at 135 pounds, veteran strawweights DeAnna Bennett (8-2) and Jodie Esquibel (5-2) square off, and newcomer Brieta Carpenter (0-0) will welcome boxing champion Heather Hardy (0-0) to the Invicta cage.

Kianzad returns to the Invicta cage after falling short against champion Tonya Evinger are Invicta FC 14 last year. Pa’aluhi, meanwhile, has won three of her last four, including wins over veterans Ediane Gomes and Kaitlin Young.

The 21-year-old Ladd has continued her winning ways since moving up to bantamweight, defeating Jessica Hoy and Kelly McGill in her last two appearances. Eubanks, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, earned her second career win via strikes at Invicta FC 18, stopping Amberlynn Orr in the first round.

Bennett, a former strawweight title challenger, will return for the first time since Invicta FC 16, where she engaged in a back-and-forth battle with veteran Roxanne Modafferi. Esquibel headlined Invicta FC 18 in July against Mexico’s Alexa Grasso.

Hardy, 34, carries an undefeated record of 18-0 in the boxing ring and currently holds the WBC international featherweight and super bantamweight titles. Carpenter signed with the promotion in June after compiling an 8-2 amateur record, including a 10-second knockout in her most recent outing.

Invicta FC 21 will take place Saturday, Jan. 14 from the historic Scottish Rite Temple in Kansas City, Mo. The event will air live and exclusively on UFC Fight Pass. The night’s main event will feature a featherweight clash between Megan Anderson (7-2) and Charmaine Tweet (9-5).

The current fight card for Invicta FC 21 can be found below:

Featherweight: Megan Anderson (7-2) vs. Charmaine Tweet (9-5)
Bantamweight: Pannie Kianzad (8-1) vs. Raquel Pa’aluhi (5-5)
Strawweight: DeAnna Bennett (8-2) vs. Jodie Esquibel (5-2)
Bantamweight: Aspen Ladd (4-0) vs. Sijara Eubanks (2-1)
Flyweight: Heather Hardy (0-0) vs. Brieta Carpenter (0-0)

Tickets for Invicta FC 21 go on sale Saturday, Dec. 10 at 10 a.m. CT via Ticketfly.com. Additional bouts for the event will be announced at a later date.


About Invicta FC:

Invicta Fighting Championships is a world championship, all-pro mixed martial arts (MMA) fight series dedicated to providing female athletes with a major platform to hone their skills on a consistent basis. Founded in 2012 by longtime MMA executive Shannon Knapp, Invicta is committed to pioneering the future growth of women’s MMA by promoting the best possible match-ups between female competitors and identifying and developing future superstars of the sport. Follow Invicta on Twitter (@InvictaFights), Facebook (Facebook.com/InvictaFights), and Instagram (@InvictaFC) for all the latest information.

Invicta FC 18 Results: Grasso Dominates Esquibel, Niedźwiedź Edges Stanley

Kansas City, Mo. — On Friday, July 29, Invicta Fighting Championships hosted Invicta FC 18: Grasso vs. Esquibel from the historic Scottish Rite Temple. The event streamed live and exclusively on UFC Fight Pass beginning at 8 p.m. ET.

In the night’s main event, Mexico’s Alexa Grasso moved to 8-0 after outstriking Jodie Esquibel for three rounds. Grasso controlled range in the opening frame, landing her right hand at will. Esquibel struggled to get inside as Grasso scored from distance. Esquibel marched forward in round two, but Grasso made her pay with well-placed counter shots. Grasso’s heavy hands took their toll in the final round, as Esquibel’s nose poured blood. Esquibel showed a lot of heart, lasting to the final bell, but it was Grasso’s fight on the scorecards.

Polish flyweight Agnieszka Niedźwiedź remained unbeaten, topping late-notice opponent Christine Stanley by unanimous decision. Niedźwiedź peppered Stanley with jabs to open the contest, but Stanley countered with overhand rights. Once Niedźwiedź found her range, she changed levels and put Stanley on the ground. Stanley fought hard to get back to her feet, but Niedźwiedź’s takedowns were relentless. The pair continued to trade in round two, with Stanley landing the heavier shots, but she couldn’t stop the takedowns of Niedźwiedź. It was more of the same in the final frame as Niedźwiedź sealed the win on the ground.

Japan’s MIZUKI scored another big win inside the Invicta cage, submitting Lynn Alvarez by armbar. The pair opened tentatively, but MIZUKI quickly took the fight to the ground and mounted Alvarez. She scored with hammerfists and elbows, but Alvarez was able to spin into top position as the round closed. The second stanza opened with a brief firefight, before MIZUKI used a hip toss to get Alvarez to the ground. She took Alvarez’s back and then transitioned to the armbar to coerce the tap.

Cindy Dandois earned a first-round submission win against UFC veteran Jessamyn Duke. Dandois earned a takedown in the opening seconds, but Duke was able to get back to her feet. It was short-lived as Dandois earned a head-and-arm throw into side control. She slapped on a scarf hold armlock and Duke quickly tapped.

Australia’s Megan Anderson continued her march through the featherweight division, stopping UFC veteran Peggy Morgan in round one. Anderson’s power punching was on display right off the bat. Morgan tried for a takedown, but Anderson was able to separate and land with heavy shots. Morgan crashed to the canvas after a left hand, but was able to survive. She worked back to her feet, but the damage was done as her cheek swelled badly. Anderson dropped Morgan again with a right hand, earning the TKO win.

Atomweight Tessa Simpson put on a striking clinic early and survived late, taking a decision win over veteran Simona Soukupova. Simpson scored with combinations in the first rounding, turning the face of Soukupova red. It was more of the same in round two as Simpson controlled the range and Soukupova struggled to get inside. The tables turned in round three, as Soukupova began landing her right hand at will. She dropped Simpson late in the fight and flurried, but it was too little, too late, as the judges handed Simpson the victory.

Aspen Ladd kept her undefeated record intact, stopping promotional newcomer Jessica Hoy by second-round TKO. Ladd was aggressive on the feet, landing jabs and hooks. Hoy took the action to the clinch, slowing Ladd’s offense. In round two, Ladd brought the fight to the ground with a beautiful toss, landing in side control. She moved to mount and delivered a series of punches and elbows to earn the stoppage.

Kicking off the action, bantamweight Sijara Eubanks earned her second win inside the Invicta cage, spoiling the professional debut of Amberlynn Orr. Orr scored on her feet early, landing with kicks and combinations. Eubanks responded with a takedown and she quickly took over. She unleashed a barrage of punches and elbows from the crucifix position, forcing the referee to intervene.

OFFICIAL RESULTS
Alexa Grasso def. Jodie Esquibel by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
Agnieszka Niedźwiedź def. Christine Stanley by unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
MIZUKI def. Lynn Alvarez by submission (armbar). Round 2, 3:00
Cindy Dandois def. Jessamyn Duke by submission (scarf hold armlock). Round 1, 1:33
Megan Anderson def. Peggy Morgan by TKO (punches). Round 1, 4:09
Tessa Simpson def. Simona Soukupova by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27)
Aspen Ladd def. Jessica Hoy by TKO (strikes). Round 2, 3:14
Sijara Eubanks def. Amberlynn Orr by TKO (strikes). Round 1, 4:41


About Invicta FC:

Invicta Fighting Championships is a world championship, all-pro mixed martial arts (MMA) fight series dedicated to providing female athletes with a major platform to hone their skills on a consistent basis. Founded in 2012 by longtime MMA executive Shannon Knapp, Invicta is committed to pioneering the future growth of women’s MMA by promoting the best possible match-ups between female competitors and identifying and developing future superstars of the sport. Follow Invicta on Twitter (@InvictaFights), Facebook (Facebook.com/InvictaFights), and Instagram (@InvictaFC) for all the latest information.

Invicta FC 18: Grasso vs. Esquibel Official Weigh-in Results

Kansas City, Mo. — On Thursday, July 28, Invicta Fighting Championships hosted the weigh-ins for Invicta FC 18: Grasso vs. Esquibel. The event takes place from Scottish Rite Temple on Friday, July 29 and streams live and exclusively on UFC Fight Pass beginning at 8 p.m. ET.

Invicta FC 18 is headlined by a strawweight battle between Mexico’s Alexa Grasso (7-0) and veteran Jodie Esquibel (5-1). In the co-main event, veteran flyweight Christine Stanley (5-1) welcomes undefeated Polish newcomer Agnieszka Niedzwiedz to the Invicta cage.

Below are the results of the event’s weigh-ins.

Strawweight: Alexa Grasso (115.4) vs. Jodie Esquibel (115.8)
Flyweight: Agnieszka Niedzwiedz (125.9) vs Christine Stanley (128.6)*
Strawweight: MIZUKI (115.1) vs. Lynn Alvarez (114.8)
Bantamweight: Cindy Dandois (135.4) vs. Jessamyn Duke (135.9)
Featherweight: Megan Anderson (146) vs. Peggy Morgan (144.6)
Atomweight: Tessa Simpson (106) vs. Simona Soukupova (105.6)
Bantamweight: Aspen Ladd (138.1)* vs. Jessica Hoy (135)
Bantamweight: Sijara Eubanks (135) vs. Amberlynn Orr (135.2)

* – Stanley and Ladd elected not to cut any additional weight and were fined 25 percent of their purse


About Invicta FC:

Invicta Fighting Championships is a world championship, all-pro mixed martial arts (MMA) fight series dedicated to providing female athletes with a major platform to hone their skills on a consistent basis. Founded in 2012 by longtime MMA executive Shannon Knapp, Invicta is committed to pioneering the future growth of women’s MMA by promoting the best possible match-ups between female competitors and identifying and developing future superstars of the sport. Follow Invicta on Twitter (@InvictaFights), Facebook (Facebook.com/InvictaFights), and Instagram (@InvictaFC) for all the latest information.

Invicta FC 18: Grasso vs. Esquibel Full Fight Card

Kansas City, Mo. — The lineup for Invicta Fighting Championships 18 is complete.

Invicta FC President Shannon Knapp revealed two additional bouts for the nine-fight card on the latest episode of Invicta FC Radio.

Rising bantamweight star Aspen Ladd (3-0) of California meets promotional newcomer Jessica Hoy (1-0) of Nevada, while Texas prospect Tessa Simpson (4-1) welcomes Simona Soukupova (5-3-1) back to the Invicta cage in an atomweight affair.

The bouts join the previously announced strawweight headliner between Mexico’s Alexa Grasso (7-0) and veteran Jodie Esquibel (5-1). In the co-main event, Grasso’s teammate, former title challenger Irene Aldana (6-2), will welcome undefeated Brazilian Taila Santos (13-0) to the promotion in a bantamweight affair.

The complete fight card for Invicta FC 18 can be found below:

Strawweight: Alexa Grasso (7-0) vs. Jodie Esquibel (5-1)
Bantamweight: Irene Aldana (6-2) vs. Taila Santos (13-0)
Flyweight: Agnieszka Niedzwiedz (7-0) vs Claudia Rey (6-0)
Bantamweight: Cindy Dandois (6-2) vs. Jessamyn Duke (3-4, 1 NC)
Featherweight: Megan Anderson (6-2) vs. Peggy Morgan (4-3)
Atomweight: Tessa Simpson (4-1) vs. Simona Soukupova (5-3-1)
Strawweight: Manjit Kolekar (8-0) vs. Lynn Alvarez (6-3)
Bantamweight: Aspen Ladd (3-0) vs. Jessica Hoy (1-0)
Bantamweight: Sijara Eubanks (1-1) vs. Amberlynn Orr (0-0)

Tickets for Invicta FC 18: Grasso vs. Esquibel, available for $100, $75, $50, $40, and $30, are on sale now at CageTix.com.

Follow Invicta on Twitter (@InvictaFights), Facebook (Facebook.com/InvictaFights), or Instagram (@InvictaFC) for all the latest details on the event.


About Invicta FC:

Invicta Fighting Championships is a world championship, all-pro mixed martial arts (MMA) fight series dedicated to providing female athletes with a major platform to hone their skills on a consistent basis. Founded in 2012 by longtime MMA executive Shannon Knapp, Invicta is committed to pioneering the future growth of women’s MMA by promoting the best possible match-ups between female competitors and identifying and developing future superstars of the sport.

Alexa Grasso vs. Jodie Esquibel Headlines Invicta FC 18 in Kansas City

Kansas City, Mo. — Invicta Fighting Championships today announced the date and location of its next event.

Invicta FC 18 will take place Friday, July 29 from the historic Scottish Rite Temple in Kansas City, Mo. The event will stream live and exclusively on UFC Fight Pass.

Headlining the event will be a strawweight match-up between Alexa Grasso (7-0) and Jodie Esquibel (5-1).

Mexico’s Grasso has yet to taste defeat in her career. The 22-year-old has earned three straight wins in the Invicta cage, besting Mizuki Inoue, Alida Gray and Ashley Cummins. Four of her seven career wins have come via strikes.

The veteran Esquibel returns to the promotion for the first time since 2014. The former atomweight will be making her first appearance at 115 pounds in the Invicta cage. The New Mexico-based fighter rides a two-fight winning streak into the event, having bested Jinh Yu Frey and Nicdali Rivera-Calanoc in consecutive bouts.

In the co-main event, Grasso’s teammate, former title challenger Irene Aldana (6-2), will welcome undefeated Brazilian Taila Santos (13-0) to the promotion in a bantamweight affair.

Also joining the event will be a bantamweight match-up between Belguim’s Cindy Dandois (6-2) and UFC veteran Jessamyn Duke (3-4, 1 NC), Australian Megan Anderson (6-2) clashes with Peggy Morgan (4-3) at featherweight, undefeated Agnieszka Niedzwiedz (7-0) of Poland and Claudia Rey (6-0) of Brazil meet at flyweight, unbeaten Indian Manjit Kolekar (8-0) makes her promotional debut against veteran strawweight Lynn Alvarez (6-3), and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Sijara Eubanks (1-1) takes on bantamweight Amberlynn Orr (0-0), who will be making her professional debut.

The current fight card for Invicta FC 18 can be found below:

Strawweight: Alexa Grasso (7-0) vs. Jodie Esquibel (5-1)
Bantamweight: Irene Aldana (6-2) vs. Taila Santos (13-0)
Flyweight: Agnieszka Niedzwiedz (7-0) vs. Claudia Rey (6-0)
Bantamweight: Cindy Dandois (6-2) vs. Jessamyn Duke (3-4, 1 NC)
Featherweight: Megan Anderson (6-2) vs. Peggy Morgan (4-3)
Strawweight: Manjit Kolekar (8-0) vs. Lynn Alvarez (6-3)
Bantamweight: Sijara Eubanks (1-1) vs. Amberlynn Orr (0-0)

Ticket information and additional bouts for Invicta FC 18 will be announced at a later date.

Follow Invicta on Twitter (@InvictaFights), Facebook (Facebook.com/InvictaFights), or Instagram (@InvictaFC) for all the latest details on the event.


About Invicta FC:

Invicta Fighting Championships is a world championship, all-pro mixed martial arts (MMA) fight series dedicated to providing female athletes with a major platform to hone their skills on a consistent basis. Founded in 2012 by longtime MMA executive Shannon Knapp, Invicta is committed to pioneering the future growth of women’s MMA by promoting the best possible match-ups between female competitors and identifying and developing future superstars of the sport.

Fighting Words: Jodie Esquibel

Learning to stay in the moment, Jodie Esquibel returns to the Invicta cage September 6th at Invicta FC 8 against newcomer Jinh Yu Frey in an Atomweight showdown.

 
Corey Smith: After a lengthy boxing career, you eventually made the transition over to MMA. What keeps you competing in MMA?
Jodie Esquibel: My last fight was actually a boxing match. I took the boxing match trying to work on my hands for my MMA style. So I fought the boxing match as if I was fighting a MMA fight. So you could say that I am more focused on MMA right now. It’s where I’m at in my career.
JE: I’ve fought overseas boxing, and I’ve fought the big title fight out of the country. I just feel like I am super motivated and on the right track as far as my MMA career goes. I’m fighting for Invicta, and it’s the best women’s organization, if not the best organization for MMA right now. So I’m exactly where I need to be, and focusing on MMA.

 

CS: You have trained at Jackson’s/Winkeljohn’s since before they were one gym. What types of changes has the gym and team gone through over the years?
JE: It’s a great change. Things are only getting better.  With the coaching staff, we have brought on more coaches, and I have more training partners now that we are merged into one gym. I train with the best guys in the world. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I am sparring with Jon Jones or the Andrei Arlovski’s or Alistair Overeems. But they stay after practice, and we sit down and they say “hey you dropped your right hand.” Are you kidding me? To be able to have that knowledge in the gym, and merge as one big family has been great.
JE: We plan on moving into a bigger facility in the next year or two. Mike Winkeljohn has a big part to do with that, and how we stay on top of our game with conditioning, strength, and recently he has become a big advocate for fighter safety. I’m just lucky.

 

CS: With training camp injuries a common occurrence in MMA, how do you balance getting the full amount of training that you require but still guarding against injury?
JE: It’s hard. Training accidents are going to happen. The cool thing is, we are a big family here, and so I trust my training partners. If some freak accident happens in training camp, than oh well, we will figure it out. We go hard though, and I trust them, we trust each other.
JE: We are just careful; we are not a bunch of newbies coming up trying to just knock each other’s heads off. We are really technical, and we can take it to the edge and be technical, but still be safe. That’s most important.

 

CS: What were your first thoughts when the content distribution deal was announced between the Invicta FC and UFC FightPass?
JE: I thought it was great! I knew to just stay positive throughout the layoff. I believe in Shannon, and I believe in Julie. I knew they were going to figure out what they needed, and what was going to be the best for us. So I put my faith in them, and we came out with the UFC FightPass deal. It’s unbelievable. Shannon has been providing that platform for the fighters, and now we have an even bigger platform than before. It’s great. It’s amazing.

 

CS: You last fought in April of 2013 for Invicta FC. How do you combat any concerns of ring rust after such a long layoff?
JE: No. Not really. I am excited to get back in there. A punch is a punch. Once the gloves start to fly, it will shake off. It hasn’t been that long in my eyes, and I was very active during the layoff, spending the time to get better. I don’t feel like it was a super long layoff, and I am not worried about that at all.

 

CS: On September 6th you will square off against Jinh Yu Frey at Invicta FC 8. What are you expecting out of yourself and your opponent that night?
JE: I think it’s a great matchup. I think I’ve said it before if stylistically you match up well then you expect a battle. I think she is great, and it is a great matchup. I don’t really pay attention to my opponent. There is nothing that I can change about how they are preparing.
JE:  I’m just assuming she is going to train as hard as she can. It’s her first Invicta fight, and that’s a big motivation. I’m just going to train as hard as I can, and get myself to a point where I can perform at my best.

 

CS: What is your mood on fight night? Do you have any routines or superstitions that you have to perform?
JE: You know what? I did earlier on in my amateur career. I always had to have my right hand taped first, or something like that. My mood is calm; I’m trying to conserve energy. I’m about to go max effort, and try to win this extremely tough athletic competition before the night is up. So to me, to expel extra energy is useless.
JE: I like to stay calm, and I like to stay cool and just hang out. I don’t like the idea of superstitions because you don’t want anything to mess with you.  Say Stitch accidentally does your left hand before your right, and then you freak out. You are already in a high stress environment, you are about to get punched in the face. Anything you can alleviate is better, so just go with it. Enjoy the journey, and try to stay away from superstitions.

 

CS: Who generally accompanies you to the cage? What type of feedback and coaching do you prefer from your corners?
JE: I work very closely with striking coach Brandon Gibson, and of course Mike Winkeljohn, along with Greg Jackson. Lucky for me, I have Keith Jardine in my corner too. Keith usually flies out with me, but the coaches come out later. I guess that’s too many corners, but who’s counting right? I am super lucky. It’s crazy to even say. Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn are legends. Brandon Gibson is one of the best striking coaches in the world. And I have them all in my corner. Are you kidding me? I’m super lucky.
JE: I didn’t think that it would be this way, but I can hear Keith’s voice very clearly. Greg is unbelievably clear, and they all work so well together that no one is ever yelling over anybody. They are just simply talking. I can hear what they are calling out. I always thought that I wouldn’t be able to hear Keith, because I hear him every single day at the house, but he is very clear to me. I trust his voice, so that helps me too.
JE: In the very beginning it was hard for me to take direction from Keith, which it shouldn’t have been because he is a legend himself and so smart. Sometimes it’s just hard to hear your significant other tell you “hey you are dropping your right hand.” In my head I think “you don’t know, I was tired or whatever.” But he does know, and he’s been there.
JE: I just had to get over my own ego to benefit from what he was offering. He is just a wealth of knowledge, and I am lucky to just get over myself. I ask him to watch me spar or how I got taken down that day, and that’s our conversation over dinner.

 

CS: Fighters seem to be split on the benefits of being in a relationship with a fellow fighter. What do you believe the advantages are?
JE: I think it’s good. It’s fun to have someone that understands the weight cut, and understands the ups and downs of camp. I got my ass kicked today, and I want to talk about it. If you haven’t fought competitively in a combat sport, you don’t know what it feels like. You don’t know the feelings. Team sports are a lot different, football players, its different when you get in there by yourself.
JE:  And to have someone that understands that, it’s huge. Especially to have someone that has competed at the highest level that there is, I’ve benefited from that.

 

CS: Most fighters list the weight cut as the hardest aspect of being a fighter. Setting that aside, what do you consider the hardest aspect of being a fighter?
JE: I think just finding that balance. I think a lot of us over commit ourselves to training, or miss family events. And maybe it’s just now because I am getting older and I’ve been fighting for a long time that I look back on some things that maybe I didn’t have balance.  Missing birthdays or what not just because you are training or in camp. We put our whole lives on hold for eight to ten weeks and just involve ourselves in training if we have the opportunity to fight.
Finding that balance is really hard. It’s hard for young fighters, and it’s hard when you are at the end of your career. It’s a hard thing to do. Finding symmetry in your life, finding things outside of fighting that you enjoy as well. I feel like I’ve done that this last year and I feel like I’ve been able to enjoy camp a little more.
JE: Enjoy the journey, more than just the end. Look past the grueling camp, and just enjoy every single day of it. It’s super important. Before you know it, no matter how many boxing matches or MMA fights you have, you don’t want it to be a blur. Just enjoy the ride, and be present in every single moment.  Every single bad day, every single loss. Don’t brush anything off. We are on this amazing journey that not a lot of people get to have, and I’m just trying to find that balance. But it’s hard.

 

CS: Lastly, MMA takes a team to succeed alone inside the cage. Who would you like to thank?
JE: My team. Without out all my teammates, male or female, I wouldn’t be here. We have a great team here, and I am blown away by the talent that we have.
JE: The coaching staff, which is of course Greg Jackson, Mike Winkeljohn, and Brandon Gibson.
JE: Gracie Barra, Professor Barata and Professor Ortega have all opened their Gracie school for me.
JE: Caveman Coffee for always keeping me fueled. FightChix collaborated with me on the shirt, which is super cool because I’ve never had a shirt before. FightChix jumped on board, and I am super excited to be working with them.
JE: My family, who puts up with me. My mom and my dad have been my rock, my solid.
JE: Keith has always been in my corner.
JE: My team, my coaches. I am blown away by how selfless that they are, and I am humbled by it all. Except for Ike Vallie Flagg.

 

Invicta FC 8 takes place September 6th live from the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Missouri. The full card will air live via UFC Fight Pass. Click below for tickets, or to subscribe to UFC FightPass.

 

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FIGHTING WORDS: JODIE ESQUIBEL

Professional boxer and firefighter, Jodie Esquibel returns to the Invicta cage on April 5th, against Australian prospect Alex Chambers at Invicta FC 5.

Fighting out of the world renowned Jackson’s MMA in New Mexico, Esquibel looks to continue her unbeaten streak of 3-0. Training since the age of fourteen, Esquibel draws on the talent of her teammates to help her evolve as a fighter in the 105lb division.

Corey Smith: You have quite an extensive background in boxing. How did you first get involved in boxing? What made you decide to switch over to MMA?

Jodie Esquibel: When I first started martial arts in general, it was with Mr. Winkeljohn when I was 14. Initially I just wanted to work out; I didn’t have the intention of fighting. Nine months in, I had my first amateur kickboxing fight, and I completely fell in love.

JE: From then on it was mostly kickboxing, I fought amateur for a little while and that got harder. When I went pro, it was hard to find fights, so that was when I got pushed into boxing. I went with boxing as far as I could, and at that time Jackson’s and Winkeljohn’s were two separate gyms. So we would still cross train as a team, but we weren’t in the same building.

JE: When we merged into one gym, I was still just boxing and kickboxing. Everybody kept asking “When are you coming to wrestling class? When are you coming to Jiu Jitsu?”

JE:  I was always weary of it, but now that I look back I wish I would have dove right in. It took me a little while, but I realized I was training at the best school in the world. Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn are in one gym, why wouldn’t I take advantage of this?  So I started going to wrestling class, and Jiu Jitsu, and it evolved from there.

CS: With three professional MMA bouts under your belt, other than obvious rules differences, what would you say is the biggest difference between boxing and MMA?

JE: The biggest difference between a boxing and a MMA camp, are the amount of different practices there are. In boxing you are going to boxing class. You can spar, hit the mits, hit the bag, and there are a lot touches, it’s not simple by any means.

JE: With MMA camp you are going to wrestling class, you’re going to Jiu Jitsu, boxing, and conditioning. With the differences in the camps, I felt like I had to adjust my training. The old school road work of running seven miles for stamina for fighting twelve rounds doesn’t apply to MMA. So making the changes between the camps was a little bit different, but also a fun experience.

CS: What would you say has been the biggest lesson you have learned thus far from your fights that you could not get from purely training?

JE: It’s funny, the biggest thing is difference the between the ring and the cage. Before a fight starts, I can lean over and talk to Mr. Winkeljohn or Greg Jackson and they are very close. With the cage you get in there, and when the door closes they are gone and it’s just you. It was just something small that I adjusted to. Now that I have been in there a couple times it’s easier.

CS: You are also a licensed paramedic and firefighter. Does it ever occur to you that you are trained on one hand to hurt people and on the other to help them?

JE: I’m hoping that will balance out my karma. One day you are hurting people, and the next day you are patching people up. I hope it keeps me balanced!

CS: You train out of Jackson’s MMA in New Mexico, and you stated it was the first gym that you visited. What made you realize without looking at other gyms for training that Jacksons was the best fit for you?

JE: I feel like I was incredibly lucky and blessed. I was amazed that the path took me to this one gym. I went in, and they said before you start class you have to have a couple introductory lessons. I did that with one of the assistant coaches, and then I had a private session with Mr. Winkeljohn. With the energy and knowledge that he has, I knew that there was nowhere else in the world that I was supposed to be. At fourteen! I would never think about going anywhere else!

CS: With such a large team, both of coaches and current fighters, who has been one of your most valuable training partners?

JE: What’s cool is that with so much talent our practices are just amazing. Any kind of MMA or boxing fan could walk in any day and just be blown out of the water. We have a heavyweight class and a lightweight class because we have such a big team. It depends right now, but it is usually around 150 or so go to the heavyweight class. Some of it depends on size.

JE: So the lightweight guys, us little guys stick together, and there are a lot of people that help me. Holly Holm is one of the best pound for pound boxers in the world, and I grew up training with her for over fifteen years. Michelle (Waterson) is fighting for the title in the main event at Invicta 5. Heather Clark trains with me, and she is fighting for Bellator soon. Norma Centers is a great up and coming wrestler, and her wrestling is unbelievable. Emily Kagan fought for Invicta. Tara LaRosa has been fighting forever, and she is bringing our Jiu Jitsu game up. Julie Kedzie is one of the best in women’s MMA and she is our leader.

JE: Not to mention the little guys like John Dodson, he’ll hit me sixty times before I even blink. Nick Urso, is another up and comer who will be in the UFC in no time. We have such a small core group of us smaller guys, you can’t help but be on your “A” game.

CS: What has the support been like from the male members of your team for your Invicta FC bouts?

JE: Our guys here are unbelievably supportive. We’re in the gym working hard, and they see that. We’re not just at the gym sitting around and hanging out. We’re at wrestling class, we’re at Jiu Jitsu class, we’re at MMA class right beside them. They are super supportive, and are just as excited as we are. It’s important to have that positive energy going into the gym.

CS: You fought last at Invicta FC 4, and are scheduled to fight again at Invicta FC 5 on April 5th against Australian Alex Chambers. How has your experience been like so far with the company?

JE: I have been absolutely blown away at how amazing the organization is. How everything is planned and organized. It’s the easiest fights that I have ever been involved with for the fighters, everything is set up, there are no questions. It’s a very professional and high level organization. It blows me away to be part of it.

CS: Speaking of Chambers, she will be coming from out of the country for the fight. Do you think that is of any advantage to someone who is a native of the country’s fight venue?

JE: People talk about travelling and it affecting athletes, but I’ve fought all over the world too. I’ve travelled to Korea, and I didn’t feel too bad. I’m going to expect that she is going to be at 100 percent, and train for the best fighter there is. I wouldn’t put much thought into the travel.

CS: How familiar are you with Chambers? What are you expecting out of the fight with her?

JE: I know as much as everyone else knows. The fights that are available on YouTube, and she has good Jiu Jitsu and decent wrestling. So that leaves me preparing for the best fighter in every area. There you go that’s MMA.

CS: Towards the end of a long training camp, who or what keeps you motivated?

JE: I love the process of being in camp, I love the journey, I love the experience. Towards the end of camp, is where you feel all your hard work is paying off. I know camp can sometimes feel long, but it’s such a journey. I know it sounds cheesy, but I really enjoy what I am doing. I’m really happy to be on the journey, to be on the path. I’m blessed to be able to train and to compete.

CS: Outside of preparing for your fight, how much MMA do you watch for pure enjoyment? Anyone in particular that you enjoy watching?

JE: We have so many teammates that it seems like someone is fighting every weekend no matter what. If it’s not for a teammate, I kinda try not to. You train all day for MMA, you’re thinking about the fights, you have a fight coming up, you are thinking about weight cuts, and now you are gonna go home and watch the fights? Everyone is going to a bar somewhere to watch the fight, and sometimes I just hang out at home.

JE: Andrei Arlovski is one that I will watch no matter what is going on, even if I am fighting that night. Georges St. Pierre is super exciting and very technical, so he is amazing to watch. Both teammates.

CS: Aside from martial arts, what types of activities do you enjoy doing? What helps you unwind after a long day of training camp?

JE: It will sound a little crazy, but working as a paramedic and a firefighter brings you back down to Earth. You’re running on these 911 calls, and you are upset you got tapped twice in practice, but then there is this catastrophic car accident you work. So you realize your day wasn’t so bad. It’s not fun, but it keeps you grounded.

JE: At Jackson’s we opened a yoga studio, so I went and got certified to teach Yoga. So teaching Yoga also helps me unwind and relax. Teaching or taking a class helps.

CS: Lastly, MMA is as much a team sport is it is an individual one. Who would you like to thank?

JE: First Mike Winkeljohn; he’s been with me since the very beginning. Greg Jackson, who I am so lucky train with. Brandon Gibson is one of my other standup coaches, who has opened my eyes to some new stuff. I also train at the Gracie Barra headquarters here in New Mexico, which has the best Gracie guys in the world. My strength and conditioning coach, Steve at Turning Point.

JE: My teammates. It would be impossible to list them all. Everyone is always pushing each other to the next level, so we evolve as fighters. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here.

JE: My family that always puts up with me when I’m training and moody. All the people I’ve worked with in the fire department that has always supported me.

JE: A special thanks to Julia Kedzie, she has helped me out a lot. I paid her off in kittens, which was why I was on the first Invicta card.

JE: Lastly, a big thanks to Keith Jardine. He helps me with everything, and I want him to keep cooking dinner for me!