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!