FIGHTING WORDS: EMILY KAGAN
World traveler Emily Kagan makes a stop in the Invicta FC cage on July 13th at Invicta FC 6, when she looks to get back on the winning trail against Ashley Cummins.
Both Cummins and Kagan are looking to rebound from their first career losses, and Kagan is motivated to entertain the fans with her hard nosed style. Training out of Jackson’s MMA, Kagan will draw on the experience and tutelage of her massive team in order to stand with her hand raised on July 13th.
Corey Smith: Your first foray into martial arts began with American Jiu Jitsu at the age of eighteen. How did that come about? What are the major differences between American and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?
Emily Kagan: For as long as I can remember, I had always wanted to get involved in martial arts. I never felt that the opportunity was there until I went to college, where we had a Jujitsu “club”. I immediately signed up and committed myself to training under the AJA for the next four years. I remember spending the first year working on falling, rolling, off-balancing, and basic movement. As “boring” as it seemed to an 18-year old, I had faith in my instructor, and knew that if I made it through the first year with mental discipline, I would eventually progress. I am so thankful I did!
CS: Shortly after receiving your black belt in AJJ, you moved to Israel. What was the country like in general? And what was the MMA community like in Israel?
EK: I love Israel! It is a beautiful and passionate country! I lived and trained there as a new citizen for 3 years. At the time, MMA felt like something people only talked about. There were so many martial arts dojos though! Krav Maga, Boxing, Kickboxing, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, No-Gi grappling, and “Modern” Jujitsu! Just as I was leaving to return to the US, a few martial artists, Ido Pariente and Eran Bert, started to emphasize MMA specific training in their dojos near the Tel Aviv area.
CS: After moving back to the United States, how did your MMA career progress? Where were you training at this point?
EK: Upon returning to the US, I went to live near my family in Maine and joined Team Irish in Bangor, ME under the coaching of Marcus “The Irish Hand Grenade” Davis, as well as Garth Krane.
CS: At the end of 2009, you moved out to New Mexico and joined the world renowned Jacksons/Winklejohn fight team. What prompted that decision? How was your initial integration into the team?
EK: Through 2009, I had been training with Team Irish while working as a wilderness guide with at-risk youth in New Hampshire. I had been training in martial arts for years, but had never considered fighting until my students at work began inquiring as to why I had never desired a professional MMA career. And so I began to ask myself that very same question, while also going through a transitional time in my life- feeling a need for change.
EK: I had told Marcus that I was not ready to be back in Maine (which is where his MMA gym is located), and so he recommended that I make some inquiries to Greg Jackson’s gym, where female fighters received support. I contacted the gym manager and Julie Kedzie, and flew out for a trial week with the understanding that I would move there if they wanted me on board. Two months later, I packed my car and drove across country to join this elite team, and I have been here ever since!
CS: The list of female fighters at Jackson’s is lengthy, including Invicta Atomweight Champion Michelle Waterson, along with Invicta FC Commentator and UFC athlete Julie Kedzie. What does that type of talent do to prepare you for your work inside the cage?
EK: Being around other talented women who are pursuing the same goals provides a unique and tremendous sense of camaraderie and support that is impossible to achieve in an all-male environment.
EK: Women are different from men in many ways, and that does not change just because we are athletes in what once was a male-dominated sport. It is amazing to have both male and female athletes to share our sport and experiences with.
CS: With that many female athletes available, how often do you still train with male athletes? Is there any discipline in particular that you would prefer a male athlete to train with?
EK: I am grateful for both my male and female teammates, and am thankful for all their different talents and skill levels… they each bring something different to the table, and the variety and availability of experiences accessible to me is rare.
CS: Your opponent at Invicta FC 6 on July 13th, Ashley Cummins, brings a similar level of experience with her into the cage. How familiar are you with Ashley? What are you expecting out of the bout?
EK: I am excited to fight Ashley. I have watched some of her videos and she is clearly very passionate and driven to excel as a fighter as well, which will always lead to a very entertaining fight for audiences. There is no doubt it will be a war.
CS: Inside the cage, whose voice do you look to the most? What type of feedback do you like to receive from your coaches?
EK: Fortunately, I have a variety of teammates, as well as Coach Jackson and Winkeljohn, coaching me during my training and sparring sessions, so I am used to hearing more than one. Also, I would not say that there is a “type of feedback I like to receive”, since I trust them all 100% and always feel good about their coaching and feedback.
CS: Excluding fight preparation, how much MMA do you watch purely for the enjoyment? Anyone in particular you are a fan of?
EK: There are always MMA fights happening! But I hate to miss an opportunity to support other women in the sport, and I do my best to watch my teammates fight as well.
CS: Outside of the cage, what do you enjoy doing for fun? What helps you to unwind after a long day of training camp?
EK: Outside of fight training, I love the outdoors, but also find respite in good non-fiction books and conversations with family and friends. However, since many of my loved ones are in different time zones, I will either slip away into a movie, or find more active recovery in my yoga practice.
CS: Lastly, MMA is as much a team sport as it is an individual sport. Who would you like to thank?
EK: I would like to thank my entire Team Jackson/Winkeljohn, with special thanks to both head coaches, Greg and Mike. Also, my additional striking coach, Mike Valle, as well as teammates Julie Kedzie and Joey Villasenor, who have been in my corner.
EK: My earlier Team Irish with Marcus Davis and Garth Krane.
EK: My amazingly supportive family and friends all over the world.
EK: My sponsors – Kara Worley, Adam Elcewicz, Akimma, Marshall Mouthguards, Hot Yoga Downtown ABQ, Grassroots Yoga ABQ, Victory Unltd., and Title Shot.
EK: I would also like to thank Sam Wilson, Invicta FC, and all of my previous opponents for their talent and sports’woman’ship!!!