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.