Being a keen martial artist who has actively been training in my chosen discipline kickboxing for the past five years, you could probably imagine my sheer delight and excitement upon reading an email inviting me and a guest to partake in a private media training session with Ultimate Fighters pro athletes Joanne Calderwood and Aisling Daly.
Joanne, known to most in the fighting scene as ‘Dr Kneevil’ for her devastating knee strikes against her opponents is a Scottish Muay Thai champion and Mixed Martial Artist. She is Scotland’s first professional female Mixed Martial Artist, is undefeated in all of her 8 fights and is currently the 4th ranked female Strawweight fighter in the world!
Aisling, nicknamed ‘Ais The Bash’ is an Irish female professional Mixed Martial Artist who competes in the women’s flyweight division. She is Ireland’s top female Mixed Martial Artist and is currently the 3rd ranked female Flyweight fighter in the world!
These ladies are the epitome of the word ‘badass’ They are STRONG, ATHLETIC and take their chosen discipline very SERIOUSLY. It’s no wonder why we are seeing these women grace our TV screen in this seasons’ first all-female cast of The Ultimate Fighter!
For the first time ever, The Ultimate Fighter® will crown a champion, as 16 women will compete for the inaugural UFC 115-pound world title. Coached by UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis and top contender Gilbert Melendez, the world’s top women’s fighters will compete in the most high stakes season of The Ultimate Fighter yet.
With the rise of women’s MMA within the UFC and the success of breakthrough stars such as UFC female bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, this historic series of The Ultimate Fighter is set to be one of the most compelling yet and will introduce a new and exciting division into the UFC aptly named ‘The Strawweights’.
Unfortunately my kb ladies in crime were unable to accompany me on the day of my private training session so decided to extended my offer to Melissa, who is the Sports Editor of Double Take Debate. Given that I am one of their newest contributing writers, I saw it as a perfect opportunity to meet her in person after exchanging numerous texts and emails over the past few weeks. Did I mention that she is a combat sports enthusiast too? How awesome is that!
Our session was held at the extravagant, martial art friendly Gym Box at Lombard Street (Bank Branch) Besides the usual free weights and cardio area I couldn’t help but take notice of the Boxing / MMA area which happened to be adjacent to where our session was taking place. THIS my friends is a boxers / martial artists idea of paradise (well mine anyway) Imagine a room of heavy duty punch bags, a full sized ring, speed balls, a skipping area, kettlebells, dumbells and mirrors for shadow fighting. I MUST come back to this gym with my KB Fam in tow for some serious hardcore training. It would be rude not too!
I was in a bit of a fluster having arrived approximately 7 minutes late thanks to a defected train two stops ahead of mine but was instantly put at ease by Joanne and was encouraged to join in right away. Thankfully for me, the class had just started with light mobility exercises so didn’t miss too much! Mobility exercises complete our three strong class stood by our designated UFC Punch Bags ready for what Aisling described as 3 minute ‘warm up intervals’ that mock the sheer intensity of a full length fighter for a fighter just starting out.
Experience told me whenever one is partaking in a class with less than 5 people, the intensity will be off the scale! There is simply NO ROOM for slacking for all eyes are on you and this could not ring truer with what we were about to face.
Aisling’s Workout Rounder timer began and found myself immediately throwing combinations of alternating fast jabs, knee strikes, sit up’s following through with either hooks or jabs, burpees AND ‘sprawls’ a new one to me which is described as a movement used to defend against standing take downs.
Each of these combinations were completed to Joanne and Aisling’s que’s for a total of ten sets excluding the sprawls which were called out a random designed to test how fast were at responding to the action and coaxed with so much enthusiasm to keep going’ until the 3 minutes were up.
Round 1 complete and we each took the advantage to take on board some much needed fluid. My face was bright red, heart was racing and evidence of sweat began to show across my forehead. Before I could even blink it was time to get back to quickly make our way back to our workout stations for round two! Another 3 minute round passed and the intensity was reminiscent of my black belt training I completed in the lead up to my 1st Dan Grading Exam at the beginning of this year.
By round three I began to naturally tire, exhausted by going all out (literally) from the previous rounds but determined to finish the last round strong! With 20 seconds to go my body was screaming for me to stop and had to find that inner strength to not throw in the towel before the final round came to an end.
We had approximately a minutes rest before we were led across the room to the circuit station. Aisling and Joanne both talked to us about the type of circuit we were about to complete and explained in depth how high intensity circuits played a vital role in their UFC training as it is a fantastic way to build strength and condition the body for upcoming fights.
Our circuit station consisted of:
- pushups on dumbells,
- a weird swiss ball exercise specifically targeting the core muscles including the oblique’s and upper body
- 10 kg plate rotations to target different angles and muscles that often get neglected
- 8 kg kettlebell swings
- Russian twists with the option to choose a 5 or 10 kg free weight plate
All of these exercises were completed consecutively for 1 minute before a 30 second rest. Thinking that was the end of our ordeal I sighed under my breath upon learning the circuit had to be repeated once more. This was HARDCORE! You can tell it was beginning to take its tole by the way I stopped to take a deep breath before continuing on for the last two exercises.
By the end of the our session all of my energy was sucked out of me. Dripping in sweat and my face displaying that post workout glow, we concluded on our session with a warm down and stretch before taking some pictures with Joanne and Aisling, including a face off to which, despite our best efforts to bring our ‘game faces’ ended up bursting out with laughter at each attempt
We had the opportunity to wind down from our gruelling session in Pret where we asked the ladies some UFC and training related questions over an cold iced juice.
Below is a snippet of some of the questions asked during our informative and insightful chat.
Aisling Daly on Why Many Women May Not Take Up Mixed Martial Arts
“Its very difficult for a lot of girls to be able to like it, it’s very close contact, it’s such a male dominated sport, you’re more than likely to find that most people in the class are male and many females may not necessarily enjoy that.”
Joanne Calderwood On One of The Benefits of Mixed Martial Arts:
“In life, as you get older, your stresses get bigger and you have problems. Sometimes I just want to get some anger out and I just channel it – it’s my discipline. I always feel great after.”
Aisling Daly On MMA Being a Niche Sport In The UK
“You know, women’s tennis is obviously very popular but how many actually want to do it professionally? It’s not always going to appeal to everybody.
Joanne Calderwood On Fellow UFC Professional Fighter Ronda Rousey
“I think she’s really, really good she’s determined, that’s for sure [laughs] and she’s a great champion she has worked hard. The thing I like about her is she keeps getting better each fight, she’s showing she’s improving her standard and she’s not just come in with her Judo and said I’m just going to use Judo in my fights, you know, she knocks people out, she’s using other disciplines.”
Being a woman that also partakes in martial arts as my preferred method of training and keeping fit, this was one eye opening and insightful experience I will never forget in a hurry!
To have had the opportunity to experience first hand the sheer intensity professional female fighters train at when first starting out in the world of TUF (the ultimate fighter) was simply inconceivable! I soaked up every last tip and advise from these lovely professionals like a sponge during our chat post training and am not sure any word within the English Dictionary could really justify my amazing experience that day!
I would like to extend my gratitude to the lovely PHA Media team for the chance to have been trained and dare I say train alongside two phenomenal, inspirational professional UK UFC fighters that is Joanne and Aisling…both ladies were extremely humble, incredibly down to earth and each had something special and likeable uniqueness about them.
Jo & Ais… I genuinely wish you both the very best of luck in TUF Championship nothing but the best in your future martial arts endeavours! I will be sure to follow your journey’s closely.
About The Ultimate Fighter
The Ultimate Fighter is the toughest tournament in sports. This will be the first season in the show’s nine year history to feature an all-female cast. It features a new format, never before seen in the history of the series. The Ultimate Fighter: A Champion Will Be Crowned is the first season to have a UFC world title on the line, as the inaugural women’s 115-pound champion will be crowned.
Overall, it is the 20th season of the show based in the United States, and 27th globally. The Ultimate Fighter remains the longest running cable non-scripted sports reality series on TV.
Catch The Ultimate Fighter: A Champion Will Be Crowned on Wednesday nights at 3 am on BT Sport 1 or catch up at 10 pm on Thursdays on BT Sport 2.
Joanne Calderwood / Aisling Daly UFC Images – Josh Hedges / Zuffa – Getty Images
Post Traininig Group Pictures – Melissa – Double Take Debate