Interview with Tauranga's own MMA fighter Kate Aroa
MMA is a rapidly growing sport in New Zealand and we are beginning to produce some awesome fighters both male and female.
Kate Aroa is one of New Zealand's up and coming MMA female fighters and someone to look out for in future. She has recently returned from the world championship BJJ, 2010, competition in California, having faced off with some of the world's finest BJJ ladies.
Training out of Jr Macgyver/Crolin Gracie Team New Zealand Gym, Tauranga, under the watchful eye of her Brazilian trainer Roney Da silva, she has the potential and support in place to reach her goal of gaining international recognition and to test her abilities on a world stage.
We caught up with Kate to get some insight into her background and life as a fighter.
NZF: Hi Kate. Tell us a bit about yourself
KA: Hi. I am 27 years old, and was born in Matamata but lived in Australia until I was 4 years old, then in Hastings. I've now been living in Tauranga since I was 10 years old. I was home schooled from intermediate onwards because my parents wanted us to see the world. They took my sister and I on a round the world trip when I was only 13 years. They wanted us to learn more life skills and what an awesome choice that was, it was a great experience.
I was only 17 years old when I had my son, it was a real challenge having to look after a child when I was barely an adult myself. But at the same time it was the best thing that could happen to me because I wouldn't be doing what I do now. I became a single mum at 21 years and found myself lost and hadn't found myself yet as I was busy looking after a child; I had no time for myself. I then wanted to get my son into a Martial art as he wasn't around a male much anymore and he needed discipline.
I was referred to Roney Da silva from a friend about BJJ, I then fell in love with Roney and we are now engaged to be married. Roney then started teaching my son and eventually I got roped into it after a lot of nagging from Roney. I was over weight when I started and was so amazed at the results I saw in my body; within months I had lost 15 kgs. I then fell in love with the Martial art; I just loved it, how it was superior than any stand up Martial Art, and it didn't matter what size you were or what strength you had either.
NZF: Tell us about your fighting background?
KA: I started Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu when I was 22 years old. It took me a while to get into as I didn't have a lot of self confidence at that stage of my life. I had never done any other Martial Arts before and barely any sports. I started mainly to loose weight and found I lost weight within months of starting so thought I will definitely stick with this. After only 6 months on a white belt, I competed at my first competition and got second place. I almost submitted a Blue Belt with an arm lock but my opponent was very flexible and got out of it. After that competition I was hooked. My competiveness came out of me. I have now competed at over 10 competitions throughout NZ and placed almost every time. I started to do the MMA classes with Roney about 2 years ago on and off, as much as I wanted to I couldn't go to every MMA class because I had to try to balance my job, family and BJJ training as well, which was very hard. I have been training Mauy Thai with Daniel Marangoni for the past 6 weeks, I never thought in my whole life I would jump in the Cage.
NZF: When was your first fight & what was it like getting into the ring for the first time?
KA: My first MMA fight was amateur at the ICNZ show last year (September 26th 2009) against Princesses of Pain Promoter Belinda Dunne. I won by Mata Leao (rear naked choke) in the first round in 2.17mins. I was very nervous for this fight because it was my first fight with Kicking and Punching. I had only done BJJ comps and submission fights for POP shows number 1 and 2. Also I didn't know what experience Belinda had so had to be prepared for anything to happen.
I treated my second fight as my first fight though, because it was the real thing full MMA rules not amateur. I fought Tash Chambers from Fight Shop in Palmy, at Supremacy 4 last year (November 14th 2009). It was the first time for NZ to see females fight MMA in the cage so not only was it my first Pro MMA fight we also made history for NZ. I was so nervous waiting in the changing rooms but once I was in front of my opponent the nerves settled. I was even more nervous this time too because all I heard was that Tash had fought two Muay Thai fights 8 years ago, so what went through my mind was that she had been training stand up that whole time since then; I had only done a couple of years stand up.
I really surprised my coach and myself though. I seemed to control my opponent around the cage even in stand up, she got a good clinch on me though and I just wanted to take her to the ground quickly. I then thought "that's it, come on Kate, get her to the ground." It felt so long in there. I finally got her to the ground and all I heard from my team was "Elbow! Elbow!" Immediately my BJJ instinct came into play, I wanted to control her and establish my base first so I did that and mounted her. That's when I threw some punches, she gave her back so I choked her out in the first round in 1.19mins.
NZF: So at the moment what is your current record and titles?
KA: I don’t have any titles yet. My MMA record is 1-0 and amateur MMA is 1-0 and I have had over 25 BJJ fights.
NZF: What you do for a job and how do you keep balance between work and being a fighter?
KA: I am currently working for APN NZ LTD as a Customer Service Representative in the Newspaper Sales and Marketing Team based at the Bay of Plenty Times Newspaper. I have been working here for almost 3 years. I find it very hard working around my job, family and training. But I am very lucky that my Boss is lenient.
NZF: What is your training and diet regime before a fight?
KA: I try to train as many times a week as I can but have to fit in time with family. I train MMA Mon, Wed, Fri and Sat and Muay Thai Tues and Thurs. I also do weight training under my house on the days I can't train. I believe a fighter should train at least 6 days a week leading up to a fight, working a lot on your cardio. Leading up to a fight I take protein shakes after each workout and make sure I eat healthy, eating carbs for energy.
NZF: How do you prepare mentally for a fight?
KA: I always try to keep calm and breathe but at the same time always thinking over about what could happen and to be prepared for anything to happen.
NZF: What is you strongest technique at the moment?
KA: I would say after my two MMA fights it would be Mata Leao (rear naked choke).
NZF: When and where is your next fight?
KA: I have my name down for ICNZ in October and Supremacy 7 on the 27th of November.
NZF: What fight has been your career highlight so far?
KA: My Cage Fight against Tash Chambers.
NZF: What is the toughest fight you've faced?
KA: Tash Chambers at Supremacy.
NZF: Do you find it difficult being a female in such a male-dominated sport? Do you feel you get treated equally in the training and the ring?
KA: I get treated the same as any fighter. To the promoters, fighters and my coach I am just like one of the boys. I do find it difficult in this sport because there just isn’t enough woman fighting MMA and BJJ in New Zealand that is why I really want to fight in USA, Japan or anywhere where their will be a opponent that is at my level.
NZF: Is it hard to find enough competitors in your weight class? Have you ever had to change your weight class to find a fight?
KA: I have been very lucky with my two MMA fights that my opponents were the same weight as me but for BJJ every competition is open weight and most of the time open belt/experience so have to compete against girls of all weights. My last no gi comp at the Contender series I fought a 99kg girl in the final.
NZF: Any aspirations or plans for the future?
KA: I really want to venture outside of NZ to fight MMA and BJJ and try to get a name out there and also to test my ability. That’s why I competed at the BJJ worlds in California June 3rd to 6th 2010.
NZF: What happened at the BJJ world championships?
I fought middle weight purple belt Division: My first fight was against Jen Allen from Ocean County BJJ. I won by Triangle in under a min. I then fought Nicole Horton from Texeira BJJ. I got her in an arm lock in under a minute but she didn't tap, she then defended the arm lock, passed my guard getting 3 points. I swept her but landed outside the mat area so no points were awarded to me which would of evened the points up. So unfortunately she won that match, I was so gutted because if I won that fight I would of got into the semi finals and been guaranteed a medal. So no place in that division but almost.
I then fought in the open class purple belt. I got a bye first then fought Jessica Martin from Fabio Santos and won by points. I then had to fight Tracey Goodell from Lloyd Irvin M.A Academy who had won the Purple Belt Lightweight division a day earlier. So I automatically knew I had a hard fight on my hands. She won against me by triangle arm lock. Tracey then went on and won the whole Open class purple belt woman's division. She was amazing and got double gold at the world championship 2010!!! So no place there either.
NZF: Any advice for the youth or those wishing to get into the ring?
KA: I would say definitely give it a go. MMA is the fastest growing sport in the world at the moment and is so much fun!!
NZF: Thanks Kate. Good luck for your next fight.