Recently, I had a chance to sit down with Amanda Buckner, former Ring of Fire Lightweight champion, the former Smack Girl Open weight Champion, Abu Dhabi competitor and considered by many to be one of the top female fighters at 135 lbs. Recently she traveled half way around the world to fight on the Ring of Fire card only to go home unscaved.
**Photo by Randy UryRecently, I had a chance to sit down with Amanda Buckner, former Ring of Fire Lightweight champion, the former Smack Girl Open weight Champion, Abu Dhabi competitor and considered by many to be one of the top female fighters at 135 lbs. Recently she traveled half way around the world to fight on the Ring of Fire card only to go home unscaved.
BH: How is training?
AB: Training has been rough as of late. Starting in the beginning of December and lasting until last week I’ve had a string of things that have kept me pretty much out of commission, everything from injuries to some personal issues. I’m getting back on track now though so that feels good.
BH: How is the gym?
AB: The gym is going great. We’re just opening a second location so things have been crazy. Opening and running this gym has been one of the most rewarding, challenging, and scary things I’ve ever done. Learning to run a business when you started out not knowing anything about that process is just a crazy experience.
BH: You were scheduled to fight Ginele Marquez , at Ring of Fire in the Philippines on Decembember 9th, 2007, How was the training camp for that fight?
AB: Training for that fight was stressful because I had pretty short notice. I had about two weeks of solid training. I felt good about my conditioning but it took a lot out of me since everything had to be very intense to make up for the lack of time. To make matters worse I averaged 1200 calories a day during this time to get my weight down to where I could make 135. It is not a process I care to repeat any time soon.
BH: Yeah, I think I get more than that in my breakfast at McDonalds. Now you have a win over Ginele back in 2003, did this play a factor in your training for this up coming bout?
AB: No. Ginele is a well rounded fighter. She doesn’t have any one area that she is so good at that you really need to prepare to defend that one thing at the expense of everything else. I was able to watch some more recent footage of her and she looked like I thought she would. I just trained to be able to take the fight to where I thought I would have the best chance of winning.
BH: So you arrive in the Philippines, but the fight never happened, why?
AB: Well, it’s a pretty long and convoluted story. What it boils down to is that Ginelle and her team had agreed to a weight of 130lbs, I had a agreed to a weight of 135lbs. We both had contracts that supported our side. I cut the most weight that I could, getting down lower than I had ever gotten, and made 134 (with shorts and sports bra). This wasn’t low enough for them to be comfortable doing the fight so it didn’t happen. The promotion made a mistake and everyone involved, including the show, ended up paying for it. That’s the short version. Of course there was a lot of other behind the scenes stuff that was really crappy and infuriating to me. It’s hard for me to not go into a whole rant about it but that wouldn’t serve much of a purpose so I’m not going to. I used to think there was nothing worse than a long plane ride home after a loss but I was wrong, this plane ride was by far the worst.
BH: Would you fight for that promotion again?
AB: I’m scheduled to fight for them in April for their next event. I went more in depth about the whole situation on the blog I kept during that time so I had a few people that were surprised that I would fight for them again. The thing people have to realize is that things are not the same for women as they are for men. There are not unlimited options and the options for fighting on shows that are somewhat bigger are few and far between. My main goal when I fight is to move the women’s fighting scene foreword. If a show provides me the opportunity to do that by having TV or internet coverage than that weighs heavily in my decision about fighting for them. Of course any fight is great but in order to have any kind of significant impact people have to see the upper level women fight. In a perfect world I would never have anything but great experiences with every promotion but that’s just not reality. There’s a lot more at stake than just myself and my own career and as a female that fights I have to take that into consideration. Of course there are ways that I could be treated that would be unacceptable no matter how big the promotion is or how much they are paying me. In the end the Ring of Fire did the right thing by saying that I had done nothing wrong and by paying me most of what I was supposed to get. I’m willing to give the whole thing another shot.
BH: Ok, putting that aside in speaking to other female fighters they say your technique is one of the best if not the best in the female fight world, what’s your secret?
AB: I’m flattered that anyone thinks that but honestly I spend most days overwhelmed by how much I still have to learn. I’d say if there is a secret to the technique I’ve been able to develop it’s that from day one I had a coach (Jay Jack) that treated me like a fighter and not a female fighter. The standards that were set for me were always geared to making me a great fighter and not a great female fighter. I’d say that’s the biggest thing. This is very hard to find in a coach and team. Most people treat female fighters differently, even if they don’t mean to and don’t realize they’re doing it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone raving about how good some girl is and when I watch tape or see the girl in person I’m thinking to myself “What the hell is he talking about”. That may sound harsh but it’s true. A lot of people have such low expectations of what women are capable of that if they see a girl throw a few punches without falling over they think it’s the best thing since sliced bread. I feel fortunate that I was looked at as an athlete from day one. Women are capable of becoming great fighters if they have the motivation and are surrounded by people that see them as fighters and not female fighters.
BH: With other female fighters starting to come out with instructional DVD’s on MMA and grappling what’s your thought, would you ever do a DVD?
AB: I have a couple of projects in the works that I think will turn out pretty cool.
BH: Also looking at some of your workouts online, they are slightly different from other gyms, who designs your workouts?
AB: I design my own training, with help on parts of it from Stan Skolfield (former trainer for the Red Sox) and input from my coach.
BH: Now you have been in the fight game since 2001, on your blog I noticed that you started talking about your age? Does this mean that you are thinking about retiring?
AB: I’m definitely getting frustrated by the amount of pain I’m in on a day to day basis. Having my back kill me just to put my shoes on is getting old. But my desire to fight and my love of the training still far outweighs any of that. The one thing that could force me to retire is the inability to find legitimate fights. This has become a real issue as of late. I have some things lined up for the next few months which will hopefully pan out. If they don’t and it goes to long I will call it quits and focus my energy on things that bring more positivity into my life. The situation I’ve experienced in the fight world since my last fight (April 2007) has been really stressful and has been on my mind all the time. Life is to short to live like that. Fighting has been such a great experience in my life that I’d rather stop now before it’s become too much of a bad thing than end up hating it because I tried in vain for years to get good fights.
BH: I was watching the Kedzie/Carano when it first aired and the commenter said that these women are the pioneers of the sport? Does that bug you that girls like you and Larosa, Purcell and other had already been fighting for years? Or were you just glad to see MMA on mainstream television?
AB: I wish I could say I’m an enlightened enough individual that I don’t feel any irritation at that sort of thing. I’ve worked so hard to become one of the best women in the world and have put my time in and so have some other girls out there. Of course you can’t help but feel that it’s not right. But at the same time I am glad to see women getting exposure. I thought, in the case of the Kedzie/Carano fight, both women showed nothing but skill and professionalism which is great for the sport. I do have to say though, that it was a bit of a strange experience to sit in my living room a month after submitting Kedzie in about two minutes and watch her fight on Showtime. Don’t get me wrong, i think Julie is a great fighter and deserves every opportunity she gets. But the womens fight world does resemble bizarro world at times. I’ve definitly learned that there’s a lot more to getting opportunities than how good you are.
BH: With all the craziness that happened with the last fight, what’s next for Amanda Buckner?
AB: Well I’ve got a couple of possibilities for March. In April the next Ring of Fire event is supposed to take place and I’m also talking to Smackgirl about their open weight tournament at the end of April. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that a couple of these work out.
BH: Anybody you would like to thank?
AB: I want to thank my coach and husband Jay Jack for being the best, my family for being so supportive, and all our students for being such a great source of motivation. I also want to thank a couple of sponsors: Hell on Earth ( www.hellonearthcult.com), Freeport Integrated Health, and Sprawl (www.sprawl.tv).