Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Jessica "Jag" Aguilar interview

I recently got the opportunity to interview Jessica "Jag" Aguilar, who will be fighting Carla Esparza at Bellator 46. Here are my questions for her regarding her upcoming fight, her earthquake experience in Japan last March, and get some details on her lucky teddy bear, Forest.

- With your loss to Zoila, do you feel more apprehensive to let fights go to a decision? Tell me what you think about the current hot topic that "judges obviously fail sometimes."

Jessica: Of course--I never want to experience that type of judging situation again. Something is amiss when two judges watching the same fight score it 30-27 in opposite directions. In my case, I know I had a far greater strike count, delivered an extreme greater amount of physical damage, and literally had to chase her for 3 straight rounds as her game plan after getting hit hard repeatedly was to just backpedal all night. So yes, the end results were a major disappointment in the scoring system.

- Also, how did you score Zoila vs Megumi Fujii?

Jessica: I obviously watched this fight with great interest, and personally scored it 29 to 28 in favor of Megumi.

- Marcos “Parrumpinha” DaMatta is your trainer and I think he's helped you develop a fight style that values strong positions. Do you see yourself as part of a Gracie style of Jiujitsu that values dominant positions? Are there any particular positions you aim to use in fights?

Jessica: My ground game style is a bit different as it is a combination of Grappling and BJJ. I really do not aim for particular positions as much as I come in [to fights] well-prepared and always have solid game plans, then by way of executing [them] and reacting to any mistakes or opportunities my opponent gives me, I try to explode on it. My sole goal is to take care of business as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

- How has your striking game improved under Howard Davis Jr? People tend to view you more as grappler, but you outstruck Zoila.

Jessica: Yes - earning 4 gold medals in international competition for Team USA has earned me a strong grappling reputation. But to truly excel in MMA you need a well-rounded skill set. Hence starting a few years back I took advantage of every training and coaching opportunity I could with Howard Davis Jr, and in return earned his respect. He has invested a lot of time with me and truly took my standup game to new, incredible heights. Knowing that Zoila would want to avoid having me take her to the ground given that her main strength is her standup game, we decided that this is where I would take the fight to her as I am sure she would underestimate my boxing skills. One of my goals going into the Zoila fight was to clearly demonstrate that I have a stronger standup skill set than Zoila, given that she is regarded as one of the best standup fighters in the game today. I have heard your same comment from many MMA experts that my stand up skills were clearly superior that night. The good news is that since then, I have continued to work very hard at both my submissions and standup skills and they are vastly improved from just 1 year ago.

- You come to Japan for Jewels 12th Ring, but it was canceled due to the Earthquake. You were expected to face Ayaka Hamasaki, who has had a short career but has become Jewels' champ in that time. Is she still an opponent you'd like to face if there's another opportunity in the future? What are your thoughts on her? (Hamasaki said "I can't lose to a Valkyrie fighter because I want to fight you.")

Jessica: While Ayaka does not have the vast experience of, let's say a Megumi (as no one has that much experience), she clearly earned her Jewels championship, so I was incredibly excited about facing her. It is so hard to get quality fights, so when you have an opportunity like this, you jump on it. I was asked to come to Japan to fight her as a last-minute replacement and accepted without hesitation as I was just coming off 2 scheduled fights where [both] scheduled opponents decided near fight time that they did not want to face me for various reasons. So, I was in fighting shape, on-weight (as I am always) and jumped at the opportunity.

- You've had the unique and unforgettable experience of being in Japan during its March 11 earthquake.Tell me about your experiences in Japan. (Also, thank you for asking for tsunami relief donations at your official website.)

Jessica: The earthquake experience was just unreal, as no one can image that level of tragedy, of human loss, personal pain and suffering short of witnessing what was happening. And I was just a visitor, I cannot come close to imagining the pain those who personally suffered family losses must have experienced. I was also very impressed with how I was treated after the earthquake stuck, as total strangers on the streets helped me. Locals I met went to extraordinary lengths to help me a visitor return home. I was just so moved, and so emotionally touched. My heart still goes out to everyone that experienced loss due to this tragedy.

- You met Dream champ Shinya Aoki in Japan. Did you roll with him or watch him roll? If so, what's your impression of him?

Jessica: No such opportunity to roll with him, but my impression is that he has earned tremendous respect in Japan, and not just because of his fighting success, but because of the professional way he carries himself.

- I heard you have a teddy bear named Forest and that you bring him (or her) everywhere. Tell me about Forest and why he (or she) is your constant companion.

Jessica: I do not want to admit or sound superstitious, but when you have been through a lot of extremely tragic and just very difficult periods, it is important to seek out positive energy sources, just because they are positive and as such represent good feelings. I am sure that I have invested a lot of positive attributes and feelings into Forest over the years and when I want some extra positive private energy, I look to Forest; as the bank account of positive energies I have invested into over the years, and now want some of that back from time to time. Sort of like a sentimental photo or feelings that we all have some place in our lives, mine just happens to be a teddy bear named Forest!

- You will meet Carla Esparza at Bellator 46. You're both known for your grappling abilities, but you have striking finishes.What should we expect from this fight?

Jessica: I have a tremendous amount of respect for Carla, as she always shows up very well prepared and is an incredible fighter. You may think she does not have striking skills as good as her wrestling, but I have paid closer attention, and clearly remember her opening round against Megumi. She delivered more than a few very impressive strikes. I think this is going to be a great fight as MMA fans will get to see two very skilled fighters at their best, and I am sure we will both be extremely well prepared for each other.

- Give me a message for the fans, both the English speaking and in Japan, about your next fight.

Jessica: I cannot wait to be part of something special, to show how much women's MMA has progressed, an opportunity to show how much I have progressed, and hopefully to fuel more positive feelings for all those in Japan that look forward to the day we can have more mixed international completion at the highest levels. I promise to do right for women's MMA!!!!

Bellator 46 Jessica "Jag" Aguilar vs Carla Esparza

Jessica Aguilar Official Web

Big thanks to Tony Loiseleur (Sherdog) for English editing.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

BEST fight style at lighter weight?

MMA looks differ when weight class isn't same.But how?

MMA always looks different when the smaller weight classes are involved. But why?

Speed? Yes, but it's not only that.

This past New Year's Eve, there was an upset on the local Japanese scene. Pancrase bantamweight champion Manabu Inoue, one of the SRC Asia tournament favorites, lost to ZST's Shunichi Shimizu.

Manabu Inoue is known for his takedowns and immobilizing opponents, but Shimizu succeeded in sweeping, changing position and continuously attacking Inoue.

ZST, as an organization, has strongly and silently recommended and preached an aggressive style of chain-grappling to its fighters. Because it has rules that mostly prohibit ground-and-pound, ZST has developed a different type of fighters from other Japanese organizations. It doesn't work well for the upper weight classes, but think about Masanori Kanehara's run in Sengoku, or some of Masakazu Imanari's big wins; it's beneficial for lighter-weight fighters.

I'm not saying diversity of rules is always a good thing, but I can say that I enjoy fighters who developed under different rulesets.

In heavier-weight fights, position changes and sweeps are rare, because opponents are heavier, but also because there is less space to move arms, legs and bodies, which are more thickly muscles.

In this way, weight classes and body frames greatly impact fights. Sadly, there's less talk about these difference. People always talk about reach advantages, but how about the benefit of muscularity? We need to consider this kind of thing, too.

Recently, the smaller weights like featherweight and bantamweight have had two strong teams: one is Nova Uniao, the other is Team Alpha Male. The latter is known for scrambling and positional changes. Whether east or west, weight classes and rulesets continue to impact fights, and in many ways we often don't consider.

Big thanks to Jordan Breen (write for Sherdog) for English and editing.