One thing Frey talked about when we discussed her training stood out, in a positive way: training in Iceland. That’s not exactly a short trip, nor a common spot for American fighters to train. So how did that experience come about?
“Sunna Davidsdottir is an Invicta fighter who trains out of Mjolnir in Reykjavik, Iceland, and she and I have actually fought on two cards together. So this last time, we kind of made friends with her camp, and spent a little bit of time fight week with them” she told us. “It just so happened that after the March fight [a fight against Janaisa Morandin that fell through when Morandin came in heavy] I had booked flights to Iceland just wanting to go, so we went out there and touched base with that camp.”
Timing, as they say, is everything. “We spent quite a bit of time with them while we were there vacationing, and just the way things were scheduled this time, a lot of my main training partners had just fought, and some of them were out with injuries for the start of my camp. I was like, ‘I’ve got to do something, I need bodies, I need people in that same competition lifestyle as myself.’ Sunna’s also fighting on the card, I reached out to her, and it just so happened that Joanne Calderwood was going to be spending some time out there as well, so we all just co-ordinated. It was a long haul out there, but I got out there and got in some great training.”
The aforementioned cancelled fight against Janaisa Morandin, mind you, was a detour Frey could have done without.
“It certainly was a huge letdown” she said of the Invicta FC 22 fight that never happened. “After the stoppage against Ayaka, I didn’t really feel like I got the opportunity to really get in there and fight, because it was cut short. So I kind of bring a little bit of that fire with me the next fight, and then of course that one gets cancelled. It’s frustrating, and some days it feels a little bit hard to let go.”
Still, there are some positives to be found. “When you step back and look at the big picture, you’re like ‘you know what, I’m spending this time in the gym, I am getting better, even though it doesn’t seem like it’s moving me forward in the short term.'”
The cost of getting in the gym, and going through training camp, was our next topic. A cancelled fight can be murder on a fighter’s resources for any outside the very top of the fight game. So does Frey, who has worked as a Nuclear Medicine Technologist, still hold on to a 9-5 job? Not exactly.
“I actually work part time, maybe one or two days a week, or if I have a hard week of training I might not work at all” she replied.
“It’s kind of nice just to have a stable paycheck, because clearly with fighting, you never know how things are going to go” Frey continued. “So it’s given me a little bit of personal security to have an avenue to go make some money if I need to, just because like the fight [that] got cancelled, all the expenses I had for camp were just money out of my pocket. And not all my sponsors paid, because I didn’t get to fight.”
One can imagine the impact that would have on a fighter. “That was a huge, huge loss because I didn’t make the money I expecting to make, plus all the expenses that I incurred during camp, like I bought my coaches flight out there, and I didn’t even get to fight and she didn’t come because I’m not fighting. So that’s just money down the drain.”
Lucky for Frey, her employer has proven very flexible about her schedule. And she has other support, including a husband, Douglas Frey, who has had a fighting career of his own. So does having a husband in the sport who understands the sacrifices help, or is it too much of a good thing?
“On most days, it’s easier, because he does understand what I’m going through” Frey said. “Some days though, I’m like ‘just let me complain, I want to be the martyr, okay? Don’t tell me you know what it’s like, shut up, it’s about me, we’re having a pity party for me right now'” she joked.
On a more serious note, is the UFC a must for Frey, or would she be comfortable elsewhere?
“I think I would be comfortable elsewhere, if the opportunity was right” she responded. “Some of these other promotions are getting pretty big. I’ve heard some really good things about Bellator, and you see a decent amount of people leaving the UFC and going to Bellator. I wouldn’t imagine they’re leaving for less, and I’d imagine they’re getting treated pretty well and paid pretty well with Bellator.”
And the sponsorship issue? Frey can see the Reebok deal, and not being able to represent sponsors during fight week, being a major issue.
“That would definitely play a big factor, giving up thousands of dollars versus getting paid $2500 for your first five outings. It’s pretty steep.”
The UFC, or elsewhere, is off in the future, however. For now, ahead of her at Invicta FC 24, is Ashley Cummins, and hopefully the next shot at the atomweight title. How does Frey see things going come fight night?
“Every time I have a focus for a camp, I’m like ‘okay I’m working on wrestling, or I’m really working on this, so I’m really going to showcase it’ I swear it never goes the way I think it does” she told us. “I just kind of go with the flow, because apparently I’m not a good visualizer.”
No predictions then, but make no mistake, she’s going in there to win.
Jinh Yu Frey faces Ashley Cummins at Invicta FC 24 on July 15, live from the Scottish Rite Temple in Kansas City, MO. The event streams live on UFC Fight Pass.