England’s Kate Jackson will be making her Bellator MMA debut Friday in Verona, New York. At Bellator 182, she’ll square off against Colleen Schneider, a veteran of Invicta FC, Strikeforce, and The Ultimate Fighter. In advance of her promotional debut, Jackson spoke to Cageside Press about her fight Friday, her start in the sport, and fighting Joanna Champion before the UFC champ became a star.
Jackson actually left the pursuit of an English Lit degree to pursue MMA when she took up the sport — so what was the reaction from her friends and especially family?
“Yeah, my friends and family, my parents in particular find it a difficult sport to watch while I’m doing it” Jackson told us. The Cornwall native continued by saying “they’ve all been very supportive. The longer I’ve done it, the more they realize it’s just about a different career path, and a legitimate sport.”
Not long into her professional career, Jackson was paired up with a fighter well known to MMA fans today: Joanna Jedrzejczyk. It was 2013, and Jackson’s sixth fight as a pro. In hindsight, what does the Bellator newcomer take away from that bout?
“I’m glad I did it, because in a way it changed my game a lot” she said. “It changed my focus, just getting past that fight and working on my mental game and not freaking out, it was worth it from that point of view. Fighting her in her hometown wasn’t ideal, and there were all the issues that normally go with that.” And in the end, “Joanna was the better fighter that day.”
A few years later, Jackson and Joanna Champion would cross paths again, this time on the set of The Ultimate Fighter. Jedrzejczyk was a coach on Season 2013, while Jackson appeared as a competitor on the show, under Claudia Gadelha.
“I’m glad I did it” Jackson said of appearing on the show. “It was an interesting experience, it was a massive challenge being away from my friends and family and teammates for that length of time.”
“I’m glad I was on Claudia’s team, her and her coaches are really good, they definitely cared about us and about our fight, and put a lot of time researching the other team.” Of course, the “but” that so many fighters bring up followed. “but, it’s not necessarily something I’d do again, I decided against even going in and doing the tryout for the program they’re doing right now [TUF 26].”
“I’m glad I did it, I’m glad I challenged myself, but once is probably enough.”
Looking forward to Friday, the Cornwall-based fighter will be flying into the U.S., the first time she’s had a pro fight on North American soil, though her bouts on The Ultimate Fighter were in Las Vegas, obviously. What’s her approach to fighting stateside?
“I started my fight camp by going across the country in the UK to train with BKK Fighters, to have both smaller guys and women, [including] Arnold Allen in the UFC. So that was a nice start. Then I came home to work with my coaches.” After that, she’ll head to New York “about four days before the fight. It’s not a massive time zone difference, so I figure that should be okay really.”
Jackson, currently on a four-fight win streak, will be moving to flyweight for her fight against Schneider. The new weight class? “It’s an experiment” she said of the move. “115 makes the fight camps and the training quite hard. It’s not a particularly easy cut. Flyweight is a lot easier, but obviously I’m going up against someone who is dropping down from bantamweight. So I’ll find out how that works really.”
Colleen Schneider, as noted, is cutting down from 135lbs. Jackson, however, isn’t too concerned about the potential size difference. “I’ve always been fairly strong for my size. She’s taller than me, but not massively so” she said. “I’ve fought at least one woman that dropped down from bantamweight, and that wasn’t really a problem for me. I’ll see how it goes.”
“I think I match up quite well” Jackson said of the pairing. “She’s got a fairly unique fighting style, I think it will prove a bit of a challenge, but we’ve been working quite hard for planning for that. A week out, it doesn’t really bother me. We’ll go in there, whatever she throws at me I think I can deal with.”
Kate Jackson, like former UFC bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey, has a background in judo, and was quoted in the past as being an admirer of “Rowdy” — but those comments were something of a misquote, the fighter told us.
“I have a lot of respect for Ronda Rousey, but I wouldn’t necessarily say she’s a role model for me. I think she’s paved the way for women brilliantly, but personally, I wouldn’t approach the sport with quite the same attitude that she has” Jackson told us.
As for judo, “I think judo is brilliant, I think you have to be very high level to pull it off in MMA. You risk giving up the back as soon as you hit the ground, but there are elements of judo that merge brilliantly with wrestling that I still use now.”
She’ll have a chance to use it Friday. When it comes to Bellator 182, Jackson, who has five finishes in eight pro wins, ended things by saying “I want a finish, I absolutely hate when my fights go to decision. I don’t like leaving it in the hands of the judges, it really pisses me off.”
Bellator 182 takes place Friday in Verona, New York at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino.