The Voice’s Joei Fulco knows a thing or two about MMA.
When she’s not belting out tunes, Fulco also trains in MMA — and boyfriend Jesse Strader happens to be a promising knockout artist for Combate Americas.
We caught up with the power couple, virtually of course, to see how things are going during lockdown.
Strader (5-1) was just days away from his next fight for Combate when the proverbial excrement hit the fan. He was planning to fight in Mexico City, when the coronavirus pandemic forced the plug to be pulled.
“I was utterly devastated,” Strader said. “I was on my way, me and her were together actually when my manager called me. Just devastated, man, absolutely devastated. Just in shock, couldn’t believe it. Then the following week, everything was getting cancelled. The NBA, the NHL, everyone was cancelling everything. It kind of made me feel a little bit better, like ‘okay this thing’s really serious, maybe they’re not just messing me over, messing up my grind over here.'”
A lot of time and effort, not to mention money, went into his camp for Mexico City, noted Strader. “Even more so than the other camps, because I was really preparing for the altitude up there in Mexico City.”
Strader, however, has come to terms with it all. “I’ve soaked up the situation, and now I’m ready to get back, get things rolling, and when Combate gets their schedule of events together and figures out a solution, I’ll be ready to go for sure.”
When he does return to the cage, it’s gold that’s on his mind. Strader is coming off two straight knockout wins, and is 3-1 overall for the promotion. “The bantamweight division specifically for Combate Americas, it’s huge, it’s massive, it’s exciting. We’ve got a lot of tough, good opponents,” exclaimed Strader. “But just flat out, I’m the guy for the title next. For sure. 100%.”
As for Fulco, while she trains in MMA, she’s a spectator in her boyfriend’s career. As with many fighting couples, being the spectating half has its ups and downs.
“It’s awful and it’s fantastic at the same time,” she admitted. “His last fight, I actually got to be cageside. So I was right down there. It’s terrifying, because I love him, and I don’t want anybody to hit his pretty little face. But I know the name of the game, I know that’s part of it, and I know also how he is. And I’m so confident in his abilities. I’ve seen him do things that would blow your mind, just in his training.”
Still, there’s that thought: “Just don’t hit him in the face. Don’t hit him.” The nerves, and some prayers, come ahead of her partner’s fights, Fulco added. Ultimately, watching Strader compete is far more nerve wracking than preparing for her performances on The Voice.
“Hands down,” responded Fulco. “I’ve been excited and pumped for being on TV. When I see him, I’m genuinely praying to God that he’s okay.”
Strader admits that when his girlfriend appears on The Voice, he’s a bit of a nervous wreck too. “When she was going on stage for The Voice, I get nervous. It kind of put it in perspective. ‘Oh, is this how you feel?'”
Now, he admits, “I get it.”
Watch our full interview with Joei Fulco and Jesse Strader below!