One thing is clear after speaking with Roxanne Modafferi ahead of UFC Fight Island 8 on January 20: “The Happy Warrior” has a lot of fight left in her.
This is an interesting time for Modafferi. The 38-year old flyweight the proud owner of a new condo, for starters, although she won’t move in until after her upcoming fight Vivane Araujo. She went 2-1 in 2020, with wins over Maycee Barber and most recently, Andrea “KGB” Lee.
Admittedly, Modafferi (25-18) didn’t enter the real estate market entirely of her own volition. “I don’t really want to move. I kind of looked for a condo because my father said ‘hey, you should invest in some property right now,'” she told Cageside Press recently.
Nevertheless, taking her father’s advice, she pulled the trigger. And the excitement of being a home owner is starting to set in. “My apartment is so small right now. It’s so tiny, I can barely fit in here. So now that I’ve bought it and I come home to my current place, I’m like ‘man, I can’t wait to move out of here.'”
Moving day will come, as mentioned, after the bout with Araujo. Because after all, “moving is stressful,” noted Modafferi.
Stressful has been what 2020 was to a lot of people. Of course, as “The Happy Warrior,” Roxanne Modafferi always seems to have a smile on her face. She’s one of the most upbeat, positive athletes in mixed martial arts. But even for the Modafferi, 2020 wasn’t easy.
“It was rough. In the beginning I won my fight against Maycee [Barber], that was huge. And then the pandemic happened, and the gym closed, and stuff happened in the gym, it was really hard to train, and then I got injured, which I didn’t really talk about,” she explained. The aforementioned injury was not something Modaferri was ready to go into detail about, but it’s enough to say that while serious, she’s healed up. “And then I lost my fight against Lauren [Murphy]. Then I got better, and I won my fight against Andrea [Lee].”
In regard to the injury, Modafferi admitted that the situation was “just really scary for a while. Thank goodness, it didn’t hurt during the fight [against Murphy]. So that’s not an excuse or anything. But it was quite frightening. Now I’m better, and I’m so happy that I’m healed.”
These days, Modafferi feels like she’s rebounded. Life’s picking up. She has a new relationship, the condo, she’s taken up painting, a shared interest with her boyfriend, and has some new coaches in addition to Wood. And of course, a new fight on the horizon on January 20.
That wasn’t the originally scheduled date, mind you. January 30 was the pair’s original booking, and Modafferi had anticipated a fight in Las Vegas, where all of her 2020 outings took place. That card, however, was cancelled, and several bouts pulled forward to the UFC Fight Island 8 card in Abu Dhabi.
“I was excited to be in Vegas on the 30th, and when that changed to the 20th I was disappointed. Because I have my normal training routine, where I cut weight a certain way.” Now, she must leave the United States 10 days out from the fight, and start to lose weight early. “Everybody else has done it, so I’m sure I will be fine, but I’m not super thrilled.”
Opponent Viviane Araujo is 3-1 in her UFC career to date, and we asked “The Happy Warrior” to sum up her new foe in one word.
“Quick, I think. She seems very quick.” Modafferi has been sparring with Valerie Wong at Syndicate MMA, who she described as “short and fast and gutsy.” Solid preparation for Araujo, in other words.
“I’ve been doing special game-planning combinations, I’m excited to try them in the fight. And kind of work my game place specifically on Viviane,” Modafferi continued. “I think she’s well-rounded and strong, but I’m confident I can pull off the win.”
A victory in Abu Dhabi would leave Roxanne Modafferi sitting pretty in the 125lb division, as she would be 3-1 in her past four bouts. Asked for her assessment of the weight class these days, Modafferi observed that “there’s a lot of talent in the flyweight division. I think it’s stacked. A lot of veterans in there. People with different skill-sets.” When it comes to the rather dominant champion, “I don’t think Valentina [Shevchenko] is unbeatable,” Modafferi suggested. “I think she is indeed very good, and she’s won all her fights recently. But we’ve all seen how the tide turns on that, I expect that [a loss] to happen eventually.”
“Right now, honestly, I’m excited to fight somebody who I haven’t fought before. Because I’ve rematched so many people, I’ve had like nine or something rematches,” Modafferi added. Among those rematches was her most recent opponent, KGB Lee. “I’m like ‘yay, a new person! Woohoo!'”
At least right now, Modafferi isn’t thinking about the champ anyway. Her goal is slightly different these days. Or at least, her approach is. “I’ve been fighting for so long, that right now my main goal is not to win the title, it’s just to keep winning my fights. And that will lead to the title shot.”
As to how long she might continue on for, “I intend to fight until my body can no longer handle it,” Modafferi said on that front. A few years back, the Syndicate MMA flyweight went through a scare with some concussion symptoms. Being particularly conscious of her brain, she took steps to ensure her long-term health, including using specialized head-gear (CryoHelmet, intended to help cool the brain) and changing sparring partners. Since then, she’s had no further issues.
At this point, observed Modafferi, “I’m getting stronger, I’m still gaining skill, so I see more years ahead of me of MMA.” In short, she added later, “I’m just trying to have as many fights as I can before I can’t any more.”
Roxanne Modafferi steps into the octagon for the first time in 2021 when she faces Vivane Araujo at UFC Fight Island 8 (UFC on ESPN 20) on January 20, 2021 in Abu Dhabi.