LAS VEGAS — While depending on her savvy skillset and toughness as a fighter, UFC veteran Roxanne Modafferi had to draw the line in the sand once she began to experience constant headaches following training sessions.
Modafferi, who fought for several organizations, spent the last 4 years of her career inside the UFC Octagon. After suffering her third consecutive decision loss in the promotion, Modafferi made the decision to do the traditional retirement announcement of leaving her gloves in the cage following her 2022 split decision loss to Casey O’Neill.
Although the decision wasn’t easy, she realized it was the right one. “The Happy Warrior,” also realized the game was evolving past her talents and chose the life as a Jiu Jitsu instructor and English teacher would be better suited for her new life, which included being a newlywed. Now content that she has landed the perfect gig, Modafferi is just happy that she hasn’t quite been forgotten as she came in at #21 on the top 30 females to ever fight in the UFC.
Zenger News gets an update from Modafferi as she transitions away from MMA and into her role teaching English as a second language.
Zenger: Congratulations on a great career. I hope retirement is treating you well. How is everything going?
Modafferi: Everything is going well. I am enjoying being retired so to speak from fighting. I kind of realized the other day that I don’t really have a burning desire to compete anymore, even in Jiu Jitsu. I think I want to do some Gi tournaments when I have the chance, but I don’t really miss the pressure of getting ready, getting on the stage, because it was pretty hard.
Zenger: Ironically, you say that because everything you just named that you don’t miss is usually the first thing fighters miss the most, competition and the limelight.
Modafferi: Yeah, I’m glad to because it would suck yearning after something that’s not working out anymore. I held myself to such a high standard and it really hurt me when I loss. I just want to train for fun. I don’t want any pressure. I finally got a job after over a year of trying to find the perfect job, and holding out for something that wasn’t happening. I finally got a good job. I’m teaching English now as a second language and I’m good at that. My students like me, my boss likes me, I feel like I’m making a difference in people’s lives still, which is still important. I’m doing that part-time in the morning. I am teaching kids Jiu Jitsu in the evening at Tribe Martial Arts and Fitness. I get to come home when my husband comes home.
Zenger: What age group are you teaching English as a second language to?
Modafferi: They are adults, between 18-60. Basically, immigrants and people with green cards who are in America either with their families or to work.
Zenger: Does any of your students know who you are?
Modafferi: My English students do not. I don’t think they are really MMA fans. One guy recognized me. I said I did Jiu Jitsu, and he said, “Oh, I’m a Blue Belt.” But nobody really knows who I am at my English school.
Zenger: When did you know it was time to move on from your UFC career or martial arts in general?
Modafferi: A few years ago, I started getting headaches after hard sparring. I thought that was very bad. I didn’t want to get brain damage more than I possibly already have. I’m not noticing any poor speech patterns or memory loss or anything, but I know it’s a bad sign to get headaches after training. So, I thought, I think I’m reaching the end of the line here. Also, I see everyone becoming a super athlete, I’m no super athlete, so my guess is that in a few years, I wouldn’t be able to hold my own physically with all these young pups coming up. So, I reached 50 fights and that seemed like a good number to call it a career.
Zenger: To have 45-50 fights, I think the last time you were stopped was 2011. Not seeking moral victories here, but that is very impressive considering your resume.
Modafferi: I’m really proud of my stamina and durability. I think I’m pretty tough. I have never been knocked out by a human being, only the floor. I have been slammed twice and knocked out that way. I’m proud of myself for being able to keep fighting and having pretty close fights, even in my losses. So, that is a point of pride for me.
Zenger: A top 30 UFC Female Fighters list was recently released, and you were number twenty-one. This is yet another moment where you have to feel good to feel appreciated.
Modafferi: Yeah! I agree. I am happy about that. It lets me know that they remember me, and everybody wants to be remembered for something. I’m glad to be remembered.
Zenger: What has the transition of not competing been like for you while in the gym?
Modafferi: It was really hard actually. When I went back to Jiu Jitsu training, I had problems. For example, I was grappling with a large male adult. I couldn’t get out of his back mount, and I thought, “Oh my God, I should be better than this. I’m going to lose the fight and my career is going to be over.” I started panicking inside and that’s not supposed to happen in training. I started carrying my fight life over into my normal life and training. It took me many months to kind of relax and not freak out and be upset if I lost in training. It took me awhile to be able to train for fun again opposed to having to fight for my life in training. That was not a good thing. It made me realize that I was not enjoying training for the last year of my fight life. I successfully did it and now I’m able to relax and become a martial artist again. I’m glad that I’m married now. I was single with my fight life, now I’m enjoying learning how to sew and clean the house. I get to be all domesticated (laughing). Which has been really weird, but I like it.
Zenger: Do you feel it was in your best interest to wait until after your career to get married, so that your spouse didn’t have to deal with the weight cuts, the moodiness, and the pressures that came with your career?
Modafferi: Yes, 110%. The timing was perfect for all the reasons you just named, yes.
Zenger: Roxanne, it has been an honor interviewing you over the course of many years, and it has always been a pleasure watching you fight. Is there anything you want to say before I let you go?
Modafferi: Thank you personally for reaching out and asking about me. That’s really nice. I’m kind of wondering if everyone will forget about me now that I’m not competing anymore, but it’s really cool that you asked for my time and reached out, so thank you. I appreciate that.