Sunday, June 13, 2010
Debi Purcell Interview
New fans to MMA may not know Debi Purcell. Because they seem to think the only female MMA fighters are Gina Carano and Cyborg. That is sad, because while she may not believe it, if their was not a Debi Purcell their may not be a Gina Carano or Cyborg. Sure they would be fighting but they may no have the opportunities they have had. Debi is trained by the legendary Marco Ruas (another name newer fans should learn) and became the first woman he ever gave a black belt to. Debi was the first woman to fight for and win for Kind Of The Cage. Debi has trained, managed, and done anything else you can think of.Her record is listed at 4-2 because many of her fights were not recorded, but she has had more. She also created the best women's MMA site there is in Fightergirls and designs and sells her own clothing line. Basically put Debi is an amazing woman, and a very inspirational woman. Debi is the definition of what I love about the sport. This interview is an honor for me, and I am so grateful for it. So if you are a newer fan please read this, and learn about a true pioneer in women's MMA.
Q: Debi, first I want to thank you for taking the time to do this. It is a huge honor. A lot of newer fans don't know this, but to me, if it wasn't for Debi Purcell, there might now be a Gina Carano or Chris Cyborg.
A: Absolutely, it's my pleasure, and the honor is mine. Although I appreciate the compliment and am flattered, Gina and Chris have done great things for women's MMA and I have a suspicion they would be around doing their thing regardless of me :-)
Q: Can you start out by just telling a little about yourself.
A: I'll give you the short version hahaha... I grew up in Huntington Beach, California. I've spent extensive time in Costa Rica as my parents retired there when I was young. I am married to Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighter Ronald Assumpcao, with a 15 year old step son named Gustavo. I have 2 dads and a step mom, 3 brothers and 1 sister.
I've had my stint with drugs and alcohol, and been saved from them through MMA. I've done some outrageous and stupid questionable things and I've paid for them all LOL.
I've made lot's of money and been completely broke (a few times). I own a design vintage apron company called Purpar Hollywood Aprons.
I was lucky enough to be part of an amazing organization, International Fight League and thanks to my mentor Marco was given a chance to show my skills as a female MMA coach even though it was an all men's league.
I am a licensed commercial refrigeration contractor by trade and have had good success with my company DC's Mechanical Inc. For the past decade I've dedicated my life to helping women evolve in MMA and owned/operated fightergirls.com, the first of it's kind women's MMA news porthole and support site.
I own and design Fightergirls and Purcell clothing lines. I also recently started Coraca Forte (strong heart), a line for larger women, men, and kids offering styles they could not get elsewhere.
I've got the most amazing friends anyone could ask for and I'm blessed with lot's of people around me who love me. I've got a great life and try to remain grateful for every minute I'm here to enjoy it. Here's to LOTS more LOL, but that's the nice parts :-).
Q: Before getting into Martial Arts, where you an especially athletic person? Play any sports?
A: Yest, starting at age 5, I was a competitive gymnast with hopes of going to the Olympics, I spent my childhood training 4 hours a night and competing on weekends. I then grew to tall and pursued dance, jazz, tap, and ballet, and received a scholarship to dance. I was also a cheerleader and weightlifter LOL.
Q: What initially got you interested in martial arts?
A: Originally it was to learn how to release anger, so I could learn how to kick peoples asses and release the extreme rage I exhibited in my punk rock rebellious teen years. Also it helped me not want to put drugs and alcohol into my body anymore. Then it turned into a love and passion.
Q: One thing about you is you are the first female black belt in Ruas Vale Tudo. Newer fans may not know what Vale Tudo is, or what it means to be the first female to be awarded that. Can you explain Vale Tudo, and how impressive it really is to be awarded that black belt?
A: Vale Tudo is just MMA, but in Portuguese it means anything goes. Since my coach and mentor Marco Ruas was one of the first people in the world to take off the gi and be competent and well rounded with stand up, wrestling, and submission ground fighting, and ground and pound, and mixing it all together ina ring or cage as a complete fighting style. He did this long ago back in Brazil when no one in America had even heard of MMA as a fighting style.
BY having the courage to walk his own path and mix all styles together in real live situations is one of the reasons we have MMA today. It's pretty incredible. He is an innovator and a real legend. And a true creator of our beloved sport so many are quick to exploit.
Marco doesn't really care about this but I do, it kind of breaks my heart that newer fans have no idea where our sport originated from nor do they care.
As far as getting a black belt from him LOL, I never got any other color belts from him, so I was really surprised and kind of shocked. Marco just asked me to come in the gym one day, gave me a certificate for my black belt, said that all he wanted in return was for me to give back to others what he taught me (those exact words). Not just in fighting, but in respecting myself and others. And being humble and loyal (not that I always am)
Marco is old school and I LOVE that about him. He has trained me for over a decade and never asked me for money or for anything, just mutual respect, willingness to learn, and to never quit or give up.
Those were rough days though, and I did take quite a beating for years LOL, and it definitely was NOT easy..... I showed up every day with the guys to take my lumps and learn.
Marco is truly an amazing man. He's stuck by my side through everything and never judged me, as a woman or a person. To be his student and friend is one of my life's biggest honors. Also at a time when men fighters and coaches thought women's MMA was a big joke, Marco is the one you would least likely expect. Big crazy mean UFC Champion, at the time he was the best MMA coach in the world training the world's best fighters and yet, he did not segregate me and treated me like his male fighters and spent time on me to make me good. He also encouraged me to seek outside training where I could to improve.
His treatment of me gave me the drive to help other women in this sport. He's one of the most big hearted people I've ever known and anything I've accomplished in MMA is due to his treatment of me.
Q: Your first fight was in 1993. What are your memories of that fight?
A: I actually fought before that but they were not recorded or counted. As far as that fight goes, I showed up knowing nothing about my opponent. When she saw me in the hotel she freaked out a lil and wanted to go home. Then the promoter talked with us both separately and had dinner with me and asked me not to knock her out fast and I agreed. However when I got in the ring, she came at me with a flying knee, I think after the second time of that, my agreement went out the window LOL, and I wanted a KO.
Q: Was fighting something your family and friends supported at the time?
A: I am one of the luckiest women alive when it comes to support. At a time when everyone thought women's MMA was ridiculous, I had friends, family, and teammates support me. It's a good thing to because many times I asked myself if it was worth it. But MMA has given me a wonderful life. Even through all the really hard times.
Q: You also were the first woman to fight and win for King Of The Cage. What did it mean to be the first, and what are your memories of that night?
A: It was funny. I actually was a corner person for them before I ever got the chance to fight. Terry flew me out to New Mexico to corner a fighter named Sean Wilmont when her fought Javi Vasques. It was weird because I am friends with Javi and had been his training partner.
At that event I begged Terry to let me fight. My argument was that if I was good enough to have a fighter on his show ask me to corner him, I was good enough to fight on his show LOL.
He said no to me, multiple times, but I never gave up and I'm really GREAT at annoying people so I was persistent and finally Terry agreed to let me fight. But it was after a LOT of hearing no!!! Some people don't think it's a big deal but it was because aside from UFC, Pride, KOTC was the number 3 biggest men's' promotion.
I knew it was ground breaking because if it was accepted, it would open up doors for other women to fight on bigger shows and I believe Nichole and I did that.
My memories as per usual I had never seen my opponent. I knew she had like 4 or 5 more fights than me and when I got to the event she weighed in at 160 or more and was 6 feet tall. I'm 5'4" and was 135 so I was pretty bummed, but I worked so hard to get that fight so Terry asked me what I wanted to do. I said I wanted part of her purse and was going to fight despite the weight difference. Nichole was HUGE and she was a lot better than I had originally anticipated, and it ended up being a tough fight for me, but in a way I am glad because it was VERY important for us to have put on a good show, and we did just that.
Q: You fought Rosi Sexton on a ShoXC card in August 2008. That was an incredible fight. What did it mean to get on a Nationally televised show like that and what do you remember about the fight?
A: I was going through some major physical problems at the time. I had just lost my best friend, coach to suicide and was mentally no right in the head. I was VERY happy to get on Showtime of course but I had not fought in 2 years and before that 4 years and I felt very exhausted in the first round. I think from ring rust and I think some health issues/training and coaching issues. Rosi's a bad ass, however I am very disappointed at my performance and just wish I'd be able to show the world one day what I'm really capable of fighting like. I lost a split decision, which was devastating, because I also lost a very questionable decision in Japan 2 years earlier, those were my only losses. I realize every fighter losses, but losing, to a split decision or loosing to yourself is one f the worst feelings in the world. I'd rather have the crap beat out of me by Fedor than lose like that.
Q: Can you share your overall record and what would you consider the fight or fights you are most proud of?
A: My legal pro record is a shameful 4-2, can you see why now I'm reluctant to retire LOL. I am most proud of my fight with Christine Vanfleet, because the night before the show the promoter was over heard telling anotehr fighter I was going to get my ass kicked. I'm also proud of my KOTC fight because I worked like a tireless demon to get it.
Q: Now, you do much more than just fight. You have trained fighters, managed fighters, pretty much everything and then some. How do you find time to do it all?
A: I don't LOL. I do not really manage fighters anymore. I only did it because my friends asked me to, and after he passed away I lost my passion for management. I really do not have the drive to be a great manager. SO now I just try to help certain people when I can. I love training people. And my other passion is designing clothing. I think those 3 things are my talents, fighting, coaching, and designing, they are also the 3 things I love most in the world.
Q: Is there one aspect of the many you are involved in that you prefer or get the most satisfaction from?
A: From working with other women. I LOVE working with underprivileged people, or people who have hit rock bottom and want to rebuild their self esteem. I think because I relate to it so much, as I've always had a self esteem problem, I think I get the most satisfaction from that. Also seeing women look good in training and fighting through my designs I get a BIG satisfaction from that as well. Was watching a fight recently with Michelle Guiterez. I sponsor her and although she's a total bad ass, seeing her look so great in the gear made me sooo excited, because I truly care and put a lot of effort and thought into my designs and will not produce anything I wouldn't wear myself.
Q: As far as the sport goes, when Gina and Cyborg main evented a big Nationally televised show, as a female fighter, what did that mean to you?
A: I though wow I wish that was me, hahahaha just kidding (well sort of). Seriously it was friggen GREAT to see women headlining a National TV card. I felt like an old proud mom. Knowing that SO many other women have given their blood and tears to make that happen. Not for money or fame but for the love of our sport.
Q: Are you happy that five minute rounds are becoming the norm for women?
A: YES I absolutely HATE 3 minute rounds and feel as if it really hurt me in my last fight with Rosi. I've always fought and trained for 5 minute rounds, 3 minutes is not long enough to see who is best.
Q: Pound for Pound, your opinion, top five women in the sport right now?
A: Cyborg, Toughill, Fugi, Kaufman, Cohnen.
Q: Play matchmaker, if you could make any fight you would want to see, what would it be?
A: Cyborg vs BJ Penn LOL.
Q: Do you ever see a major U.S. women's only promotion?
A: I've been trying for 5 years now. I'd LOVE to promote my own women events. However if I do not succeed I am 100% sure someone will.
Q: What is the biggest misconception people have about women fighters or one thing you wish people understood?
A: That we are a less talented version of men. Also that the newer fans knew there were some amazing talented female fighters other than Cyborg or Gina.
Q: What is the best and worst part about fighting?
A: That is SO easy. The best part is the actual FIGHT. The worst part is training every day, betting beat on and never getting a fight. It's so absolutely horrible.
Q: If another woman told you she wanted to get involved and start training, what is the one piece of advice you would most want to give her?
A: I always say check your motives. If it's for fame or money think twice, although you may get lucky, it's your heart and love for the sport that will see you through the rough times, and trust me, no matter who you are there will be rough times.
Q: I can't imagine you having much free time, but when you do, any other hobbies or activities you enjoy?
A: Backpacking is my absolute favorite thing on earth to do. I also golf and love to travel to warm beaches LOL.
Q: What is one thing about you that people would be surprised to know?
A: That I am constantly trying to grow spiritually/emotionally as a person and am very hard on myself when I fall short (which is often). I've lived through a lot of adversity like many people and when I get to into myself and forget to be grateful I'm hard on myself about that.
Q: Describe Debi Purcell in five words.
A: Compassionate, Driven, Driven, Driven, Driven.
Q: You also have your own website and the Fighter Girls Website. Both of which are outstanding Can you give out the address and tell people what they can find there?
A: www.fightergirls.com is full, complete, and current about women's MMA, news, stats, and events. Also one of the worlds only all women's MMA store for all your training and work out needs including the fightergirls brand, Everlast, Reyes, and anything a female might need for MMA, boxing, thai boxing, or bjj.
Q: Anything I may have missed that you want to take the time to plug or promote?
A: Well VH-1 said I could promote it so watch their MMA special. I put the stars on Celebrity Fit Club throguh the rigours of a tough MMA workout and was trully impressed at their willingness and refusal to quit. It really inspired me and I amde some amazing friends from teh show. Something I thought would be a fun fast TV stint opened my eyes to soemthign new.
Q: ANy set plans as far as fighting or anything?
A: I hope so. I'm not ready to retire. Until a girl kicks my ass from me not being good enough or being too old I do not want to ive up on my dream of proving to myself and the world what I am capabel of and being the best just because I can't get fights.
Q: Are you looking for sponsors? If so, what are the getting in Debi Purcell?
A: Well, they are getting 100% because I give 100% into everything I do and take nothing for granted. Plus I have a big loud mouth and like to get my sponsors names out there LOL>
Q: Debi, again, thank you for doing this. It truly is an honor. Any last words before you go?
A: Jason thanks a bunch for taking the time to ask me all these questions. You're awesome. I want to thank my coach Marco Ruas, my boxing coach Gennaro Hernandez who is having the fight of his life with cancer, he keeps inspiring me every day, reminding me to be positive regardless of what happens. Also to all you girls out there who have written me letters, I LOVE them and they keep inspiring me to keep on plugging through regardless.