Interview with Roxanne Modafferi

Updated: Oct 22, 2020

Roxanne Modaferri, commonly known as “The Happy Warrior”, is a current UFC strawweight with an impressive Mixed Martials art record and background in many different types of martial arts.

She is scheduled to battle EBI vet Danielle Kelly this coming Sunday in Houston for the main event title match at Submission Hunter Pro 60 – All Women’s card. I had a chance to speak with her about her story in jiu-jitsu and about this upcoming event.

As her nickname suggests, she was a joy to talk to, and the jiu-jitsu community can’t wait to see her in action this weekend.

1. Your Martial Arts history is remarkable! Can you please tell us more about your journey, when did you start Jiu-Jitsu and why did you get started?

Roxanne: I started jiujitsu because I hurt my back and my Judo sempai (senior) said it would be less stressful on my back than the hard falls and twists necessary in Judo.  I preferred grappling sports over striking sports because you can use technique and finesse over power to cause someone to give up and tap out without actually causing them pain or damage. I have been training for 19 years.

2. Can you share with us who are your biggest support system? Who are the people behind -Roxanne that helped you achieve so much?

Roxanne: My mom always supported me doing martial arts, driving me to Tae Kwon Do, Kempo, and Judo when I was in high school.  Heck, she drove me an hour and a half one way to Olympian Jason Morris’ school once a week.  After I left home, I guess just my teammates and coaches supported me.

3. Can you share some of your routines? Tell us more about a typical training day for you.

Roxanne: Now, I fight for the UFC so I can’t focus 100% on jiujitsu.  Here is my Monday.  I wake up at 4 AM, eat breakfast, go back to sleep at 5:30, wake up at 7 AM, and go jogging.  Upon returning around 7:30, I do yoga and stretch well in my living room, leaving my apartment around 8:30 AM.  I have a kickboxing private lesson with my MMA coach John Wood from 9:30-10.  Afterwards, if I have a fight coming up, I drill technique with a selected training partner for an hour or 30 minutes until MMA class, which is 11:30 – 1 PM.  If no MMA fight, I’ll do the Syndicate jiujitsu class from 10 to 11-ish.  After training finishes around 1, I eat lunch, ice bath, go home for an hour, only to return to teach kids jiujitsu at Syndicate from 4:00 – 6:00.  From there, I go home, eat dinner, watch TV, and go to bed by 9 PM.

4. What are your plans/ goals for the future?

Roxanne: I want to fight in the UFC as long as I can and continue doing jiujitsu and competing in jiujitsu after I retire from fighting.

5. What advice would you give to other women in bjj or martial arts in general?

Roxanne: Do not be afraid to start.  People in martial arts schools are always welcoming and friendly.  You will make friends while you are challenging yourself and getting stronger.  You don’t have to be a certain way, like aggressive or strong.  I do jiujitsu with the objective of not causing anybody pain, which is not exactly realistic, but it is a fun challenge for me.  I have to be THAT good to succeed at that goal.

6. What has been their biggest struggle in jiu-jitsu? Haveyou ever had a time when you considered giving it up?

Roxanne: My biggest struggle has always been my body.  I am constantly hurt somewhere and angry at my body for being injured.  So far, I’m still going.

7. On the contrary, what have you enjoyed the most about BJJ?

Roxanne: I love hitting the perfect technique.  It’s so delicious. Chokes are my favorite, especially the blood chokes that are so smooth you just slip into unconsciousness with no pain.  It’s the most power a human can hold in their bare hands, I think.  

8. Who is your greatest BJJ/martial arts hero and why?

Roxanne: Matt Serra is my jiujitsu hero.  I watched him fight in the UFC and always rooted for him because he has a jiujitsu base.  I met him once when he was cornering someone at the UFC, and we rolled.  I was fangirling so hard.  What an honor!

9. What made you want to take part of the first All-Women’s Submission Hunter Pro card?

Roxanne: You invited me 😊 And I’m excited to face someone skilled like Danielle Kelly.

10. As you know, a percentage of the proceeds for this event will go towards Breast Cancer Research. Do you have any personal experience with Breast Cancer?

Roxanne: Yes, a large number of women on my paternal side have had breast cancer.  My cousin passed away in her early forties from it, after coming down with it in her mid-thirties.  My grandmother passed I think late fifties or early sixties.  I feel at very high risk, so I am determined to just live life as hard as I can, so I have no regrets, just in case.  

11. You will be the main event of the card facing EBI vet Danielle Kelly. Are you excited to be facing such a game opponent? How do you expect this match to go?

Roxanne: I’m SO excited!  My jiujitsu mentors Guns and Casey looked her up and have been training me specifically for her style.  I can’t say I have ever trained like this for a grappling match before.  I know she is smaller than me, but I expect fantastic wiry strength.  I think I need to use my basics and strength to shut down her sharp sport-jiujitsu trickiness.

12. Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. We look forward to seeing you onstage and give an awesome performance. One last question, what are your hopes for women’s jiu-jitsu for the future?

Roxanne: I hope more and more women train!  All girls should learn it for self-defense and competing is fun. Thank you for giving us a platform to fight on.

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