Flyweight fighter, sports therapist and osteopath Rosi Sexton is one of the SAFE MMA founding board members. The not-for-profit project, which is dedicated to ensuring the safety of MMA fighters in the UK will kick things off with UCMMA 32 on Feb. 2.
This will be the first show to feature only MMA fighters from the SAFE MMA register, which is widely regarded as being a huge step forward for the sport of Mixed Martial Arts within the UK.
The MMA Review (www.themmareview.co.uk) spoke to Rosi Sexton about how she first got involved, what SAFE MMA hopes to achieve, UCMMA 32 and why people should support the movement.
Check out the interview:
Jay Cee: Hi Rosi, great to have you on themmareview.co.uk. I will start by asking how you first got involved with SAFE MMA. Did you hear about the initiative and ask to be involved or were you approached by someone?
Rosi Sexton: Improved fighter safety is something that has been long overdue. There are people who have been working towards improving the legitimacy of the sport in this country and it is something that I think we need. I heard that a group was being put together to look at these issues, and because of my experience as a fighter and understanding of the medical issues involved, they felt I would be able to help. I thought it was a great opportunity to improve the sport for both the promotions and the fighters.
Jay Cee: The initiative was created to make Mixed Martial Arts in this country safer. Is the long term aim to have a regulatory system that applies to every event in the UK? Or just to make the sport safer for fighters?
Rosi Sexton: We want to make the sport safer in this country and provide a platform for promoters to prove that they have gone through various medical processes to ensure fighter safety. Safe MMA is not a governing body, we just want to create a safe environment and provide relevant medical advice and guidelines for the fighters and promoters to follow. Introducing things like blood testing and medicals ensures the safety of the fighters competing. The aim is not to become a governing body, and it has always been made clear that it will only cover the medical and safety aspect of the sport. Hopefully SAFE MMA will help to improve the legitimacy of the sport in the eyes of the public and this will only help the sport to grow, eventually attracting more sponsors and opportunities for everyone involved.
Jay Cee: The experience and knowledge that you bring to SAFE MMA as both an osteopath and fighter is incredibly valuable. Having competed under different regulatory systems yourself, would you say that you can use certain things from those systems as an example of something to work towards?
Rosi Sexton: When putting together the SAFE MMA system, we looked closely at how fighter safety and medical supervision is managed in other parts of the world. For example in the United States, MMA is governed by the Athletic Commissions who ensure that all fighters go through the correct testing and follow the regulations that are in place. We are a long way from getting to that stage, but this is a starting point and an opportunity for us to do it from within the sport. None of us want someone from outside the sport coming in and telling us what we can or can’t do – it is much better that we do it ourselves as people who are actually involved with and understand the sport. This actually puts us in a very strong position, because we can look at what works elsewhere and what can be done better. We want to prevent fighters putting themselves or their opponents in unnecessary danger, for example by introducing testing for blood borne diseases and concussion monitoring so that fighters are not fighting following a recent knock out.
Jay Cee: Currently UCMMA, BAMMA and Cage Warriors, which are the most recognised promotions in the UK are part of SAFE MMA. How important do you think it is that the smaller promotions around the country get involved?
Rosi Sexton: Without those promotions involved we wouldn’t have been able to launch this initiative. It is very important to have credible events leading the way and setting an example for everyone else in the sport. We are very happy to have them on board and they all want the best for their fighters. People will be looking at these promotions to see how it goes before they get involved and that is fine. We are here to work with MMA, so we welcome promotions around the country to sign up and join the movement. With new gyms and promotions appearing all the time it is important to consider safety and as more people come on board we can help to raise the medical standards in place for more shows across the country.
Jay Cee: The first ever event to feature only MMA fighters from the SAFE MMA register will be UCMMA 32, which takes place on February 2nd. After investing time into the initiative yourself and helping to get it up and running, how good does it feel to have reached the first event and finally see everything become a reality?
Rosi Sexton: It feels really good. It all started just over 18 months ago and there were a lot of things that had to be discussed and worked out. After all of the meetings and hard work that has taken place, it’s great to see that everything has come together. I am excited that this is finally happening and hope that everything runs smoothly. We’re also looking forward to seeing other promotions throughout this year holding events which feature SAFE MMA registered fighters.
Jay Cee: This event will provide a chance to look at how smoothly the whole process went and if there is anything that can be changed or improved. Will you look to get feedback from this event?
Rosi Sexton: We always welcome feedback. The event will definitely be something we can look at. If necessary we may be able to tweak or make some little changes to help improve the processes. We are in close contact with the promotions and they will let us know how everything goes.
Jay Cee: When setting up the initiative how valuable do you think it was to have a mixture of people like the promoters, the medical staff, Marc Goddard who is a referee and yourself as a fighter?
Rosi Sexton: We were really lucky to have so many experienced people involved who have been around the sport for such a long time. When setting something like this up you need to be able to look at things from all angles, and with this mixture of people we could focus on what was needed for our sport. It’s great to have Marc Goddard on the team as he is such a well respected referee, and a great ambassador for both the sport and SAFE MMA. Izzy Carnwath has done a great job with communications and getting everyone together, and of course the doctors over at Harley Street have been fantastic in dedicating so much time to helping us make this happen. The promoters who have come on board have been invaluable in turning this from a vague idea into a reality. They support our goal of creating the safest possible environment for fighters.
Jay Cee: SAFE MMA has received a positive reaction within the industry, but like anything, you sometimes get people who respond negatively and doubt if it can really work. For example, some promotions may feel that it is too much to manage, and some fighters may find it hard to justify the fees etc. What message would you give to those people who have doubts about whether or not it’s worth it?
Rosi Sexton: People tend to be resistant to change, that’s completely natural. Some people are wondering about the effect this is going to have on them and on the sport, and until we see it in action there’s always going to be a certain amount of skepticism as to whether it can actually work in practice. I’ve actually been really encouraged by the large number of people who have come forward to support the initiative and to get behind it. It’s really brought a lot of people together, and I think that will only grow as we move forward. We created this initiative to make the sport safer for everyone involved, and to improve the medical standards associated with Mixed Martial Arts in this country. We want to work together with the MMA community, rather than against it, and would encourage anyone who has any suggestions or concerns to get in touch and make their voices heard.
Jay Cee: I personally think that SAFE MMA is a step in the right direction for the sport and I look forward to seeing the movement grow. Now, before I let you go Rosi….Have you got any fights lined up for 2013?
Rosi Sexton: I don’t have anything lined up at the moment. To be honest I am taking a bit of a step back from fighting for now. I’ve been doing a bit more coaching, and I’m planning to work more with some of the up and coming female MMA fighters, helping them to train and develop, and I may have a few other exciting projects coming up too. With that said, if the right opportunity to fight presented itself I would certainly give it consideration, but for the moment I am looking at competing more in BJJ and grappling.
Jay Cee: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me Rosi, I appreciate the time. Best of luck for the future!
Rosi Sexton: Thank you.
Thanks to Rosi Sexton for taking the time to speak with me. Follow Rosi on Twitter at @RosiSexton. Make sure you follow TheMMAReview.co.uk on Twitter at @TheMMAReview and you can follow me personally at @JayCeeMMA, thanks!
*Image of Rosi Sexton sourced from “http://www.rosisextonosteopathy.com”