Joanne Calderwood is one of the highest ranked British stars in the UFC today and she’s on the cusp of challenging for championship glory.
Jo Jo, 32, moved up from strawweight to flyweight two fights ago and she has won both contests since.
Now, she has a date with Katlyn Chookagian at UFC 238 on the same night flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko defends against number one contender, Jessica Eye.
talkSPORT caught up with the Irvine-born star to discuss her move up in weight, UFC London and her plans for the future.
Calderwood missed weight for her last loss to Cynthia Calvillo in the summer of 2017, so how has the transition been to fighting at a more comfortable weight?
“It’s been really, really great. I knew flyweight was going to be the perfect division for me because I was a good fighter in the strawweight division, but I felt like a lot of my power and my energy was wiped out with the weight cutting. Being at flyweight, I’m more healthier, more energy and I’m enjoying my camps now. Another thing is being healthy; that’s a big part… especially in this sport, it’s so hard on your body.”
Calderwood, 13-3, went on to explain how dangerous weight cutting can be in MMA.
“We do camps from 10 weeks, sometimes six weeks, but when you’re taking fights on short notice you don’t have those opportunities if you’re not already close to weight. You’re missing opportunities and the stress you’re putting on your body is just crazy. Now, when I look back on my career, I feel like I made it a lot harder for myself. I’m just glad that there is more information out there now and more help for an up and coming fighter.
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“You don’t have to kill yourself to make weight and be the bigger fighter. Now, it’s more common that you’re walking around at your natural weight and maybe losing a few pounds – and that’s ok,” Calderwood said. “People are having more success with it and it’s good to see a change in the sport like that.
“For strawweight, I was basically doing a lot of running and starving myself. I felt like I was not eating a lot and training more. But now, I fuel my body to train. So I’ve got a better understanding of what my body needs, what I need to be eating and that’s all thanks to the Performance Institute,” Calderwood said.
Sitting seventh in the world at flyweight, a victory over the third-ranked Chookagian would put the Scot right in contention for a world title shot and that’s exactly what she wants.
“Right now, I’m targeting putting on a good performance in Chicago [Vs. Katlyn Chookagian], getting a W and then I’ll be looking at those guys [Shevchenko and Eye]. I wanna be champion one day so I’m keeping a very close eye, but I know I have this fight to get done and when I get done I’m sure I’ll be next in line for a title shot.”
UFC Fight Night: London goes down tomorrow at the O2 Arena in London and the headline bout sees Darren Till take on Jorge Masvidal in the welterweight division. Calderwood thinks Till will edge that affair, but she’s looking forward to seeing another fighter in action.
“I definitely see that one being the fight of the night, for sure. They’ve both got power and both are heavy hitters. I’m leaning more towards Darren for that one. But the fight I’m looking forward to most is Gunnar Nelson [Vs Leon Edwards]. He’s my favourite, he’s always been my favourite fighter. I’ve trained with him and I just love how he’s so humble and calm and yet, he goes in there and gets the job done. It’s like he’s just woken up [when he fights] and he’s ready to have another nap when he’s done.”
Gunnar Nelson faces the tough test of Leon Edwards at the O2 and he’s a man that is on a six-fight win streak. So, is it a lock that Nelson wins?
“Yeah, for sure,” Calderwood said without any hesitation. “I think we’re seeing a different Gunnar in there, this is like Gunnar 2.0. I feel like he’s back on the bandwagon and he’s ready to get himself back up there.”
What’s changed for Calderwood then? With a lot of momentum behind her and renewed hunger, she credits the Performance Institute and her training partner for helping her.
“I’ve finally found a gym I want to be in and have a team around me. I was searching for girl training partners and I feel like I’ve just found my number one training partner Roxanne [Modaferri] right now. It’s great just to have her there and she’s dedicated just like me, so I couldn’t ask for a better training partner.
“My nutrition is on point, my strength and conditioning is on point and I’ve got the guidance I was looking for at the Performance Institute. I just feel like my body is getting better every day and each fight I’m getting stronger and I’m reaching goals that I want to. One goal for me is to be the best professional fighter I can and the rest will take care of itself. I just have to keep winning, training and performing to get there,” Calderwood said.
Calderwood speaks in a very focused and candid manner. She knows what she wants and is clearly working diligently towards it. When asked what her plans were for the rest of the year, the former kickboxer’s sights refuse to stray from the title.
“The plan is to fight as much as I can and my body can keep up with [laughs]. The plan is go in to Chicago, win, come out with no injuries and fight again. If I win in Chicago, I’m sure I’m going to have the title fight. I’m sure I’ll have to wait a few months for that fight, but it will just be back to training and waiting for that next fight.”
Catch Calderwood at UFC 238 in June as her quest to top the women’s flyweight division continues.