The Prentice Interviews: Rosi Sexton

The Prentice Interviews: Rosi Sexton

By Jon Prentice 

This week I had the pleasure of catching up with the former UFC competitor, Cage Warriors champion, and UK MMA Pioneer Rosi Sexton.

Rosi retired from competing in 2014 with a record of 13-5, however, she remains in the sport through her work at Olton Osteopathy and the Combat Sport Clinic. Rosi works closely with a number of MMA athletes to educate and rehabilitate in order to ensure their bodies are in the best possible shape come fight night. We spoke about Rosi’s current line of work, her career inside the cage, her recent appearance on Dan Hardy’s podcast and what the future holds.

Talking about her career since her days as a mixed martial artist ended, Rosi explained how it was the variety of work she undertakes that she enjoyed the most, added with the fact that she still has the opportunity to remain involved in the sport she competed in for over 10 years:

“So there is a lot of variety which is one of the things I like about the job. Some days I spend most of the day working with patients, I have got a clinic at the side of my house so people come to me and that can be for a variety of things. Usually about 30% of the patients I see are in somehow or another involved in combat sports, so that keeps me involved in the sport and I really enjoy working with those athletes. I also see a lot of other people, people from other sports, regular every day people, normal people if you like. I really like that variety, I find that it really keeps things fresh and interesting.” 

“I also spend a fair bit of time with some of the athletes doing gym based sessions doing more sports specific rehab. I’ll get them down to the gym and we will work on specific exercises and ways of making that transferable to what they need to be able to do in the sport. Again I find that really interesting and it’s another way for me to be able to stay involved in the sport and for me to be able to help out fighters. I very much sympathise with injured athlete as I have been there myself and I know how frustrating it can be. So it is nice to be able to help get those people back doing what they want to do.

“Another big part of what I am doing right now is producing content for the Combat Sports Clinic page. We are working on giving out a lot of online information, the most recent product we have put out is the neck strength masterclass and that’s a full length instructional video where we talk about neck strengthening right from the very basics that might be appropriate for somebody just coming back from a neck injury perhaps, right the way through to a more sport specific side of things with a focus on performance as much as anything else. We want to enable martial artist to be able to use their necks more effectively, I think this is something as combat sports athletes that we don’t think about enough and it is a really neglected area. It is good to finally get that information out there for more people to benefit.”

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A multi talented individual with an exceptional educational background, Sexton was studying for a career in sports injury well before her days as a mixed martial artist were over. However, it was during her time training in MMA that she realised she had a passion for the subject which would eventually lead to a career:

“So I first got interested in sports injuries whilst I was training in MMA. Obviously you see a lot of injuries, I experienced a few myself, I experienced the frustration of not being able to find a sports professional who really understood what I needed to do and that got me doing a lot of reading around the subject and trying to find out more.

“Eventually I decided I want to do this properly, I think there is a real gap for professionals who understand the sport and can get injured fighters back to fighting. At that point I decided to go back to university and I studied for 5 years to be an osteopath, I qualified in 2010 and at first I was still working very part time as I was still fighting, but the plan eventually was that was going to be my thing. When I retired in 2014 I started making plans to set up my own clinic and that has really grown over the last few years.”

Sexton has seen the sports science behind MMA grow massively from her time competing to now, however she firmly believes that there is still a long way to go before it is at the level that it should be for athletes to maximise themselves physically:

“Compared to when I first started in MMA it is night and day, there is so much more sports science coming into the sport. The majority of it is in the form of strength and conditioning, I see a lot of really good coaches now starting to work with combat sports athletes and that’s a great thing. I think in some ways it is still not as developed as it could be. I think a lot of these ideas being brought across, imported from other sports aren’t necessarily specific to MMA as I think combat sports has some considerations of its own.

“For example neck injuries, something that I am interested in, is one of those things. There are maybe some comparable concerns with rugby perhaps but with most other sports this isn’t something that the professionals have to deal with a lot. In MMA we use the neck as a shock absorber and the lack of training that we apply before doing that is shocking when you look at it from that perspective. There is a lot more we could be doing to prevent some of the injuries happening. It is one of the most common injuries I see with my fighters and grapplers.” 

Recent Cage Warriors 98 standout Michael Younis is one mixed martial artist who has worked closely with Rosi Sexton, describing her as a “sorceress” for how she helped rehabilitate him from a serious neck and back injury to competing in such a short space of time:

“There is nothing quite like the feeling of getting someone back to doing the sport they love, then seeing them be successful in that sport” Sexton said of the praise received by Younis. “I have played a small role in that success, but obviously with all of these things I will always say that Mike was the one that did all the hard work and did all of the things I asked of him. He was the one that did all the work, I was in a position to help him out and point him in the right direction, but it is incredibly rewarding helping him to do that. That is one of the things that motivated me into doing this after fighting.”

Rosi went on to add that despite loving the sport of mixed martial arts and missing competing, she has no interest in turning her back on her new career and returning to the cage:

“I love fighting and I miss it all the time, but at the same time if somebody offered me the chance to go back and do all that again I wouldn’t give up what I am doing now to go back. I think with what I am doing now I am contributing more overall to the mixed martial arts world in this role than I would be as a fighter. I am very happy with where I am.”

Sexton is still a big fan of mixed martial arts and is regularly in attendance at local shows, in particular at a grass roots level where she enjoys seeing the latest stream of talent emerge:

“I went through a phase of not really wanting to watch MMA very much, partly because I missed it. When I first retired, every time watched a fight all I would be thinking is I want to be back in there, I want to be back doing that. Now I am at a stage where I can watch it and enjoy it for its own sake. I don’t watch as much as I used as there is so many events going on and with everything I am doing it can be hard to keep up, but I do enjoy watching the big fights and I do really enjoy the grassroots element of the scene.

“I love Cage Warriors. I was quite heavily involved with them as a fighter, I like what they are doing, I like the way they put the shows together. Ian Dean is a fantastic matchmaker. If I get a chance to go to one of their event I will take it. Golden Ticket (Fight Promotions) I think is a great grassroots show where you see the next generation of fighters coming through.”

Sexton will go down as the first British female mixed martial artist to sign with the UFC, which of course goes down as one of her greatest achievements in the sport, despite things not going entirely how she would have hoped going 0-2 in the promotion:

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“It’s a little bittersweet I think. It was amazing to get to fight in the UFC, something I didn’t expect to happen during my career. I always thought women would be in the UFC one day, just not in time for me. So when I did finally get that opportunity that was an amazing thing, but it was a real rollercoaster for me. I look back on it and sometimes I catch myself thinking if only they had my own weight class or if it had happened sooner in my career.

“There is a bit of me that would like to have seen how far I could have taken it if had a bit longer left in my career. I knew when I first fought in the UFC I was coming to the end of my career. I had quite a nasty neck injury myself, one of the reasons I am so passionate about this topic, and that to some extent limited what I was able to do in training. It wasn’t ideal but it was fantastic just to be there and to get that opportunity. I still think of that first UFC fight against Alexis Davis as one of my career highs. It was a really good fight that didn’t quite go my way. From the perspective of everything I had to go through to get there that is one that I was really proud of. 

“Looking back on my career as a whole it was a little surreal. Looking at it now from a distance I sort of feels like it happened to somebody else. It just seems so unlikely almost, as I never anticipated the mixed martial arts thing going that far. As I was fighting the sport was just getting bigger and bigger and I was riding the wave, there I was in the UFC and I think ‘how the hell did this happen’. It all seems a little surreal just thinking how this happened. It was a great experience and as they say you can’t buy experience.”

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Retiring in 2014 with a record of 13-5, Sexton had a tough run in towards retirement, taking on Alexis Davis, Jessica Andrade and Joanna Jedrzejczyk in her final 3 fights before she decided to hang up the gloves. She is of the belief that she decided to retire at the right time, despite still firmly of the opinion that she would rack up wins now if she were to come out of retirement:

“I think that no fighter is ever happy with the decision to retire. Fights are like beer, you always just want one more but by the time you do finally realise it is time to stop you have had one too many. I think it’s a difficult one, I have no doubt that I could have gone back and won more fights after that, absolutely no doubt at all. If I wanted to, I think I could go back now and win some more fights. I still look at some of the UFC divisions and think ‘I could beat her’. Whether that is true or not obviously is a whole different question.

“That is just the mindset of a retired fighter. The question would be why would I do that. This is something I have thought about a lot, if I did go back and have another fight why would I be doing it and who would I be trying to prove something to? I know that I can win some more fights, I know there are fighters out there I can still beat and I don’t have any doubt in that respect. But for me, I want to be fighting real genuine contenders, I don’t want to be fighting for the sake of it against someone they have got in on a weeks notice in a local sports hall, what’s that going to prove?

“For me, it was the right decision (to retire). That doesn’t meant that there is quite a bit of me that wouldn’t like to go back and have another fight. I probably think about that several times per week, I mean I was calling someone out on Twitter the other day, very politely of course. Maybe I could get in there and have a grappling super fight one day as there is still that bit of me that still wants to compete. It’s a difficult one, we know how these things go with retired fighters, then they retire for a few years and they start getting that itch again. A lot of the time when they go back a lot of the time it doesn’t go well. Just because you feel that you have still got it and you feel that you will still do well and win fights, it doesn’t mean that you should.”

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Rosi Sexton recently caught up with another former fighter who is regularly linked to a return to action in Dan Hardy, where she made a guest appearance on his Full Reptile Radio podcast. Rosi explained to me what it was like to catch up with the former welterweight title challenger turned UFC commentator and analyst:

“Dan is amazing, I love chatting to Dan as he has such an intelligent view on things. It’s good to talk through all the different aspects of the sport with him. I was doing a bit of work with him on the neck strength stuff and he wanted my take on that, and like I say it is great to work with somebody who has the depth of experience. He is so experienced, he understands the sport so well and he understands his body and that just makes him so great to work with. I have got all the time in the world for Dan, he is definitely one of the genuinely good guys in the sport.”

So what is next for Rosi Sexton and what does the future hold for the former Cage Warriors world champion?

“At the moment I have got my hands full with the clinic. I am working with a few associates who are taking on some of the case loads which is great. The Combat Sports Clinic side of things, the next step is to continue to build that up further and set up a members area on that side where we are putting out some members only content on a lot of these topics. Like I say I think there is a real gap for that in combat sports generally so I am quite excited about what we can do with that.

“I have got a lot people, fellow professionals and colleagues who I talk to around country who have promised me interviews and podcasts and blogs and things so I am also looking at putting some of that together. I’d like to run a combat sports injury conference once day with some of these professionals and put us all together in one place.

“As far as actually fighting….like I say a return to grappling competitions could happen if I can manage to get my work schedule to a point where I am getting some regular training sessions in, it is something I would like to do so there’s potential. MMA….I don’t think so, I think that would be a genuinely bad idea. Asides from the fact the amount I would have to scale back on the clinic here to make that happen, my patients would be mad at me, there’s no way I could clear that much space in my diary.

“I’m mostly just enjoying life at the moment, doing a lot of things I put on the backburner whilst I was busy with my fighting career. I have started playing the piano again, that’s something I did a lot growing up. I have taken up climbing so that’s another thing that I now do. So yeah I have got a really busy life. That’s the thing about being a retired fighter, you can’t afford to be bored as you start reminiscing about the glory days and feeling slightly bitter that nobody really remembers who you are. I always said I never want to be that person, there’s too much ahead of me and I want to focus on what I am doing now and the whole new chapters.”

A huge thank you to Rosi for her time, she no doubt goes down as one of the best female mixed martial artist that has come out of Europe, and a true pioneer for British MMA.

Following our interview, Rosi broke the news that she will be adding another string to her bow, as she will be entering the world of politics running for the Green Party in the future. More proof, if needed that she truly is one hell of a multi-talented individual!

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