Brenna Larkin, the new women’s 125 lb champion, claimed her title this weekend at the Tuff-N-Uff tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada. Larkin and her opponent Cynthia Calvillo went three rounds for a close and exciting fight. The first two rounds were close combat for these two tough women, both with undefeated records. In the 3rd round though Brenna was able to establish some distance with boxing and with a unanimous judge’s decision, won the fight. Rocking her Fighter Girls gear and a shiny new belt, Brenna was looking and feeling great basking in the glow of well deserved and hard fought victory. With an abundance of brains and talent, Brenna Larking is certainly a rising star of women’s MMA.
Here at Fighter Girls we were able to talk with Brenna and get the scoop on what it’s like to be a female fighter. From law school to babies, we found out how this fighter girl ticks and what keeps her going strong!
Fighter Girls: What type of fighting do you train in?
Brenna: I train in MMA. I try not to over or under emphasize any one aspect of the sport. My goal is to be a well rounded fighter, not a wrestler with good hands or a striker with good ground.
FG: How long have you been fighting?
Brenna: My first fight was about three years ago. I had been accepted into law school and I was afraid that if I started school without having fought that I would use school as an excuse to never do it. So I decided to man up and make it happen and I am glad that I did.
FG: Law school and fighting, sounds like a tight schedule! Is it difficult to keep a good balance between school and fighting?
Brenna: It is very difficult to be a full-time law student and an MMA fighter. When I am training for a fight, my whole life is consumed with preparation and thoughts of the fight. Everything else takes a back
seat. That includes friends, family and definitely law school. The two things don’t really balance. One inevitably winds up giving way to the other. So, to substitute for balance I basically work it like a pendulum. I focus on fighting when I can afford to put school on the back burner (my last fight was during an easy semester and not near finals time) and I focus on school when I have to (last semester was really busy, so I didn’t fight). I just fought a great fight, so now the pendulum will have to swing back the other way and I have to focus on my studies for a while. It is all about timing.
FG: What got you interested in MMA and fighting?
Brenna: I was a wrestler in high school because my little brother joined the team and I didn’t want him to be able to beat me up. I fell in love with wrestling and I continued to wrestle in college. Whenever I would lose a match I would think to myself that if only I were able to hit the chick I would win. One day, I saw Gina Carano fighting Julie Kedzie and I thought to myself “I could do that!” Ever since then the desire to do MMA kept nagging at me until I eventually made it happen.
FG: What is your favorite style of fighting?
Brenna: My favorite style is no style. I admire the ability to control the fight and try to finish it from whatever position a fighter is in. The reason I love MMA is because it allows the fighter to use every weapon at his or her disposal. I like fighters who try to finish fights as opposed to those who try to out-point in order to win. So I suppose my favorite style is whichever one finishes the fight.
FG: What is a typical day of training like for you?
Brenna: Hmmmmm…. it depends on the day, and it depends on whether or not I have a fight coming up. I always adjust my training so that I am scheduled to peak at fight time, and I adjust my training depending on who my opponent is and what her style is like. I have different days that emphasize different things. One day I will focus on wrestling and grappling, another on striking and mitt work, another on sparring. It really depends.
FG: How do you feel as a woman in a male dominated sport?
Brenna: To be honest, this is not something that I think about that often. I don’t think of myself as a “woman” so much as I think of myself as a fighter and a competitor. That is the way my teammates and training partners think of me, too, so I haven’t had much time to feel “different.” I think that women probably get more attention than the guys just because we are rarer. As a general matter, I think we get just as much respect as the guys do. There will always be people who don’t think women should do this or who don’t like the sport, but there are also people who don’t think men should do it either. Haters are going to hate. I don’t concern myself with them overmuch.
FG: That’s a really great attitude to take. Do you think there are any hardships though that women face in MMA which men do not?
Brenna: Babies. We have them and men don’t. A normal “career woman” can manage to go to work and make money while having babies to a certain extent. Women in MMA have to take some serious time off for that stuff! By nature our careers are just bound to be shorter than the careers of most men in the sport. The baby years and the fighting years are the same years and the two things don’t overlap very well.
FG: Do you have a nickname?
Brenna: I think my nickname will be “Lionheart” but I haven’t busted it out yet. My fiancee and cornerman Ed West gave it to me because he thinks it describes me as a fighter.
FG: Women’s MMA has a lot of great fighters, do you have a favorite?
Brenna: I always give the smartass answer and say my favorite female fighter is me! The truth is there are a lot of female fighters out there who I admire and respect. If I start naming names the list will be too long. I also find that I always end up really respecting my opponents. Respecting them helps keep me safe and helps make me feel terrific after I fight them.
FG: Of all the great women of MMA, is there anyone in particular you’d like to fight in the cage?
Brenna: I don’t have anybody specific in mind but as a general rule I want to be able to fight the best. Whoever is on the top of the rankings or whoever has the fancy belt is the chick that I want to fight. I want to be on the top and the way to the top is through the women who are there already.
FG: What has been your most exciting/favorite fight?
Brenna: Hands down the last one. I just fought Cynthia Calvillo for the Tuff-n-Uff flyweight title and the chick was tough! She came out there to win and she fought like a champion. The fight really allowed me to showcase a lot of different skills and it pushed me to achieve and to go beyond my past accomplishments. The tough fights bring out the best in me and really help me grow as a fighter.
FG: Sounds like it was a great fight! Along with great fights like this, what drives you to continue fighting and training?
Brenna: The knowledge of my unrealized potential drives me to continue. I know that I have what it takes to be a great champion. I have taken little steps towards achieving the goal of being recognized as the best in the world. I’m on my way but I haven’t got there yet. I know I have more to do in the sport and I know I have more skills to develop and perfect. The dream of becoming the perfect martial artist drives me to continue (even if it is impossible to fully achieve). I have a need to actualize my full potential.
FG: So what does the future hold for you in trying to realize and actualize your full potential?
Brenna: I will go as far as I possibly can towards achieving that end. Ideally, I will defend my ammy title, go pro and be a wild success on the world stage for years to come. At the same time, I understand this is a sport and athletes always have a finite shelf-life. For that reason, I try not to plan much further than the next fight because I know that anything can happen. No matter what the future holds for me, as long as I go as far as I possibly can, I will be content.
FG: You were cutting weight I’m sure preparing for the big fight you had this weekend. Do you have any cheats you allow yourself food-wise?
Brenna: Even when I am cutting weight (actually, ESPECIALLY when I am cutting weight) I allow myself almond M&M’s. A girl’s gotta have her chocolate!
FG: One last question for you Brenna, what is one thing the avid followers of Fighter Girl should be surprised to learn about you?
Brenna: I always cry at movies, and I almost always cry at weddings. I’m the biggest sucker / softy I know. Oh yeah, also a hopeless romantic. Then again, my fiancee is very romantic so maybe I am not so hopeless after all… (I think that’s actually three and a half surprising things about me).