Interview with Angela Perra Riviera

Angela Perra RivieraBorn in Hesperia, California, 25-year-old Angela Parr (Rivera) started training Muay Thai in 1997 at Master Toddy’s Las Vegas gym. Since then she has had 31 fights (with a fight record of 25 – 4 – 2), and as well as wining numerous national titles, she won a gold medal at the 2001 World Amateur Championships in Bangkok.

In 2002 she moved from Las Vegas to Queensland, Australia and lives there with her husband (Muay Thai world champion “John” Wayne Parr) and their 2-year-old daughter Jasmine.

1. You had your first ‘post-Jasmine’ fight in November 2003, did you find that being a mother changed anything about the way you fight and train (except for the obvious lack of time!)?

Training and having a baby is totally different. My mind is in two places – one is on training and one with Jasmine. It was much easier without a baby, but after two years my body is back to normal. My first fight back was exceptionally hard because I was still breast-feeding, but I wanted to prove to everyone that I was still a fighter.

2. How long did you wait after having Jasmine before you got back into training and then fighting? Did you keep putting it off or were you itching to get back into training?

I think I started back training after 3 months. I had a natural birth so I had to wait till I felt right again. I wanted to train – every time I saw someone hit a bag or pads it made me very jealous. 3. How hard was it to get back into training after having Jasmine?

It was and is still hard – I cannot get a good session out when she is in the gym because I worry about her too much. I now take her to day care so I can have time for myself.

4. What are your goals for 2005?

I really love to fight but would like to just have 2 or 3 fights this year. I cannot fight all the time because my husband is fighting and making money for our family and our future so I have to support him as best as I can. When I train hard I get tired and do not want to cook or take care of my house duties so it is important to me that I focus on my family first. My second goal is to get our new gym started and have more students and more women training for fitness and for fighting.

5. Are there any people you really want fight in 2005?

I want to fight anyone in my weight class that I have not fought before. I like the idea of not knowing who I am fighting and challenging myself to figure them out and beat them.

6. Did you have any New Years resolutions?

I guess it would be to focus on our new gym that we are going to open next month. It is twice the size of our current gym and we will have a full facility. We will have men and women’s showers, sauna, weights, treadmills, and much more.

7. Have you tried any other martial arts?

I have had a professional boxing fight which I took on a week’s notice. No one else in the gym would take it so I did and I won, it was really soft. I love fighting boxing, but training just boxing is boring. Other than boxing I have only fought Muay Thai, and I am not interested in training in anything else. My heart is in Muay Thai.

8. Do you do any other sports for cross-training or enjoyment?

I have to run as part as my training but I have also started playing racquetball again. I like it because I get a good work out without thinking how hard it is physically.

9. Have you spent time training in Thailand? Where did you train?

I have been to Thailand three times. First time is when I fought in the Amateur championships. My trainers were from Jocky gym so I did a couple of days of pad work there and I fought the rest of the time. The second time I went to Galaxy gym where I only trained for about five days because I was there to support my friend who was fighting at the time. I have not been able to train in Thailand for any serious amount of time.

10. Did you feel you were treated differently while training in Thailand because you were a woman?

Yes. Women are not allowed to go in the rings or touch them, but when I won my three fights I was treated very well. Thai people are very friendly and I had a great experience.

11. Since you started Muay Thai in 1997 has there been a change in the attitude of trainers towards woman fighters?

The people I have trained with have always had a lot of respect for women fighters. Most trainers do respect the women because they always train hard and fight hard.

12. What about the general public? Are they more accepting of woman fighters now?

Some people have no idea that it is also a martial art. They think it’s all violence but really it’s whose technique is better and who is stronger. When they see a woman’s fight however, they usually have more respect.

13. What is the hardest thing you’ve had to deal with being a woman competing in a sport dominated by males?

It does not bother me personally. I have always thought that my fights were just as important. A women’s fight will always stand out. The worst thing would have to be a sexist promoter. It sucks when they don’t want to put women on their fight cards.

14. Do you think there are any differences in the way that women and men fight?

I think women sometimes fight at a faster pace.

15. Who are your favourite fighters?

I really like the men’s middleweight division; there are so many great fighters there. My husband is in that weight class so I am always watching the middleweights on video. My new favourite is Kaoklai – he is Thai and is fighting in the K-1 heavyweight division. He is only 76 kilos and is beating guys that are 105 kilos. He has amazing power in his kicks.

16. What is your most memorable fight and why?

Trisha Hill on our second fight. She was a lot stronger the second time and she almost beat me – she punched and kicked me very hard. I got lucky when I hit her with a right cross and she went down. That was the first time I hit someone and knocked them down like that. It was so exciting and again was very lucky.

17. What is your favourite thing about fighting?

I like the smell of the ring, the leather gloves, the Thai oil, and the energy that flows through my body before the fight.

18. What is the worst thing about fighting?

I don’t like to be unfit in the ring. It is also hard when you say after the fight “I should have done this” or “I should have done that”.

19. What is the most important piece of advice you’ve been given in terms of training or preparing for a fight?

It would have to be run. Run to get your fitness up so you can fight better.

20. Can you describe a typical day for you?

When I train for a fight I get up and run for about 30 minutes and then I do exercises after that such as push-ups, sit-ups and then stretching. Then I either run again at night or skip rope for 20 minutes then 2 rounds of shadow boxing, then pad work. I do bag work, and partner drills like sparring or leg sparring. If I have a good training partner I like to grapple but I don’t always have someone my weight in the gym so I can’t always grapple. I do light weights and sit-ups and push-ups at end of training. When I am close to a fight I do pad work in the morning also.

21. With two world champs as parents and growing up in a gym, what age will you let Jasmine start training?

Jasmine will start to train at age 5 on a daily basis. She does not have to fight – in fact I’d rather her not, but I want her to train for the discipline. She will be at the gym everyday so it will be a good for her to do something physical.

22. Have you and your husband ever fought on the same night? If you haven’t already, do you think you would it be too stressful or distracting? John Wayne and I fought at Las Vegas in March 2002. Then we fought again in New Mexico later that year. Before Jasmine it was easy because we were in the same routine, but now I think it would be really stressful.

23. Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?

Thanks for your questions. Also for any fighters – don’t let anyone hold you back or put you down, just follow your dreams and train hard.

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