Check out Debi Purcell’s interview with Banana Fusion Magazine. Fighter Girls founder and Women’s MMA pioneer Debi Purcell chats about continuing to live her life to the fullest and what MMA means to her.
Hi Debi, please tell us how did you get into this sport?
I started JKD, Muay Thai & boxing when I was pretty young, then later was working out with some of the original UFC fighters before the first UFC and thought when I heard about it, “I am going to do that one day” (laughs), I then moved to South Orange County which was absent of Muay Thai gyms, so I took up Taekwondo and started Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu where one of the Gracie’s was teaching gi after the tkd classes. After that I started training with Chris Brennan where I was introduced to submission grappling and started competing & training in a cage. I then found Marco Ruas and after working with him for a while and getting my butt kicked daily, I started to feel like a true mixed martial artist. I had been looking to get a fight for a very long time, asking any promoter who would listen but had an impossible time. Finally after so long of me searching, Brad Kohler with UWM found a fight for me so I was able to have my debut in MMA.
Debi Purcell Female Mixed Martial Arts Fighter
Debi Purcell (the cheerleader) vs Debi Purcell (the fighter). Why did you make that transition?
I was a cheerleader because my dad was a football coach and my brothers players. As a child, all I really wanted to be was a olympic gymnast, but as I grew into a teenager I was pretty rebellious loving punk music (unpopular at the time) and fighting, so fighting resonated with me more. I was really in love with the training & the philosophy though, and found it a perfect outlet for myself. Since childhood I’ve always had the need to train my body and mind, but never quite felt right fitting in with the masses or keeping up with the Jones so Debi the fighter seemed like a better choice, although at the time not the most popular one .
Debi Purcell Early Years and Childhood
You have achieved a lot so far in your career. What more are you looking to accomplish?
Well thank ya for that ! What I want to accomplish now more then anything, is spending as many moments as I can living my life in joy and experiencing as many new exciting things as possible. I like to explore the unknown and I apparently have a desire to pioneer new things vs following what most people think is worth doing at the time, not always the easiest path but seems to be my way. Yesterday MMA wasn’t popular, today it is, tomorrow who knows, so doing what makes me happy in the moment is pretty much the most important thing to me. It’s also very important for to me to inspire others to follow their passion & never give up no matter where it may lead them. How that translates to a career achievement I’m not exactly sure. (laughs)
What accomplishment are you most proud of? And why?
For being brave enough to do what makes me happy despite how it looks on the outside or anyone’s opinions of it. I am proud of going to school and learning HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), as that was difficult for me but gave me a solid base on how energy works. For all the work I’ve done in MMA, I’m probably most proud of myself for never giving up when it seemed impossible for opportunities in the fight game & for creating opportunities for myself and others when there were seemingly none. I would say my greatest accomplishment thus far though ( and it took me a awfully long time) is realizing I don’t have to “be” or do anything to feel worthy, that I am just because I exist. We all are, it’s just difficult to see at times.
What can you tell us about www.fightergirls.com?
Well It was started 16 years ago ( I think) and was originally started as a space to help bring the women and promoters together in the sport. There was so few of us. I wanted to find fights for myself and for others and have a place for the women to unite, get news, share information & gossip (laughs). The site was rebuilt quite a few times and thanks to other fighters and people giving their time graciously we were able to be that source. My partner and best friend Chad and I exhausted a lot our finical resources throughout the years to keep it going, so I am just fortunate everyone helped so much and believed in it as much as me. I do believe it was instrumental in helping women’s MMA grow at the same pace as the men, as opposed to trailing far behind, that was always very important to me. Today it is becoming more of a store for the ever increasing Fightergirls apparel line, so although we still have news we are focusing mostly on the girls we sponsor and apparel. We work with some amazingly talented girls and women so I am especially grateful for them.
And what do you think about WMMA now, and how it is evolving so rapidly?
Well I am overjoyed that women are finally getting the same recognition and opportunities as the men. And I think the world is finally seeing it as just MMA as opposed to women’s MMA (laughs). I think its evolving rapidly because MMA in general is evolving rapidly.
Do you think women fighters will ever be seen as true MMA fighters and not sex symbols in all parts of the world?
I am only asking because of what happened with Miesha Tate vs Cat Zingano match that was supposed to be held in Sweden and was rescheduled because it was too sexual for the Swedish fans…
Yes of course, like I already said, even with the men there have been fighters fighting on the big show(s) because of marketability as opposed to being the best fighter deserving to be there. I think as a rule in general women in sports will always be noticed more if they are pretty and marketable aka sex symbols, but I don’t see a big deal in that actually. Only if they do not have the talent to back it up. What is different about MMA (mens and women’s) then some other sports is that it’s not always the best competing against the best, a lot of it is who you know, how marketable you are, etc. This can make it disheartening for professionals who put their life into something never knowing if they will be able to make it strictly on their ability and dedication, and that I find utterly ridiculous. As far as the fight you’re talking about I hadn’t heard about that. But my guess is, there is more to the story then it just being to sexual for swedish fans, maybe they just prefer watching men sweat against and on top of each-other.
Who are you favoring in that match by the way? And why?
I do not pick favorites. I do have a incredible knack for calling fights, but usually just share with friends.
Which female/male fighters are you a fan off?
I am still a huge Chris Cyborg fan and think she is the best women fighter in the world today. I also respect Rhonda Rousey’s skills (she’s a good example of having skill and being marketable ) and I knew she’d be a star the first time I watched her fight.
You sometimes refer to yourself as ‘clothes freak”. I am curious to know the story behind that nick name.
HA! Well I’m just a “freak” by nature, that’s what people tell me anyway. I just really love clothes. I created my own style and made a lot of my own stuff when I was a teenager because I was broke and there wasn’t much sold in stores I liked. I did the same thing with Fighter Girls. I couldn’t find anything I liked to train or fight in so I just started designing stuff for myself. I will probably always have a passion for clothes and be a “clothes freak”
And your fighting nickname “Whiplash” and Queen of the cage?
Some guy was clowning me on the web years ago, so I coined it to make fun of myself & of the arm chair warrior. I also received the Queen of the cage when I was the first female Fighter for King Of The Cage Promotion
Any specific person you owe your success too?
In Life Kevin Moore, Chad Moechnig, my parents, Seth, Bashar. In MMA and life Marco Ruas, Jeremy Williams, Gennaro Hernandez, and all the kick ass women of MMA who’s dedication & integrity made possible what is now reality for a lot of people. Thank god I’ll never win an academy award I’d be up there thanking people for hours.
What do you do in your spare time… If you have any? (Laughs)
Well I just got back from doing ayahuscua in the jungle with the Ecuadorian shamans where I shared visions with an 83 year old shaman. Simply amazing! I thought nothing could top that, and then I went to Dominican Republic to swim with the humpback whales with a channeler group and was blown away all over again. The whales are our family and want to communicate with us (this is another area I want to explore more often). I also am planning to solo hike the pacific crest trail from mexico to canada 2700 miles, which I’m guessing will take me 3.5 months and spend as much time in nature and alone as possible mediating. Sounds stupid I know, but thats what I do in my spare time (laughs).
What future projects are you working on?
Doing my damnedest to not think about the future and stay in the “now”. Oh yeah and I’m writing a book about my experiences in MMA, it should be very funny and enlightening if anyone ever sees it. If not it’ll be funny and enlightening to me, HA! Also, I am heavy lucid dreamer & very intrigued with energy transformation, space time & parallel realities & think my linear future will have something to do with exploring that.
I hope these are not my final words!