Kirik: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Hillary: I want to be a Reconstructive Plastic Surgeon if everything pans out. I’ve got years and years of school ahead of me but I’m down for it. I’ve also got my sights set on the Mundial’s Absolute gold medal and the ADCC absolute gold medal as far as when I grow up in jiu-jitsu. Oh, and I want to be fluent in five languages. I’ve been working on Portuguese for about seven months and I have about the grammatical mastery of an Arkansas public school student’s grasp on English, but it’s a start.
Kirik: What are you doing to prepare yourself for Med School?
Hillary: I’m on a full scholarship to the University of Central Arkansas’ Honors College, which actually has an incredible pre-med program. I take about 18 hours a semester and balance about 4 hours of studying in a day. During the summers I shadow surgeons, spending about 15 hours a week in clinics and another 15 in the operating room. I actually got to watch one of my coaches under the knife last summer.
Kirik: I take it from the height of your competition goals that you didn’t move from the couch straight to BJJ … what’s your background in sports?
Hillary: I’ve got 15 years softball, eight golf, seven competitive horseback riding, seven volleyball, four soccer, and three tennis, outside of BJJ and MMA. If you put all my games in various sports together, I had well over a thousand competitions before I was 18. I always thought my dad was crazy for telling me to pick up a new sport every time I asked for a video game, but it all worked out in the end. He pushed me to compete in a long drive tournament in 2004 and by 2006 I held the Junior World Title. During high school I played volleyball, softball, soccer, and golf and was a captain on all four while fighting to maintain a 4.0 and training jiu jitsu as much as I could. So now, just having pre-med and a hard training schedule is a piece of cake.
Kirik: Over 1000?!?! What is your record in BJJ/Grappling/MMA?
Hillary: BJJ with girls, I’m 44-4. MMA I’m 1-0. BJJ with guys, 9-8.
Kirik: Did I hear that right? You’re 9-8 against men? As a woman, did you enter the beginner divisions to level the playing field?
Hillary: I did when I was a beginner. I had two Beginner’s men’s divisions, coming out 2-2 by the time I bumped up to Intermediate and then later to Advanced. The point of me entering men’s divisions isn’t to win or get recognized as the girl that beat the guy. I’m a strong, athletic girl and against many girls my size I can use strength to my advantage. With guys, I can’t at all. It really exposes the holes in my technique and that’s what I want out of it. I learn more from one loss than I do from ten wins. Although, admittedly, wins against guys are very giggle worthy, especially while wearing pink, and it’s nice to deal a blow to the gender that doesn’t have to deal with childbirth and an unwavering desire to bitch. Boys have balls, I’ve got ovaries, tits, and jits. The triple threat.
Kirik: What happened at your last men’s division?
Hillary: I was down in Florida training with one of my coaches, Renato Tavares and decided to cap off the trip with a competition in an ADCC-run tournament in Tampa. The women’s Advanced led to just one match and a fairly quick one at that. I would love to get into Abu Dhabi so I figured the way to do that was to test my skills in the guy’s Advanced. I went in hoping to put up a good fight and ended up winning my first against a tough guy on a guard pass. The second guy had abs that could have easily been in 300, so I was honestly scared. I had a rough start that involved me in a guillotine and getting taken down, but I pulled through and locked in a triangle, getting the tap and eventually submission of the day. In the finals, I got scared, didn’t listen to Renato, and ended up armbarred. I got yelled at in a strange, frustrated mixture of English and Portuguese, and learned my lesson about listening.
Kirik: Do you have any interest in MMA, either as a fan or a fighter?
Hillary: Absolutely. It’s incredibly intriguing to see how people behave in a cage and how far the heart goes once the body has long since given way. I love seeing the combinations and odd adaptations fighters make when they figure out how to mold the different styles together, and as a jiu-jitsu person it was strange for me to find out just how good my jiu-jitsu was when getting punched in the head. I tend to be more of a fan of MMA when I know neither party involved because I can relax and enjoy it more. If I see one of my boys in the cage or ring, I instantly turn maternal and freak out until they leave okay.
Kirik: To what do you attribute your success?
Hillary: My coaches back home at Westside MMA in Arkansas, Matt Hamilton and Roli Delgado. I had no foundation in any grappling/combat sport and they have been the best coaches I could possibly ask for. They accepted me into the team early, constantly supporting my growth but always pushing it to its limit. They encourage me to train elsewhere to expand my game and always keep me from getting my head up in the clouds. Matt once “kept me humble” by tapping me with nothing but wristlocks for a month and has been known to put obnoxiously bright TKD stripes on my belts. Matt and Roli also produced a great team of training partners of all shapes and sizes that push me every day, never treating me like a girl and making it possible to have the record against guys that I have. I feel most at home when I’m in the gym, and it’s a joy everyday to learn from them.
Kirik: Who do you look up to in the sport?
Hillary: Of course my coaches, Matt and Roli, and anyone else who has taken what they loved, made a living out of it, and shared it with someone else. Marcelo Garcia of course comes to mind for being one of the most ferocious competitors in the sport today and at the same time being the nicest, most humble people I’ve ever met. He could be a complete jerk and people would still flock to learn from him, but he’s genuinely a good person to be around and incredible open about life and jiu jitsu. And finally, one of my other coaches, Renato Tavares. Renato has long since made his legacy, paid his dues, and could just sit back and watch a team grow if he wanted to. But he’s on the mats everyday, twice a day, rolling with students 100 pounds heavier and 20 years younger. He pushes himself in competition and seeks out knowledge at every opportunity. His drive to constantly learn and evolve is very inspiring.
Kirik: What steps are you taking to achieve your fighting goals?
Hillary: I do my best to train hard six days a week, and Matt and Roli are always there to assure good training. I also travel across the country whenever I can, trying to learn from many different teams and styles. If you prepare for a competition with one style or one group of guys you’ll be shocked when someone else pops up at a tournament. My coaches know this and always support my jiu-jitsu pilgrimages. I learn so much from other teams and meet amazing people along the way. To the many people from coast to coast who have housed me, fed me, trained me, whooped me up and down the mats, or even shown me a tiny detail on a move: thank you. I couldn’t be where I’m at without you guys.
Kirik: Do you believe in aliens?
Hillary: As the daughter of your stereotypical paranoid Vietnam Vet that filled the dining room with 80 pounds of pinto beans and wall to wall toilet paper for Y2K, I find it hard to believe that there isn’t something out there that’s sparking bizarre behavior.
Kirik: What are your weaknesses?
Hillary: Cake. Cookies. Ice Cream. Chocolate. Brownies. Carmel Frappucinos. I’m a huge food lover—any and all kinds. Cutting weight can really be a losing battle of will power. I also have a big problem worrying about what people think about me, my training, and I’m generally insecure about where I’m at in the sport. While I listen to any constructive criticism very well, I take almost all just ridiculous or malicious criticism to heart, stewing and worrying over it wondering what I must have done wrong. This leads to MASSIVE butterflies in my stomach every time before I compete, and I often feel sick to my stomach in that first match of the day. Also I’m completely and utterly terrified of flying insects. Even moths.
Kirik: Alright, so potential competitors should come out dressed as Mothman. Do your parents support you in this sport?
Hillary: My dad has always loved to watch me compete in anything and if I’m happy, he’s happy. He used to be a wrestler and although he doesn’t quite understand grappling, he likes to see me on the mats. He absolutely hates MMA, however, and is incredibly scared that I’ll hurt my brain or my hands before I can become a surgeon. My mother, a Texas-bred drill team star, couldn’t dislike the sport any more. She wanted the perfect domestic, debutant daughter (as evidenced by the gifts of slim fast and makeup since age 13) and unfortunately got me.
Kirik: Domestic debutant or not, there’s a lot of guys on the internet that seem to like you just the way you are. Do you find the attention creepy or cute?
Hillary: “Mmm, I’d like to be in your triangle,” “Can you give me privates, nooooggggiiii?” and “How’s your head scissor?” are all favorites of mine. Although good for a chuckle once in a while, they get genuinely bothersome over time. I don’t feel respected as an athlete and it’s CREEPY. From time to time though, I get a cool, non-creepy message of support from someone else as addicted to MMA and BJJ as I am, and it’s good to hear other versions of the same story. But I’d be lying if I said I don’t enjoy the attention that isn’t fetish-wrestling related.
Kirik: Are you looking for sponsors?
Hillary: I have a wonderful sponsor, JJ from Casca Grossa (www.casca-grossa.com) that has helped me in several tournaments across the country and training. But, as you all know, the sport costs more than a sorority-girl girlfriend, and I’m always looking for anyone willing to give me a chance. Admari Tea has also helped me out in a time of need so thank you to Adrienne from www.admaritea.com as well. It’s good for those guys, too, thanks to the wonders of the internet. Results, pictures, and videos from competitions pop up all over the place and the exposures sponsors get from anyone is at an all-time high. I added up downloads from some YouTube vids, and I have over 125,000 views…so I feel like I can help a sponsor’s brand.
Kirik: What got you started in the sport?
Hillary: Man, I’ve heard awesome stories from Gracie challenges, to being approached by a school owner during a barfight, that I wish I had an awesome story to tell. Well, I spent a good portion of my teenage years in small punk venues with a crew of friends. One was my fluffy friend Mark, who disappeared for a year then showed up, 70 pounds lighter. Intrigued, I asked what he did and he replied, “Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.” It wasn’t a “Oh yeah I’ve watched that since UFC 1,” old school tough guy moment … it’s was a “Excuse me, WHAT?” I had no idea but I gave it a shot and got choked in about 10 seconds by a petite 11 year old my first class. I signed up that day.
Kirik: What final words do you have for fans and friends of fighter girls?
Hillary: A few of you who read this, read my goals or what I want to do are going to think, “Wow, this girl is batshit crazy.” Okay … so I may be a few crayons short of the whole box but I’ll maintain that it’s genetic. As for my goals being a compilation of the aspirations from several lifetimes … I just simply don’t see the point in setting lifetime goals you can logically reach. Once you do it, then what? I don’t want to ever look back at my life and wonder, “What if I tried a little harder/reached a little further/pushed a little more?” So I’ll aim high—if I fall, at least the view on the way down will be nice.
And Fightergirls.com has inspired me since I just started training when I ran across the website. It’s a group of girls that kick butt, embrace femininity, and don’t give a rat’s ass what people think. They just do it for the love of it, recognition or not. I have nothing but sheer respect for every woman before my time in the sport that worked hard with no clear route for next to nothing so that I can have the opportunities and competition available to me that I do now.