Jocelyn Lybarger, one-half of the first pair of twin, professional female fighters, joined Fist-Ta-Cuff Radio Sunday night to join the night’s Women’s MMA Roundup. During the show, she discussed her introduction to MMA, her training in Arizona, that state of women’s MMA today and plenty more.
For Jocelyn, the competitive drive and athleticism to pursue sports to the professional level started from a young age. Her father introduced his twin daughters to roller hockey as their first sport, a memory Jocelyn fondly recalls. “We were the only girls. I remember going to Walmart, and he bought us all this gear and put it all on us and said, ‘Go chase that orange puck right there.’ Me and Jill were like, ‘What the heck? OK, when we chase it, what do we do with it, Dad?’ He said, ‘You’re going to hit it with this stick, and you’re going to hit it in that goal.’ That was the first sport we ever played for three years.”
Following hockey, the Lybarger twins competed in motocross, basketball, softball and swimming. Their athleticism led both girls to play basketball at the collegiate level in San Diego before they both moved to Arizona. The transition to martial arts stemmed from a lack of interest in the monotony of working out at local gyms. Jocelyn recalls, “Jill started training at Blue Collar in Arizona, just a little, little gym. She started doing jiu jitsu and boxing. A few months later I went in and started training, just to have some fun… Jill’s the one who got me into it.”
Before long, the two began fighting in the amateur circuit, with Jocelyn eventually claiming the Tuff-N-Uff 125 lb. belt. Following this, she made her professional debut with Invicta FC last July with a unanimous victory over Cheryl Chan. Both her parents support their daughters’ choice to follow their passion for fighting, said Jocelyn. “To be honest, they love it. Our parent support us in everything, from both of us telling our whole family that we’re gay, they support absolutely everything. My mom and dad, they have not missed a fight, they will never miss a fight.”
Now, Jocelyn is training at the MMA LAB in Glendale, Arizona. A top-level academy led by head coach, John Crouch, The LAB is home to such MMA talent as Jamie Varner, Efrain Escudero, UFC flyweight challenger John Moraga, UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson and more. For Lybarger, it was the perfect fit to launch her professional MMA career.
“I just knew, after going there, I made the move there probably about 11 weeks before my pro debut for Invicta; and once I met John Crouch and everybody at the gym, it felt so good and felt right at home for me. I just took it all in pretty much, everyone welcomed me on the team, because at the LAB you really got to show that, John Crouch doesn’t accept anybody on the team there. I’m the only female there, and you know the guys don’t go easy on me, and that’s what I love, that’s what’s going to make me better, faster, stronger, things of that nature… I really had to pay my dues and put in the time to show Ben, and to show John Crouch, that I’m here to stay, I’m not going anywhere. In the beginning there were times when Coach [Crouch] wouldn’t even talk to me… so in the very beginning I really had to put my time in and show all of them, my teammates and my brothers, you know, and now, to this day they have my back no matter what. Just last night, I got three texts last week from Ben saying, ‘Man, girl, you’re looking really good,’ and it’s stuff like that where [I think] my hard work is paying off. Having Miesha Tate, she brought some other girls in too, and it was so much fun getting to spar with girls last week. I was just on cloud 9, because I got to hit girls now, I had been hitting boys the last few months. Then you can really show, ‘OK, shoot, that was a leg kick? That didn’t hurt,’ because when Ben kicks me, it hurts.’ At the Lab we have a lot of small people, like John Moraga, who’s going to be fighting for the 125 [lb] title in the UFC. He’s one of my sparring partners to get me ready for my next fight on May 25. You know, I’m going against really good guys, and they make me better. You know, sometimes I have great rounds with them, sometimes I’m just like, ‘Shoot, I need to work on this, this and this,’ you know, stuff like that. As Coach says, we just get 1% better every day.”
In fact, at the encouragement from Crouch, Lybarger will be trying out for the next season of The Ultimate Fighter, the UFC’s reality TV show that places upcoming fighters in a competition to gain a UFC contract. This upcoming season will be the first to feature female fighters and coaches.
She describes, “I was sitting watching the fights and I didn’t even know Dana [White] had announced it, and I get a text from my coach, John Crouch, that said, ‘Hey I want you to go try out.’ I was like, ‘What!?’ Like I said, he’s not blowing smoke up people’s butts; when he’s telling you something he means it. For him to text me that, I was just like, ‘Whoa,’ that’s an accomplishment for me for him to tell me that. Because that’s me going up in weight-class, which is fine, I’m totally cool with that, and he said, ‘I want you to try out,’ and I said, ‘Yes sir, whatever you want.’ So I’ll be making the trip out to Vegas that weekend, one to support Miesha on her fight, and then I’ll stay at Jill’s house and then go to the tryouts that Monday on the 15… As far as, you know, [my] personality [being] likeable, action, you know, I’m a cute lesbian, I should have no problem with that part [laughs]… With having good words from Miesha saying she supports me; Ronda Rousey texted me last weekend… she’s going to put in a good word for me, so I’m pretty excited, and I have a good feeling about it. I look at everything pretty positive, so we’ll see what comes, you know, what happens. If I do make it on there, it will be great, you know, and the next part is winning while I’m on there… like my coach said, he said, ‘What’s the worse that can happen, Jocelyn? They tell you no, and then you’ll come home the next day and we continue training for your next fight.’ It’s true… either way I’m going to be right back in the gym training for my May 25 fight, which is here in Scottsdale. I’m very excited for that, because I haven’t fought in Arizona in three years.”
Though her next fight will be with King of the Cage, Jocelyn couldn’t contain her excitement for this Friday’s Invicta 5 event. Said Lybarger, “I am super excited about it! I can’t wait to watch Jessica Penne, you know, one of my very good friends, keep her belt. Which she is going to, I have all the faith in the world. She’s just an amazing fighter, a great person. I’m excited to watch Barb Honchak fight, because she will be at the [Ultimate Fighter] tryouts too a week later, she’ll be at the tryouts. Same with Jessamyn Duke, [she] said she’ll be there. So I’m excited to see them both fight, and then travel for the tryout. It’s going to be a good card. I’m excited, also, to see Cyborg back in the cage. I think we need that for women’s MMA. It’s going to be a great card!”
Lybarger still has another fight contracted with Invicta, so we could be seeing her fighting in that cage again, depending on how she does at TUF tryouts next week. She said, “I’m just waiting for my call for my next time to go into the Invicta cage. I’ve always told [Janet Martin] and Shannon [Knapp] that when do I get the call, I promise I’m ready to go like last time. That’s pretty much it. I respect them. Also, respect for Ronda Rousey for doing that shout-out for me and Jill. That woman has done- you know, she’s a great girl- that woman has done so much for women’s MMA, and she’s done all the right things. For people who want to talk s*** about her, for other female fighters who want to say, ‘Oh, she’s drama,’ or all the mean things people say, it’s just because they’re jealous. It’s just the bottom line… I don’t understand why so many women get so jealous of that. I have respect for Ronda, Miesha, all of them. It makes me so upset that other female fighters will talk s*** about her, it’s like, ‘Dude, you’re just mad because it wasn’t you!’ or ‘You’re just mad you’re not as pretty as her, and you haven’t been doing judo since you came out of the womb!’ You know what I’m saying? Women out there who are professional fighters out there need to have more respect for all the girls who have already signed to the UFC, from Sara McMann, Ronda Rousey, Alexis Davis, all of them, because they’re the girls who have been doing it.”
If her positivity and respect for the sport were not enough to make you a fan, Jocelyn Lybarger maintains an active relationship with her community outside the cage. The two work actively to support the LGBT community, she said. “Gay Pride here in Phoenix we did an autograph signing with a sunglass company. It was amazing! We got a lot of support. We get a lot of questions daily, via Twitter, Facebook about younger kids, how they come out, things of that nature.”
She and her sister both “want to be great role models, out of the cage, you know, working with It Ain’t Chemo and Autism Speaks and things of that nature. We both want our kids to do the same thing, and be supportive.” She then went on to discuss the ‘It Ain’t Chemo’ organization with whom she works, saying, “You can check it out at itaintchemo.com to get all our information, but pretty much what we do is we do a lot of events and raise a lot of money for our cancer warriors; we’re not raising it for research or anything of that nature, because there’s honestly a lot of money going into research. What we do is we raise money to comfort them… Because these kids, sometimes adults but mainly kids, are missing school because they have to go do their treatment, their chemotherapy, which can take days or weeks; now they have laptops now to get their homework done, watch their favorite movies, things like that. We take them to events. A lot of them are fans of the UFC, mixed martial arts, so they love going to the fights, you know, they’re just normal kids who want to have a good time. That’s pretty much what we do, so check it out at itaintchemo.com, the website will give you a lot more info.”
You can check out the whole interview here. Be sure to look for her as she fights for King of the Cage on May 25.