There are many variables that can and will affect the way that one’s life plays out. And the same goes for when referencing a career in sports, especially one that happens to be in combat sports.
Careers too are often times the biggest of life variables and the ones that we least see coming. Sure, everyone generally has an idea when they’re young of what they want to do when they grow up, but it’s not too common to see that idea be made into a reality as someone ages and changes as an individual over time. This is just a part of the evolution of life.
We’re all brought to something for one reason or another, and adaptations will always be required to be made along the way. Something that top UFC flyweight contender Jessica-Rose Clark still finds true to this day as she continues on with her six-year professional MMA career.
Born in Cairns, Australia, ‘Jessy Jess’ Jessica-Rose Clark has overcome plenty of adversity throughout her life and will remain to do so as her journey unravels. I mean, overcoming adversity is practically the definition of fighting.
After getting her career off to a 5-1 start, this led to Clark getting a call from Invicta FC which would lead to her North American debut as well as her first fight outside of her home country overall.
There are outcomes that can be expected when going down a certain metaphorical road in life. In this case for someone like Clark, keep doing well and succeeding in your profession, and one day you’re going to end up gaining more notoriety and being presented in front of new audiences.
A situation can be planned for, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t come accompanied by another that isn’t expected. Such as perhaps some newfound fame.
“I don’t really notice much other than I have a little more money than I used to but I’m still broke,” Clark told BJPenn.com when comparing life now to pre-Invicta. “And like, it’s kinda…it’s weird sometimes, but here in [Las] Vegas, and then when I go back home getting recognized by people is a little strange. But it’s still the same, I still do the same thing. I just think I have the ability to be more selective and proactive with my training now.”
After making her first MMA appearance outside of Australia, Jessy Jess began to test the waters of the 125-pound flyweight division. An attempt that didn’t go too well on the first try as she would miss weight by five pounds.
Finding your footing and being comfortable is a huge part of being an MMA fighter and some find it faster than others while some may just never end up finding it at all.
‘The footing’ can be found in a multitude of different ways thus making it another one of the fights and struggles within the fight game. For example, the right weight class as well as specific training situations and set-ups.
For Jessica-Rose Clark, fast-forwarding two years later and the Aussie bantamweight was ready to give it another go at flyweight and with full dedication this time. But it hasn’t come without the getting used to.
“I feel really good,” Clark stated. “I mean, this is only my fourth time going to 125 [pounds] and obviously, the rest of my fights were at ’35. So my body is still adjusting to the cut, but finally this camp I started at a much lower walking weight than I have [in] previous camps.
It’s really nice not having to spend the full 12 weeks just stressing about my weight cut. Cause even for the Jessica [Eye] fight I started so heavy because I had so much time off that once I felt great by the end of it, it was still kind of weird because the whole camp, I was just like, ‘gotta get the weight off, gotta get the weight off’ whereas this [next] one I’ve been able to relax a little bit more and enjoy it, enjoy my training, enjoy the camp, and enjoy the process.”
With so many things to consider in preparation, it can take a toll on a fighter physically but also mentally. Sometimes that can be more the case than the physical.
Finding the root of what a problem is, whether big or small, and removing it can do wonders leading to refreshment and more overall positivity.
“I feel great, you know,’ Clark continued. “I just changed camps as well so since I’ve done that I feel mentally and emotionally a lot better than what I have in the past and I think that’s gonna make all the difference as well.
“I’m havin’ a great time. I’m actually like, enjoying camp now,” she continued. “Which is nice. Usually, I get super stressed out. Like, I always enjoy it, but I’m always kinda stressed as well. But now, I’m able to set my own schedule, I have great people to work with. I feel way happier going into this fight [with Andrea Lee] than I have in a long time.”
No matter how many hearts she has to break along the way to do it, Jessy Jess is finding what’s right for her. That of which will only lead to the least stressful situations that are attached with the most positivity.
However, when dealing with all that can need to be sorted out in an MMA journey, the biggest or most impactful of variables can be the ones that aren’t foreseen. Maybe there are problems surrounding you that you aren’t even aware are problems in the first place.
Once identified, tackling them head-on along with someone at your side rather than alone can create truly unforgettable experiences.
While battling fellow fighters inside of a cage, Clark has also been battling outside of it.
Since she was 19 years old, Clark found alcohol as something she always found herself coming back to at times that it shouldn’t have or times where it was just an unnecessary distraction. Surely it’s easy to imagine how waking up to go and get punched in the head while hungover could be a little unpleasant.
By the time the Aussie’s next fight rolls around on the 15th of December, she will have gone five months being sober. But she hasn’t done it alone.
“When I decided to go sober, I didn’t even communicate that with her (friend and former teammate, Chelsea Rae), you know?” Clark explained. “She knew that I was doing it but I didn’t know that she wanted to do it as well. And then she made the decision to quit with me and was like, ‘I’m gonna do it as long as you do it,’ cause you know, she knew that I needed the support and yeah…”
Companionship, especially in difficult predicaments, makes the urge to not want to quit so much stronger. Because instead of just letting yourself down in the case of failure, you’ll be letting down someone else as well.
Although Chelsea Rae has aided Clark on their battle against the bottle, Clark has also been at the aid of Rae for her battle into the cage as she made her amateur debut last month.
“Man, it’s been…I’ve never experienced it before and it’s been incredible because like, I’ve always coached championship fighters and stuff but I haven’t been so involved with them as I am with Chelsea. She lives with me so we spend every single day together, we were training together at Syndicate…
I know I’ve helped her a lot with her career so far but I don’t even think she realizes just how much she’s helped me. So to be able to be there with her for her MMA debut knowing how hard she’s worked and how long she’s been working for, and even though she lost, she killed it. She was so happy to be there, I’ve never seen her so happy, so grateful, just enjoying what she gets to do cause it was like the culmination of years, years, years of frustration and hardship, and she finally got there. To do the one thing that she loves.
It was an amazing experience for me, being on the sidelines let alone…yeah, I don’t know. It’s crazy. It’s crazy. I feel like she’s my little sister sometimes and I get to see her do these really amazing things and grow into this really incredible person and I’m very blessed that I get to do that.”
Complacency and stubbornness are traits that are generally best avoided in MMA. Especially if you’re trying to adapt to and overcome certain situations. Realizations are necessary and sometimes it can take a negative to open up the door to that much-needed positive.
When Jessica-Rose Clark took on Jessica Eye at UFC Singapore in her last time out, unfortunately for Clark, it would go in favor of Eye for her first loss in the UFC.
In a way, it could have been good that it worked out the way it did though. The loss made Clark’s mind open to see what may need changing or what had been missing. Such as less alcohol, a change in camp, how to approach fights going forward, and much more.
“I realized a lot of things after that fight,’ Clark expressed. “Like, I kind of had a feeling that I needed to switch my camp up a little bit. I felt like I was focusing on the wrong gameplan and the wrong areas of MMA for that fight. I should have grappled more. Instead, I was trying to be a kickboxer because that’s what I’ve been taught for the last few years. Just to strike. Like I’ve neglected my grappling and when I go back after that fight I really looked at all of my wins and they all came because of my grappling. So I kind of realized that I need to get back to what I’m really dominant at.
“I went through that camp very emotionally and mentally unstable and then it showed in fight week,” Clark continued. “I kinda f*cked around the whole week. I wasn’t really focused, I wasn’t really paying attention to what I needed to be doing, I wasn’t happy. And then that was very apparent in the fight when I just mentally couldn’t get into it, you know? So that’s why I’ve made so many changes this camp like I started this camp kind of doing the same thing that I was doing then as I got halfway through I was like, ‘No, this isn’t right. I’m headed in the same direction that I was for the Eye fight,’ So yeah, I’ve changed a lot. I just felt like a whole new person.”
With all the changes and realizations that have been made, it’s easy to assume or expect that we could start seeing, as she says, a whole new Jessy Jess in the Octagon from now on.
However, the win is definitely important and something that requires more attention now than just being an entertaining fighter. And in typical heartbreaker fashion, Jessy Jess is her own worst critic.
“I kind of want to do a bit of both [when it comes to putting winning or entertainment first]. I know how just mean and gritty I can be and that’s what I want is I want a really mean, gritty, scrappy fight, you know?
Like the last fight wasn’t entertaining it was just a point sparring match. No one wants to watch that sh*t. Lucky Jessica and I are pretty because people kinda wanted to watch it because we’re both half decent looking, you know. *laughs* But that’s the only saving grace. So, yeah I want to win and I want to get some of my aggressiveness back and just be mean and gritty and have people going like, ‘holy sh*t. Jess is really nasty,'”
For the next obstacle that’s being thrown in front of her, Clark will definitely get her chance to remind people just how nasty that she can be.
Standing across from her on December 15 at the last UFC card on Fox, she will be taking on her fellow former Invicta athlete, Andrea ‘KGB’ Lee.
Having made it to where Clark has over the course of these six years has been quite the accomplishment. And as she now finds herself in the depths of one of the best if not the best female division in the world, she has all the chances and potential to take her status to a whole new level.
Lee will give the Aussie a proper opportunity to display that. But it appears that the fight’s excitement levels remain to be determined.
“It could be either really good or just really boring *laughs*,” Clark said of her fight with Lee. “You never know. So I’m excited for it, I’ve been wanting this one for a couple years. I’m a big fan of hers so I said yes immediately as soon as they offered it. I was like, ‘yeah, don’t care when don’t care where. It’s a yes for me,'”
Life is a crazy thing and it’s what you make of it that counts. As humans, we constantly grow and evolve, mentally as well as physically. Sometimes we need to pick ourselves up when we’re down or make the adjustments to prevent us from falling in the first place.
Either way, revitalization is always an option if strived for hard enough. And Jessica-Rose Clark currently finds herself triumphantly marching down its path with each new day.
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 11/26/2018