It’s a good thing Jussely Canada doesn’t have a little brother because her talent at mixed martial arts (MMA) would make her a formidable adversary. So, the 16-year-old Chickasaw girl is content to win matches in an official MMA arena.
You’d never know it, but Canada – with an engaging smile, soft-spoken demeanor and easy-going attitude – can fight. And, she’s being trained by one of the best MMA fighters in the nation.
Her coach is Sarah Maloy, who is ranked 90th in MMA standings. She was ranked as high as 21st until an injury recently sidelined her.
She and her husband, Blake, own, operate and manage BodyTech, a gym of sorts specializing in MMA instruction and other forms of combat, too.
“Mainly, our focus is to have everybody punch things,” said Maloy, a petite 31-year-old who is nursing a shoulder injury from a boxing match.
Canada, a Byng High School student who also excels at softball, falls into the same category – petite, young and ambitious. She is so good at MMA, she recently qualified for the USA Federation of Pankration Athlima World Competition.
The bad? There is no guarantee Canada can lock in a fight in her weight division, which is 125 pounds. Facing $10,000 in traveling expenses with no guarantee of a fight, Canada has decided to stay in America and venture to California to train with a MMA fighter ranked in the top 10.
Liz Carmouche trains in San Diego and is ranked seventh worldwide. She fights at 135 pounds, which is considered bantamweight in MMA.
“I’d rather go out to San Diego and train with Liz. I really look up to Liz as one of the role models of MMA,” Canada said when explaining why she was not disappointed the trip to Croatia was nixed. In fact, Canada could have competed in Croatia two years ago, but Maloy – in agreement with Canada – decided against it because the Chickasaw teen had only been active in MMA for approximately six months.
Now, with a year and a half of training and actual competition under her belt, Canada is hoping she can compete more, fight more, win more and earn competitive slots in more prestigious competitions in the future. While she has her eye on a career in criminal justice, turning MMA professional also is a goal Canada has set for herself.
That won’t happen until after her 18th birthday, however.
Carmouche and Maloy are nationally ranked and nationally known. Indeed, Maloy has fought three matches before a nationally televised audience. She turned to boxing only recently when MMA fights became more elusive. “I started boxing to stay in shape. My first love is MMA, though,” she declares.
But the trainer and trainee say MMA women are finding more fights, more exposure and more television time. When Canada decides it is time to become a professional, several women MMA start-up competitions today will be in high demand in two years, Maloy predicts. “It’s already happening. It will only be bigger when Juss becomes ready,” Maloy said.
While in California, the women are hoping Canada will compete in several pankration matches. Pankration is a fighting term that means you may not strike your opponent in the face. You can kick ‘em, grapple ‘em, wrestle ‘em, box ‘em, karate-chop ‘em, deliver body blows and tie ‘em up in choke holds, but the face, in theory, is off limits.
“You’re going to get hit in the face during pankration matches,” Maloy admits. But, as long as the punch isn’t intentional, the fight will continue but points will be deducted by fight judges.
As far as Canada is concerned, the three three-minute matches of a MMA tilt may make for a heavy rush of adrenaline and heart-pounding workout, but the fight is actually about “out-thinking your opponent.
“You’re playing human chess whenever you are fighting. You have to anticipate when you’re going to get tired and when your opponent is going to get tired; when to commit and when not to commit” to a possible fight-ending maneuver.
When do you know the fight is over?
“When the ref stops it,” both women replied with wide grins.
This story is a press release from Chickasaw Nation.