The Anti-Ronda Rousey is More Muscle than Trash Talk

Fighting, vaping and radishes prep fighter to take on both sexes

 By Charlotte Sparacino

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WMMA Fighter Magdalena Sormova is always ready to fight. Courtesy of Magdalene Sormovo/Jan Pazdiora – rashguard.cz.

55 seconds.

5 foot, 5 inches, 116 pounds.

Knees to the head, a punch in the face and a chokehold around the neck.

It is done. A body is on the ground.

That’s all it takes for Magdalena Sormova to submit her opponent into defeat.

Sormova is part of a small group of aspiring professional fighters in the rapidly growing sport of women’s mixed martial arts fighting, WMMA. The 29-year-old Czech from Prague holds a professional fighting record of three wins and no losses and an amateur record of three wins with one loss to a man.

Women’s MMA fighting has been brought to the forefront by Ronda “Rowdy” Rousey, an American Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighter whose face has appeared as the first female cover of Men’s Fitness magazine, a guest on Conan, The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, and Ellen Degeneres. The 5 foot 6 Rousey recently suffered her first defeat by Holly Holm, pushing her record to 12 wins, one loss. Her fight earnings total to $1,365,000, according to Fox Sports News.

“I hate Ronda Rousey,” said Sormova.

Rousey’s constant cocky display of drama and talk about money before a fight is what turns Sormova off. On her Instagram Rousey shared a quote, “Come for my throne, I’ll destroy you,” followed by a picture of her face imposed on a Rocky IV movie poster.

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Sormova pinned to the floor in PentaGym Prague. Fighters score points for taking their opponents to the ground. Courtesy of Charlotte Sparacino.

Sormova appreciates how Rousey’s media attention has showcased a muscular woman as sexually appealing, yet feels the difficulty for women to pursue this bloody contact sport is what should be pushed by successful female fighters.

A picture of sponsor’s training shirts and sessions captioned, “always improving,” followed by a smiling emoji covers Sormova’s Facebook, a page with 879 likes by users.

She is determined to overcome the sexist and structural obstacles set for her by what she feels is a European problem with gender roles in society.

Fighting in boxy shorts and a turquoise sports bra, Sormova’s defined and sleek body gets thrown against a fence that surrounds a 750-square-foot octagon ring. Each move flexes Sormova’s body in quick, powerful and natural movements. She does not flinch when punched in the face and her muscles seem to become more overt with each impact from her opponent.

“I’m not scared to fight a guy, I don’t judge them.”

“Girls with muscles. Guys think it’s not possible, she must be using some sort of illegal superhuman drugs,” said Sormova as she changed in a locker room full of undressing men, Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” playing in the training room.

Many Czechs’ perception of womens’ roles is tied to the country’s communist past. Males defined and controlled the culture in society, shunting women into caretaker roles.

Sormova has other ideas about what it means to be a woman today.

“I’m not scared to fight a guy, I don’t judge them. Some guys, will write through Facebook, ‘it’s weird for girls to fight,’ I don’t respond because there is no need to argue,” said Sormova.

Sormova’s first interaction with MMA came in 2012, when a group of men approached her after a self-defense course at a Police Academy in Prague where she was employed as a social worker.

They were interested in continuing the training, and taught themselves MMA techniques from UFC videos on YouTube. After a few months, Sormova found herself traveling 40 minutes by tram to PentaGym in Prague at least five times a week.

At PentaGym, Sormova soon trained fourteen times a week, ran with her dog, boxed and pole danced for exercise, until a recent right knee ligament injury caused her to take on fewer sessions.

“I like the gymnastics part of it, but I screwed up my shoulder,” said Sormova.

A time commitment to the physical demands of training, though, is not enough to launch a career in WMMA.

Tournaments in Vietnam, England and most recently Brazil soon required Sormova to travel the world. Travel, on top of training, led to a decline in time for a social life, something Sormova does not miss.

Other fighters that train at PentaGym have become her friends and family. As a mist of sweat fills the training mats, Sormova laughs with 18 men and two women that fill her boxing session. The time all the fighters take away from their lives to fuel the drive to train is a bond that Sormova describes as unlike anything else.

Sormova is a social worker with an organization that ensures adequate medical treatment for disabled patients in the Czech Republic, but her energies are equally dedicated to mixed martial arts and her schedule is unforgiving. On Thursdays after three hours of training from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., Sormova works a full night shift at her job.

Sormova does not view her dedication as a sacrifice.

“You have to push yourself in MMA. Everyone can train, but not everyone can fight,” said Sormova.

The physique that accompanies MMA training is a perk to Sormova, accompanying her curly auburn hair, often tied back or in braids, and tight elastic athletic clothing well. Her defined muscles soon became noted by others, as a man asked to feel her muscles at a concert to see if they were that developed and starting comparing her butt to that of a man’s body.

Sormova and Simone Soukupova, a 31-year-old Czech WMMA fighter and friend of Sormova, joke about how men assume all WMMA fighters are lesbians.

The fighters are constantly laughing about this perception, even  during a discussion in a FaceBook video of Soukupova with a broken and tapped up nose with blood-stained shirt.

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MMA gloves are cushioned and mandatory for fighters. Courtesy of Charlotte Sparacino.

Sormova, heterosexual and single, explains that it is simply something that comes along with the atmosphere and nature of MMA fighting.

“Rowdy” Rousey reacts more fiercely when called, “butch.”

“Just because my body was developed for a purpose other than fucking millionaires doesn’t mean it’s masculine. I think it’s femininely bad-ass as fuck, because there isn’t a single muscle in my body that isn’t used for a purpose, because I’m not a do-nothing bitch,” said Rousey in a “UFC 190” video diary.

The physical demands of a WMMA match cause many female fighters to become slim in the stomach with outlined, yet smooth, abs. The legs are lean, the butt is well built and rotund. It is the thick arms and shoulders, though, that exemplify the fighters as an ever expanding triangular power house of strength.

This body type allows fighters to be agile, quickly striking and defending in three, five-minute rounds for non championship matches and five, five minute rounds for championships. Wrapped hands keep a fighter’s wrist strong as they work to strike their opponent into a knock out for an automatic win.

Unlike boxing, fighters may take down opponents with a tackle and attempt a win by choke out. The UFC has guidelines for safe matches listing 31 moves such as, “Butting with the head, eye gouging of any kind, biting, spitting at an opponent, hair pulling,” as illegal.

Even so, blood from slicing blows to the face often stains UFC mats.

Sormova’s mother urges her to stay away from the ring, constantly suggesting that she furthers her studies from a masters in social work and moves onto a PhD or pursue “less bloody”  adrenaline filled contact sports such as rock climbing. Regardless Sormova believes MMA is not dangerous.

“It’s the blood that scares them, they are afraid for you but that’s their problem,” said Sormova.

Growing up the women in Sormova’s family were independent and self sustaining—she jokes that it was a “sister culture.” There was rarely a man, father or boyfriend, that would remain a constant in the household as Sormova explored sports such as ballet and swimming.

Sormova explains how her mother’s job as a stuntwoman in Czech movies while she was a kid, gives her bait to deny her mother’s pleas and continue the bruises on her body.

“She gave me an example for all of it! It is her model, she raised me,” said Sormova, pulling a hit out of her vaporized smoking pen.

As media attention increases women interested in WMMA fighting are growing, yet still small. At PentaGym two women compete in amateur fights, while about six others train. Pursuing a life as a professional female fighter is difficult in central Europe.

“Magdalena is one of my best female fighters because she wants it, she is determined.”

To fight professionally and compete for bigger titles, fighters must develop an amateur record. Fighters meet to compete at tournaments throughout Europe, such as Explosion MMA, which has held six events offering 70 matches. Often only males make up the composition of fighters, leaving female fighters no option but to compete versus men.

“Guys don’t want to fight us, they worried what it will do to them as fighters. I have showed up with my gloves on and a guy has backed out last minute,” said Sormova, biting into her raw radishes she bought before training, her vegetarian diet’s favorite snack.

Traveling to fight other females throughout Europe also proves to be an issue for finances. Sormova had contacted a female fighter in Ukraine that was interested in a match, yet nobody would host the fight or pay for the transportation. Sponsors are not much help, as only supply fighting apparel, vitamins and gloves.

Assisted by free training sessions at PentaGym, Sormova finds no issue with her dreams that exist on small prize money, free vitamins and little free time.

“Magdalena is one of my best female fighters because she wants it, she is determined,” said Daniel Bartak, the head instructor at PentaGym.

Bartak pushes his female fighters to compete and encourages a bond between his fighters. During training sessions men and women can be seen laughing, sparing and sharing techniques together. He treats the sexes equally, yelling orders at fighters with the same guttural energy that a mother yells at her child on a sports field when they have a breakaway for a goal.

“There is nothing like fighting, and Magdalena makes it fun,” said Tanya Tapah, a 23-year-old Russian, set to premier in her first amateur match next month.

Sormova hopes to overcome her knee injury to continue to build a fighting record. As she works to one day see MMA as an Olympic sport, Sormova explains that the solution is to have more fighters.

There are only two fighters per female weight class in the Czech Republic in 2016, increased from only one female fighter in 2012, according to the Women’s World MMA union. Sormova also notices a lack of children, especially girls, that participate in MMA, laughing that only the Polish in Central Europe have an adoration and passion for good fighting.

“I have no heroes.  I want to go to the UFC,” said Sormova.

Charlotte Sparacino is in the College of Arts and Sciences, class of 2017. Her hometown is West Islip, New York. 

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Categories: Culture, Europe, Spring 2016 Issue Number 2

Author:The Prague Wandering

The Prague Wandering is an NYU based study abroad webzine- the only one of its kind. It focuses on issues in contemporary Czech culture and the city of Prague, exploring beyond the study abroad bubble.

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