Note: This article was written on December 3rd, 2018 before Ms. Clark was forced to withdraw from the fight.
On December 15, Jessica-Rose Clark, ranked tenth in the UFC’s flyweight division, makes her return to the Octagon to take on Andrea Lee. And after suffering a loss against Jessica Eye in June, the Australian hopes to regain some lost momentum and get back in the race for a 125-pound title shot.
To get there, the days are long, with these last few weeks of training the most grueling and tiresome. But with the finish line almost in sight, Clark’s spirits are high as she awaits the matchup with Lee.
“She uses a lot of traditional Muay Thai techniques and I haven’t fought anyone that has that background before,” said Clark. “I’m excited about it, and I think it’ll be a lot of fun.”
Only a fighter can be excited about the prospect of 15 minutes of battle against an opponent trained to beat her, but it’s why Clark puts in the hours in the gym.
This fight camp is a little different from recent ones since her move to Las Vegas, as Clark revealed that she left Syndicate MMA just weeks from her trip to Milwaukee. She still trains with members of her former gym, such as fellow UFC flyweight Roxanne Modafferi and Syndicate’s head Muay Thai coach Walker Vivian, and has also been at 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu learning under coach Casey Halstead.
Clark has also been regularly attending the UFC Performance Institute, training with Director of Strength and Conditioning Bo Sandoval three times a week. The results have been amazing for her and she finds it to be a huge advantage.
“The things we’ve been able to accomplish athletically over the last year, I don’t think I would’ve been able to do it without him,” Clark said of Sandoval. “Having that support is valuable. Everything is there (at the UFC PI) and I don’t understand why more people don’t come and use it. Having it available to me has just made my life so much easier.”
Life for the 30-year-old has been non-stop since her move to the States. She’s always training, and whether it’s teaching kids or helping close friends in the fight game, you can always find her in the gym. And while the fame and money that comes along with life as a UFC fighter can easily inflate one’s ego, Clark has avoided those pitfalls on her way to becoming a fan favorite.
But life wasn’t always like this for Clark. A native of Cairns, she lived in Australia her entire life, but eventually, it was necessary for her to leave home. Not as a career move, but one necessary for her survival.
Near her left eye is a tattoo of a purple heart, a symbol for domestic violence survivors. Clark is a survivor. A proud survivor. And though it’s a dark part of her history, she isn’t afraid to be vocal about it.
“A lot of people in the general public that are going through the same thing need to know that it’s not just happening to them,” she said. “I don’t care how many times I have to talk about it, or how many times I’m asked to say the same thing, I’ll keep doing it. You never know, each new time might help one new person. The quickest way to solve a problem is to bring attention to it.”
Cases of domestic abuse are poisoning the sports world as of late. NFL players Kareem Hunt and Reuben Foster have been in the news for alleged incidents of violence against women and not their exploits on the field. The UFC was under fire for its signing of former-NFLer Greg Hardy to a developmental deal earlier this year, and not even a month ago, flyweight Rachael Ostovich was allegedly assaulted by her husband.
Clark, like these other brave survivors, won’t back down. She’s a young lady who lived the majority of her life in a van, determined to chase a dream across the globe that no one will keep her from. She knows that with awareness comes action. And that’s a fight she refuses to lose.
And on December 15, Clark won’t be the only fighter in the Octagon with a similar story, as the husband of Andrea Lee was charged with domestic battery abuse and false imprisonment in August.
“I always believe in second chances,” Clark said. “If you show that you’re remorseful of your actions and you’ve done whatever you can to be forgiven, then one hundred percent you deserve a second chance. But a lot of people have never had to be remorseful. It’s a s**tt situation. But you’d be surprised how many athletes, male and female, have that history that no one talks about. So the only thing we can do is just talk about it.”
Clark, like these other brave survivors, won’t back down. She’s a young lady who lived the majority of her life in a van, determined to chase a dream across the globe that no one will keep her from. She knows that with awareness coms action. And that’s a fight she refuses to lose.