DRIPPING blood over her opponent and with a gash over her eye, pro MMA fighter Claire Fryer didn’t hear the loudmouth spectator whose comment later riled her.
“It’s not as hot as I thought it would be, watching chicks fight,” the bloke had said within earshot of Claire’s friend in the crowd.
Strange as it might seem to some, Claire said looking sexy wasn’t her goal when she’s fighting.
“I thought, ‘that’s not really why I do it, mate’,” she said, laughing. “That’s not the goal, to look sexy while I’m doing it.”
Myths about women in sport aren’t the only ones the Sunshine Coast resident and animal rights advocate is busting.
Since she was 17 and saw a fox torn apart by dogs at a hunt in England she has eaten only plants, and swears by the health benefits of veganism.
“A lot of world-class MMA fighters and fighters in general will follow a more plant-based diet during their fight camp because they found it makes them lighter and faster, and (it’s) easier to cut weight,” she said.
“It’s hard for me to say that veganism helps, because I was vegan already when I started fighting, but certainly I see it as a benefit.
“I’ve never had any issues with energy levels, weight or my fitness and I think veganism has helped with that.”
Where most fighters stay away from carbohydrates, Claire’s diet is carb-heavy.
She said potatoes, pasta, rice and bread were her friends.
For protein she eats legumes, pulses, faux meat (which is made from wheat protein) and soybean-based products including tofu and tempeh.
She once used protein shakes but says they weren’t much help.
“I just don’t bother now, I get all the protein I need from the food I eat.”
She said there were few women fighters in mixed martial arts but she felt male training partners and others in the sport treated her with respect.
“I like to just be seen as another fighter on the mat,” she said. “I don’t want to be seen as a female fighter on the mat.”
Physical differences between men and women mean she can’t technically be equal to men.
“If I come up against a guy of my size who’s also well trained, I’m probably going to lose, but at the same time that doesn’t mean I should be treated as a lesser athlete just because I’m a female,” she said.
Claire, 39, first became involved in kung fu in her 20s when she lived in England.
“I think to be honest I’d just watched too many movies. I thought, ‘that looks really cool, I want to be able to do a spinning jump back-kick’, you know?
“I learnt how to do spinning jumps and knife work and staff work and all that kind of stuff.”
She then trained in several other martial arts forms over eight years before realising she still felt incapable of defending herself.
“Even with really good basics, nobody is invincible, everybody just needs awareness and the ability to take an opportunity,” she said.
“You’re not going to ever be able to guarantee your safety.”
Claire’s last fight was in Japan two years.
She now coaches other fighters at 5th Wave Gym in Narangba and hasn’t ruled out a return to the cage.
“You’re not going to ever be able to guarantee your safety…I weight 58 kilos, so at the end of the day the best chance that I’ve got is my awareness and the fact that I’m pretty fit and I’m likely to outrun someone.”