"Be strong, be brave & be kind. Never give up on your dreams."
Joanne Spracklen is a South African born actress and MMA enthusiast. Her passion for MMA led her to launch MMA Girls, an outlet where she shares prediction videos, technique advice, event photos and more. She encourages girls to get involved with MMA and loves supporting female fighters.
So basically, Joanne is kicking some serious butt. We want in your corner!
Every Ella: Tell me about yourself.
Joanne Spracklen: I was born in South Africa and moved to Florida in middle school. After graduating from high school, I attended the University of Central Florida where I received my Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a minor in Biology. My parents, especially my Dad always inspired curiosity in me. This curiosity made it very tricky for me to pick a major in college, as I was interested in so many different fields.
Ultimately, I knew my true love was acting. I wanted to be an actress since before I could even remember. After I graduated, I moved out to Los Angeles and have been here ever since. I describe myself as a dainty tomboy… I'm girly, but I love typical "boy" things like Rugby, MMA, Cricket, camping and… whiskey. That's a boy thing, right? [Laughs]
Was moving from South Africa to the U.S. a major adjustment?
A part of me was excited to experience something new and the rest of me was terrified. It wasn't a major adjustment, however; there are things in America that are very different from South Africa. I think I moved at the perfect age. I was 12, so I could still hold on to my roots, but I was adaptable to new experiences. I know a lot of kids who moved when they were a bit older and hated living in the States. Biggest thing I miss is watching rugby and a lekker braai (South African BBQ).
What is MMA and when did you become interested?
MMA stands for Mixed Martial Arts. It's basically a combination of different fighting techniques (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, Boxing, Wrestling etc.). The UFC is the most popular organization. I became interested in 2004 after watching different MMA pay per view fights. A lot of my guy friends would train BJJ, so that helped spark my interest in the sport. When you watch the fights with people who actually understand the sport, it obviously helps you to grasp how amazing MMA is.
What is MMA girls? How did you come up with the idea?
MMA Girls is a female MMA brand. I started it with my friend Lauren, who is also from South Africa (she is no longer a part of the company). It was just something that popped out of nowhere. We were both two girls from SA who were interested in MMA. Youtube was a great platform to get started, and we posted a bunch of technique and prediction videos for fun. We also had a Myspace page, ancient I know… 2006 [Laughs]. At the time, there weren't many girls interested in MMA, so people took notice. SpikeTV featured my videos and Ecko Unlimited flew me out to UFC events to interview top fighters. I was able to get some great behind the scenes content on the fighter's lives.
What's been the most rewarding experience with MMA girls so far?
Connecting with so many people from around the world that love MMA. Definitely getting messages from girls, who at first were too scared to try MMA, but now love it. MMA a is a great physical and mental workout. It also helps build self esteem. That saying from Fight Club, "How much do you really know about yourself if you've never been in a fight," rings true.
What about the biggest challenge?
The biggest thing is having enough money to travel and meet with new fighters. Life gets in the way and I've been on a bit of a hiatus with MMA Girls right now. Looking to get refocused.
What's it like being a woman involved in MMA?
At first it was a bit tricky. Guys would not take me serious enough, or others would take me way too seriously, and think I was disrespecting the sport. Most guys are super cool though. Women's MMA is growing fast and there are so many amazing female fighters now.
You like to support female fighters. Why are you passionate about that?
Female fighters are amazing. I love MMA, and wanted to help out wherever I could. Supporting female fighters seemed like a natural step. Back when I started, women's MMA was very small and didn't get much notice. Now female fighter's headline UFC events.
What are your goals with MMA girls?
Honestly, when I got started with it I didn't have a specific goal in mind. I was just doing this for fun and spreading my love of MMA to people. We used to sell products, which I'm looking into doing again. That way I can give back to helping female fighters. The UFC has restructured their sponsoring system, so I'm not sure show much smaller MMA companies fit into it. I'm always willing to repost anything fight related on my Facebook and twitter and help promote upcoming fighters.
Name one woman who has inspired you and why.
Wow, thats a tough one. So many wonderful women inspire me. In MMA, definitely Gina Carano and Ronda Rousey. Gina paved the way for so many females fighters. Ronda is now at the top of her game and is seemly unstoppable. She beat Floyd Mayfeather for Top Fighter at the Espy's for crying out loud [Laughs]. Her work ethic is insane.
What advice would you give girls today?
For all we know we only have this life, so make it magical. Be strong, be brave and be kind. Never give up on your dreams =)
Watch one of Joanne's prediction videos!