A lot has happened recently in women’s MMA: new champions have been crowned, former champions have gotten back into the win column and new stars have risen to stake their claim for a shot at UFC gold.
Last weekend was no exception with the Czech Republic’s first ever UFC event. Coming off a dominant win in the main card of UFC Prague, American Top Team’s rising flyweight star Gillian Robertson is full of fire and is determined to make her mark at 125lbs.
I caught up with Gillian this week to discuss her latest win and her future plans for life at flyweight.
Danty: After the win at Prague, now that everything has calmed down, where’s your head at?
Gillian Robertson: I’m still on top of the world from my victory last weekend. This is all I worked for, so I am just happy I was able to come out successful, and I’m ready to get back to work.
I’ve talked to Gillian about her fighting style. Grappling has been a reliable art for many fighters nowadays, including notable fighters, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Tyron Woodley, and the newest prospect at featherweight, Kron Gracie. Combining that with forward pressure makes for a dangerous fighter. Whether such an approach is something natural to them or is something developed in training varies from person to person. I asked Gillian where she is in that regard.
GR: I feel like it is something that is unique to me, and unique to my coach in general. My jiu-jitsu style is always attacking; I’m always trying to get submission, trying to finish the fight. A lot of people are like ” I want to put on a war”, which is stupid because you get paid the same no matter how long the fight is. As long as you go in there and out and take as little damage as possible, then that’s the goal.
D: How was the student-teacher relationship where a coach was able to work with your fighting style and help you hone your craft?
GR: I feel like every coach is different. It’s just how our brains work. There’s some coaches where they’re not my style. Luckily, Din [Thomas] is the one I started with. I started with Din when I was 16 years old. He 100% molded me into the fighter I am today, so his style is 100% my own style. I feel like he is the one who is gonna be able to improve me as fighter the most because, we’re so similar; he gets what I like, ya know?
D: How’s the group dynamic in your gym? Is it a clique, a 1 on 1 affair, or is there such phenomenon where a fighter trains on their own?
GR: I feel like we have such a strong girl team. So, we got a big group of girls, so we stay together a lot. We probably have, I’d say, 10-15 girls who all fight professionally. You don’t see that a lot in gyms. We are lucky to have that, but my main training partner was [in] my corner last weekend, Caitlyn Rocco. She is always in the room with me, doing the boring drill with me. She’s there year around with me. She’s with me and Din. That’s the main team, right there.
As far as the future is concerned, Gillian plans to take on strong competition and big, recognizable names. One name on her mind is Paige Van Zant, who is coming off a victory over Rachael Ostovich.
D: Other than Paige VanZant being a big name, what drew you towards picking her?
GR: Like you said, a lot of it is just that she is a big name in the division. I feel like she is someone who you know for a fact that I’ll be able to finish that fight. its something that [would have] a lot of publicity behind [it], and something I want to get my name out there with. If I don’t get that match up, I am ok with that, I’m down for anything. Whoever they put in front of me, I’m ready to fight, always.
D: What is your read on the competitiveness of the women’s flyweight division?
GR: I feel like any of the girls in the division, just because of my fighting style, I have the potential to take out any girl out. I feel like I have such a dangerous submission game and it’s just a unique style. I feel that not a lot of girls in there constantly attacking. Even there are good jiu-jitsu girls, they don’t have my same pace to finish a fight.
D: Do you see grappling as a trend that can hold up, or something that will pass by?
GR: I feel like it’s 100% a trend that can hold up, because especially being like, we’re smaller girls, you know. It’s hard to develop that KO power. Whereas a heavyweight guy can throw a fist and lightly touch the guy and the guy will drop. We don’t have the weight, so to develop that kind of power is going to be hard. Even girls who are top strikers you don’t really see [them] putting girls out like that. So I just feel like being a smaller girl, it’s smarter to be a grappler.
D: What are your plans for 2019?
GR: I guess it’s just seeing where the road takes me. Like you said, I’m ready to get back in. There’s a couple cards coming up. I’d love to get on Miami. I know there’s an Ottawa card in Canada which would be awesome to be on. There’s a card in Glasgow, Scotland where both my parents are from so it’d be awesome to be on that one, too.
“Anything that comes up I’m ready for and I just wanna be the most active fighter in the flyweight division, so I am ready to get back in here as soon as possible.”
D: What is the origin of your moniker “Savage”?
GR: When I had my first amateur fight I was 18 years old, and my coach Din Thomas wrote a letter to my team right after. He was talking about “she’s as quiet as a mouse, but when she walks in the cage, she turns into a savage”. Just some of my teammates they’re like “he called you a savage” and it just stuck after that,
D: What fighters influence your fighting style and attitude, if any?
GR: I feel like I take little bites and pieces from a lot of fighters’ careers that I admire. Having Amanda Nunes, and Joanna Jedrezjcyzk around me, both of them, being around them you understand why they’re world champions: just their mentality and their pace they put in the gym. It’s absolutely inspiring, so definitely those two girls and a lot of the fighting styles I take bits and pieces of. As you said, Jon Jones, like he’s probably the best mixed martial artist I know and I love to watch. Even though our body types are different, i can take bits and pieces of his game that I like and implement it to mine.
D: Considering the influence, and sharing of techniques from one fighter to another, What do you think the future trend will be in MMA culture?
GR: I feel like you seen it in the last couple of years, the sport evolving. You see people are more MMA artists. I started with everything, even though I’m not great on my feet, I’m still familiar with it. This sport is still young, it’s only 25 years old. You see a kickboxer with a little BJJ, now you see a lot of MMA artists coming up.
D: Do you see the division as up-to-date technique wise as any other division or are there aspects missing?
GR: I feel it’s 100% the same. The women’s division is obviously a couple years behind we just were allowed to be in the UFC, I believe it was 5 years ago. So that’s kinda crazy in itself, but I feel like the women’s division is definitely evolving. If you look at Amanda Nunes, she’s a terrifying striker. She’s a black belt in Jiu Jitsu, black belt in judo, her wrestling’s amazing, like, she’s one of the most well rounded female fighters out there right now and there’s definitely a lot of us coming up.
D: For people who may be new to MMA, or any kind of martial artist, what do you feel would be the best way to approach the sport?
GR: I feel that especially jiu-jitsu for self-defense is something that everybody should get into. Just knowing almost how incapable you are at defending yourself. I feel that so many people are like “Oh, i can take anyone”. But when a little 135 pound girl can man handle you, it kinda opens your mind up to something new. And like you said, It’s for everybody. If you ask anybody who knew me in middle school, or elementary school they’re like “Oh, you were the quiet little girl in the back of the class. What happened?” Like, all I did was volunteer with animals before I started doing this. I never played any kind of sport. My parents put me in soccer a couple of times, and I quit within a couple of weeks because I just hated it. I was never athletic or anything like that, but jiu jitsu is a sport where you can use your mind over anything else. I can manhandle 180 pound guys. They look me with disbelief but its all technique.”