Meet Dr. Doom: Erin Jimenez – Muay Thai Champion with a PhD
Erin Jimenez is not your ordinary combat athlete. How many people do you know with Doctorate degrees that compete in amateur Muay Thai, knowing full well the risks, dangers, and stigmas associated with the sport?
Next weekend at RFS 17 at the Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia, the 30-year old, Dr. Doom will defend her belt against Christy Tyquiengco and seek to improve her record to 11-5. We caught up with Jimenez to find out a bit more about this extremely intriguing and personable athlete. Her story below.
MyMMANews – You are the reigning, defending Revolution Fight Series 125-pound Muay Thai champion…… but you are also a doctor. Fill us and the fans in. How does someone with a PhD, who works for the National Institute of Health participate and compete in a sport such as Muay Thai?
Erin Jimenez – “I started training nine months into my doctoral as an outlet for the low points of grad school. There were weeks during my first year of training when I could only attend two classes a week. But, I never just stopped training no matter how busy grad school was. The more serious I got into competing, the more time I invested in my training. Since my first scheduled smoker in 2011, I have tried my best to balance work and training, often sacrificing many things including a social life, just to give my all in my training and career. It can be draining for me and its not easy to do both. Every time I have a big deadline with work, I have a fight scheduled around the same time. Last year I fought at nationals and a week later, I had a job interview. I still had to be prepared for both! For this fight, I have a very important grant proposal due the 26th. I have to make sure I get it done and submitted by the 22nd so I can have time to focus on my fight. With this kind of lifestyle, everything needs to be thought out and executed because there is no time to waste. As postdoc at the NIH, everyone I work with knows about my training and fighting. When they hear about me waking up super early to train, work a 10-hour day and then spend the remainder of my evening training, they respect it and I appreciate that a lot.”
MyMMANews – Is Muay Thai something you want to do full time? Could you end up leaving your profession to practice the sport you love?
Erin Jimenez – “As much as I love training and fighting, I also love being a scientist. Both are very much part of what makes me who I am and I have big goals in both fields. Life would be a lot easier if I just focused on one thing and I wonder if I can be a better scientist if I didn’t make training a priority and vice versa. The challenge for me is that I always feel like I don’t work hard enough in the lab. I always feel like I don’t train hard enough either. I do imagine where I could be if I spent my daily 10 hours of lab work on watching footage, training, and recovering. But, I tell myself that I do have 14 more hours in the day to put towards my training and preparation for fights. It’s always been a tug of war with the two, but I think I like it that way because I am always on my toes. It keeps me busy because the pressure is always on.
I would like to train, fight, and do science for the rest of my life. Realistically, I see myself fighting for the next 7-8 years and then training until my body can no longer spar or take classes at the gym. And when I can no longer train, I hope to always be part of it intellectually by providing insight about how to do techniques or fight. Science is just like training and fighting, if you don’t use it you lose it. I can’t imagine not doing science and not being part of it intellectually and physically.”
MyMMANews – You truly are a champion in several organizations and various martial arts. What has been the most meaningful aspect of competition for you?
Erin Jimenez – “Yes, it feels great to win, to get a title, and label as a champion. Last year was the best year for me because I went 9-2 changing my record to 10-5 and won my first titles. It took me five years due to injuries to get where I am now. So, to be considered a champion, after the time and effort I put into it, feels good. But there is something more that I am still striving or hungry for. After finishing last year the way I did, I couldn’t help but feel like I wasn’t done. I think for some athletes, we have this insatiable hunger to fill and sometimes all the titles in the world cant fill it. Being able to train, put it all together in a fight, and being on my way to become a high level amateur fighter (eventually pro) is possibly the most satisfying feeling and most meaningful aspect of competing for me. Maybe when I finally feel okay with my skillset and not fighting, and there’s not an ounce of fight left in me any more I can move on to something else like coaching. But, not yet. I feel it in my heart that there are many battles to fight.”
MyMMANews – You have several nicknames Dr. Doom and Big Ern. Who gave you the names and how did they come about?
Erin Jimenez – “Jason Farrell, my striking coach (& fiancée) is behind all the names. Dr. Doom is a more recent nickname and I got it soon after I actually defended my thesis to become a doctor. Jason and many of our gym members are into comic books. In the comics, Dr. Doom is a supervillain that can kick butt and is also a scientific genius. I guess Jason thought it suited me! Big Ern on the other hand is more of an affectionate name I have had for many years. Jason called me Ern one day because the people of Baltimore say Erin that way. They really do! I cant remember where the ‘Big’ comes in but I can only guess that at the time my teammate, Jared Tipton, and I were pretty tiny compared to how strong we are now. I think Jason called us Big Ern and Big Jurt because it was funny since we were actually sort of small.”
MyMMANews – You will be fighting Christy Tyquiengco on September 24 at RFS 17. What do you know about her and what do you have to do to win?
Erin Jimenez – “I actually met Christy years ago when she started training with Jose Villarisco and I have had a chance to see her fight a couple of years back. She is a very impressive fighter. I know she is aggressive and is a fast paced fighter that likes to throw taekwondo style strikes. She likes to spin and she’s good at that. My strategy is to press and make sure she doesn’t have room to throw those kinds of strikes. At the same time, I am trying not to count on her to fight like how she has fought before. I am training to touch all the bases and I am counting on myself to listen to my corner and make the necessary adjustments during the fight.”
MyMMANews – Lastly, what would you tell any young female athlete who reads your story and wants to follow in your footsteps?
Erin Jimenez – “I didn’t learn until my 20’s about the importance of finding confidence and belief in myself to accomplish big things. I’m 30 now and I am still growing into myself (to me this means I will grow smarter and a more dangerous/skilled fighter!) Confidence and belief in yourself and your abilities gives you a competitive edge that no one can take from you. One thing that initially helped me grow my confidence was the knowledge that I did everything in my power to be prepared for competition. First and foremost, have your bases covered and really put time into your training, nutrition, and recovery so you can feel confident that you invested the time into yourself to be ready. As a competitive athlete you have to focus on the things you can control and build a positive mindset. Do acknowledge the things you need to fix or add into your competition strategy. But most importantly, focus on the things you do correctly and very well in training/competition. Successful female athletes (& career women) are often really hard on themselves. I think this is why they become exceptional in all things they do, but at the same time…be gentle to yourself. Lastly, I want to share something my coach told me when I was feeling the pressure of getting ready for a fight back in 2012: ‘We just keep chipping away everyday. The day you’re a perfect Muay Thai fighter, there is no reason to train anymore. Its a never ending experiment. Sometimes that’s overwhelming. But that’s also the best part. To strive for perfection. And to watch so many others crumble and fall behind. You just keep pressing forward like a warrior.’ ~Coach Jason”