Ahead of her mixed martial arts debut, Jessica Poole spoke with MyMMANews about how she got into the sport and her upcoming fight at Xtreme Fighting Nation against Gloria Acosta.
Jessica Poole needed to get her back cracked. Training for various bodybuilding competitions added a different kind of stress on her body, so Poole looked for a chiropractor to help her recover after those long and exhausting workouts.
She found one by the name of Dr. Beau Hightower, who was head of the clinic known as Elite OSM and scheduled an appointment. On the day of her appointment, Poole walked into the facility Hightower was located and was immediately greeted by something she had not seen before: a cage.
Confusion set in for a brief moment because Poole thought she was walking into a regular clinic. She did not realize that it was located inside one of the most prestigious gyms in all mixed martial arts, JacksonWink MMA.
This small accident led Poole to discover her next big career move as she started spending more time at the gym. Slowly, she warmed up to the idea of leaving bodybuilding behind for good and becoming a professional mixed martial artist.
“It started in bodybuilding,” Poole told MyMMANews. “I was doing bodybuilding competitions, and I was starting to make a name for myself in the bigger divisions of bodybuilding. I was actually training for a show and I got bored with the workout, you know, with the long cardio and I started hitting mitts at JacksonWink. I started to hit mitts and some of the coaches and the fighters were like, ‘Imagine if you took this seriously!’ and I fell in love with it. Had I known it was more than hitting mitts at the time, it would have been a different story. But yeah, I fell in love from hitting mitts.”
Over the next few months, Poole poured herself into learning everything there was to know about the sport. The transition from bodybuilding to mixed martial arts was a difficult one, and there were several obstacles Poole faced as she began her journey, but she tackled all of them head-on.
The first obstacle was familiarizing herself with the sport in its entirety. Before she became involved, Poole had no idea what MMA was and was not interested in knowing. That all changed once she was exposed to the coaches and fighters she was now surrounded by.
“I never even watched a fight prior to 2018. I had no interest in MMA,” said Poole. “I really didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know who any of the fighters were at the gym. You couldn’t tell me who Diego Sanchez or Jon Jones was. I didn’t know any of them! I never watched a fight and I was never into the blood or none of that stuff, so it’s crazy for me too.
“I ran into Jon one day and yeah. I didn’t know who he was. Everyone was like, ‘You’re crazy!’ because I didn’t know who none of these people were.”
The second obstacle was transforming her body to adapt to the training of a fighter. For most of her life, Poole placed most of her attention on how she looked as she competed in competitions. Eventually, it was clear that having muscles did not necessarily translate into knowing how to utilize them, so Poole had to switch it up.
“I will say it was such a transition of sport coming from bodybuilding. I had so much muscle and I wasn’t really a functional athlete, so it was a transition coming over to MMA. I had to lose some muscle because I had to know that it wasn’t about appearance, but more about functioning well in things like wrestling, jiu-jitsu and boxing. That was the only hiccup. Losing a lot of muscle and just getting ready for this fight, but I’m up for the challenge.”
The last obstacle was learning how to not take everything so personally inside and outside of the gym. Inside the gym, Poole was being put through the wringer during her first couple of training sessions. She even got a black eye from one of her sparring partners.
As much as she wanted to retaliate, Poole had to humble herself if she was going to make it far.
“I think when I first started fighting, it was more so like, ‘Oh, you hit me this hard? Well, I’m about to hit you this hard!’,” said Poole. “The more that I grew with the sport, I learned you honestly have to be patient and be smart about your moves. Just because you got hit hard or you got clocked, you can’t fight off of emotion. You gotta be smart about it and just learn how not to get hit the next time.”
Outside of the gym, Poole dealt with self-proclaimed social media experts whenever she would post a photo or video of her training. She was flooded with comments about everything from her looks to her form and this was all before she committed MMA.
“I used to get a lot of ‘you’re too pretty to fight!’ At first, it was kind of like funny and I would laugh and say thank you, but now it’s kind of offensive,” said Poole. “Like, what do you mean? How am I too pretty to fight? How are fighters supposed to look?
“The thing about it is that people say all of these things and they have no idea the work that we put in day in and day out. How dangerous this sport is, so the comments and the internet trolls say whatever and critique our styles or our videos and it’s like do you have any idea what we go through already?”
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LFG 🥊 #Repost @xfnfights ・・・ Entering the XFN cage Jessica Poole —— @foleysmma’s Jessica Poole (@fitandbodied) in her debut looks to make a statement in a Bantamweight match up against Gloria Dacosta (@gloryder) at #XFN30. Will she begin her career with a W? Tune in and find out September 20th LIVE only on @flocombat! —— A special thanks to our sponsors: @fusioncbdproducts @phoenixfightgear @totalitychiro @imedadvisory @hatejail.com_sfl —— #xfn#xtremefightingnation#mma#floridamma#southfloridamma#womensmma#womenwhofight#muaythai#jiujitsu#martialarts#southflorida#flocombat#florida#wrestling#kickboxing#grappling#bjj#fightnight#boxing#umaaf#fusioncbdproducts#totalitychiropractic#phoenixfightgear#goatshedacademy
Poole spent the better part of two years at JacksonWink MMA before her time there came to an end. While she was in Albuquerque, Poole worked a contract job full-time, but once she finished, she decided to return home to Miami, Florida and resume her training at another high-profile gym.
American Top Team was a gym Poole knew very well, considering she spent some time there before her temporary relocation to Albuquerque. She picked up right where she left off and for a few months, Poole was putting in work as usual before things changed again. Due to the rise in coronavirus cases in Florida, Poole opted to get another contract job and found herself in Utah.
She got acclimated quickly and sought a new gym to continue her training, which is how she ended up at Foley’s MMA.
“I am training with Foley’s MMA,” said Poole. “The transition is different. It is very quiet. I really enjoy the people here. I love my partners. We have a lot of young, hungry fighters and everywhere I go – whether its JacksonWink, American Top Team or here, there is a pool of so much talent. I’m just glad to have really great training partners and Dave Foley really knows his stuff.”
Foley and his team will be taking Poole through the last of her training ahead of her MMA debut at Xtreme Fighting Nation against fellow amateur bantamweight fighter, Gloria Acosta, on September 20th. Acosta has two fights on her record with one win and one loss both coming by way of knockout.
Poole was reticent when asked about how she sees the fight between her and Acosta playing out, but she ensured she would be more than ready come fight night.
“I’ve seen her fights and I can’t give you too much information on how I’m preparing for her, but it’ll be a good fight,” said Poole. “I’m up for the challenge and it’s a blessing to fight, even during COVID. I’m glad that she accepted and we can make this happen, especially women fighters during this time period. It’ll definitely be a good fight and I wish her the best. I know she’s a tough chick.”
Seeing as though her first fight is just around the corner, Poole acknowledged how much pressure she is under from a lot of people. When she started getting ready, her family was still somewhat hesitant about her becoming a fighter.
Now that her day inside the cage is coming, they see how seriously she is taking this and is watching with great curiosity to see how she fares in her new venture.
“I have a lot of eyes watching me. I have support from my bodybuilding family, my own family and then those who are into MMA and wondering what I am going to do,” said Poole. “I definitely feel the pressure to perform, but I can’t let it get this best of me. I just gotta go out there and do what I was taught.”
In case there was any concern over Poole getting a late start in MMA, she understands why some may feel that way, but she is not worried. She is in her early 30s, and although that is typically the age group in which a fighter is now hitting their prime instead of starting, she believes years of being active will be a significant help to her.
“I would have to say that it is never too late and always believe in yourself and have confidence,” said Poole. “To be honest, I feel like I have an advantage because I have been an athlete since the age of four. I ran track since the age of four. I’ve been active in track and field, weightlifting, bodybuilding and now MMA, so I have a wealth of experience in competition. I’m very competitive. I’m strong and fast. So, I would say I’m actually at an advantage. And for those that are not? Never give up. If it’s your dream to be a fighter and you’re 40 years old, there’s still hope for you. There was a lady – Marion Reneau. She got signed at 37 and was in the UFC. Look at Holly. I mean, granted, they started way before I did but they are still there. A lot of bantamweights are in their late 30s and early 40s and they are still fighting, so as long as I’m healthy and it’s God’s will, I’m gonna keep doing what I put my mind to.”
The plan for Poole is to stick around for a while. She would like everyone to know that this will not be some kind of one and done project for her. Poole wants to make a statement in her first fight and show why she is here for the long haul.
“Whether it is in the UFC or Bellator, my long-term goal is to be a champion. I have a lot of long-term goals, but I definitely want to do all that I can to fight and stay active for as long as possible. I want to be part of a big organization. I want to be sponsored by a big fitness apparel company. Whatever comes my way, I am open to it.”