Perfection is a fantastical concept as trial and error are required to build up to where we ultimately want to be. Now with 10 years of MMA experience under her belt, Australia’s Jessica-Rose Clark has experienced many lessons that she’s been able to learn from.
Beginning her career on the regional circuit in her home country, eight years later and Clark’s fighting home is inside the UFC Octagon. An enclosure that she’s prepared to enter for the fifth time come September 19 in Las Vegas.
Getting off to a hot start in the promotion, “Jessy Jess” won two in a row in the flyweight division. Firstly by taking out fellow countrywoman, Bec Rawlings, before spoiling the return of Paige VanZant. Unfortunately, since then Clark has dropped her most recent two outings and had injuries and weight issues rear their ugly heads.
But essentially it all led to continued growth and reinvention.
With eight years of fighting professionally now under her belt and 12 years total in the sport when including training, a full decade is the nice middle-ground for Clark’s experience length. 16 fights and a BJJ purple belt later, and the Combat Sports Academy (CSA) product looks to avoid what would be the first three-fight losing streak of her career when she faces Sarah Alpar on the 19th.
While Clark obviously plans to go in there and get the victory, the ever horrifying reality of losing has been redefined over time.
“No, I haven’t really thought about that,” she told MyMMANews of her two-fight skid, “I’ve done a lot of therapy in the last year-ish, and I have definitely a different attitude towards fighting and wins and losses than what I used to. I used to be so worried that if I lost I would let everyone down and people would be disappointed in me and that meant that I failed. And now I don’t see it that way. Someone has to lose. Whether it’s me or the other person. If I’m still doing everything I need to do to prepare, and if I’m still going in there and doing everything I can possibly do to win, and someone beats me, then okay. F*ck, man. They were better on the night.
“I’ve had split decision wins that were like, one person’s opinion gave me that win, you know? I’ve been on both sides of it. It’s actually been really nice — when I came to terms with the fact that I’m gonna keep doing what I’m doing whether I win or whether I lose. Like that’s it, this isn’t my retirement fight, it’s not ‘you lose and you die.’
“I don’t care how many of these fighters say that they’re gladiators and warriors, you’re not gonna die if you lose this fight. That’s a fact,” Clark continued, “When I came to terms with that, I felt a lot freer. It took a huge pressure off my shoulders and allowed me to enjoy it a lot more. Because I haven’t been enjoying it. I had been so worried about losing and getting cut, and losing my visa and having to leave the country that it’s like the fear of failure stopped me from even trying to win.”
Clark has been living stateside since her arrival into the UFC in November 2017. At the time, she was living in Las Vegas and trained at team Syndicate. For the majority of her time as a fighter, the 135-pound bantamweight division was where “Jessy Jess” competed.
The start of her UFC run came at 125-pounds in the flyweight class where she quickly climbed the ranks with her aforementioned wins over Rawling and VanZant. As time went on, it became apparent that this division just wasn’t going to work for Clark’s body longterm.
Back at bantamweight and now comfortable in California where she trains at CSA, it’s just been a matter of working on and sticking to that grand master plan.
“Now I feel a lot more confident with the position I’m in, with the place that I’m in, with my coaches, I feel a lot more confident that if I lost and got cut, and lost my visa, I already have backup plans,” Clark detailed, “I’m not worried like I used to be. I know that there’s going to be something good on the other end of it no matter what.
“And if I win, which obviously I fully intend on doing… f*ck, I feel like I’ve been in camp since my last fight. I haven’t stopped. I didn’t take a break, so if I win, then cool. The plan’s still the same. I’m still gonna keep doing what I’m doing regardless of how this fight goes.”
Going into her last fight, Clark was on the longest layoff of her career due to a lisfranc fracture in her foot. Therefore leaving her shelved for 15 months between bouts. And once touching down in Moscow, Russia for that rematch with Pannie Kianzad, things didn’t feel like they should have.
As that was her first major injury, reflecting on the whole process led Clark to believe that she came back to action too soon and the mental hurdles were raised tall. The need to try and be tough, and not admit there was fear in fighting again consumed any chance of her true feelings being unbottled. Not just because of the injury but also because of the new team and coaches she was supported by.
To make matters even worse, Clark got food poisoning the first morning that she was in Moscow. With all of that considered, “Jessy Jess” took the positives out of what was a second unanimous decision loss to Kianzad. And that was the small victory of just being able to even go the full three rounds and hang in there from a competitive standpoint.
Now it’s onto the hungry newcomer in Alpar — a fighter who arguably has the least amount of notoriety compared to the Aussie’s last eight opponents. Because of that, it makes for a very unique opportunity for the 10-year vet.
Having been in plenty of back and forth battles over the course of her journey, “Jessy Jess” is hoping to get some mat time in all while looking forward to successfully turning to the next page in her storybook.
“She’s the first southpaw I’ve ever fought so I’m pretty f*ckin’ excited about that,” Clark exclaimed, “That’s cool, that presents a new challenge. She’s a wrestler. Apparently, she’s a pretty good wrestler too, from what I’ve been told. I guess she’s been wrestling for a long time. I’m excited. She brings a lot of challenges. And then the fact that she is a lesser-known name and it is her debut, I think she’ll have a bigger point to prove. So I’m expecting it to be a tough fight and I’m fully prepared for it to be a tough three-round fight. She’s got a good record, she’s done really well.”