BAMMA has hit the news recently for many reasons, of course they are known for their consistently exciting match ups and spectacular and well run shows – what they have never had to date, are WMMA fights. Well, here to rectify that, is BAMMA 22, where for the first time the promotion will showcase some of the UK and Ireland’s top female talent. Catherine Costigan is 105lb of (5-1), well honed Irish talent and she’s making her homecoming on BAMMA 22 where she will meet Simona Soukupova (5-3) .
One of the first things that will strike you about the Alpha Female is her size, she’s almost elfin, but don’t let that fool you. Growing up in a house with brothers means Catherine was a tomboy from a young age and moving from there to training at a gym with no other girls when she started kickboxing at 14 ensured she learned how to get hit.
‘When I first went to train with Dermot McGrath I was the only girl and I wasn’t really very welcome, training amongst all the boys, a lot of them were quite nervous about having a female there and some were quite hostile, I think that’s where I developed a lot of my fight IQ’.
That IQ is certainly something that has served her well, being known for her technical matches and, despite her black belt in traditional kickboxing, for being a slick grappler she has four of her five victories coming by way of a submission.
Internationally it seems that MMA in Ireland is on a sudden upward slope, the likes of Cathal Pendred, Joe Duffy and Aisling Daly are breaking through into the UFC, of course there is the Conor McGregor hype train currently trundling it’s way around the world and there are numerous other talents competing across Europe. Speaking as someone a bit closer to the source, Catherine has a slightly different perspective:
‘I don’t think it’s that MMA in Ireland has suddenly become popular, I just think that those of us who started doing it all those years ago when the rest of Ireland were laughing at us and wondering what we were doing are just now peaking and getting the recognition. The development of the sport owes so much to people like Mark Leonard running the Saturday MMA leagues where people could go and compete in the local hall, have a few fights without the pressure of a crowd watching them.’
There’s absolutely no doubt that for the 105lb ladies division, there are some quality matches to be made, In this instance she takes on Simona Soukupova, a 5-3 powerhouse with impressive striking. Costigan could have opted for an easy fight, coming as she did off her first loss, but as we all know, the first lady of Irish MMA doesn’t shirk a challenge and is known for her ‘anyone anytime’ fight attitude. Sometimes these attitudes can hail from early in life and Costigan has all too vivid memories of weekly visits trawling back and forth to the hospital for various epilepsy treatments – being banned from competing in any sport where she might take a bump to the head. Thankfully for the audiences we got past that. When I asked how she overcame her initial nerves about competing Costigan explained:
‘I never do, every time I fight I have a moment about two and a half hours before where I think “what on earth am I doing?” but then I quickly have a word with myself and say “well, you’ve signed the contract now, what on earth are you going to do? Run away?”. What I would say to aspiring fighters is this, take every opportunity to get ring time/cage time/mat time and compete as often as you can in every individual discipline, because it all helps and you will learn from it all’.
One of the most endearing things about Costigan is hearing the way she speaks about those from whom she takes inspiration, from her fierce admiration for her mother to the giddy and girlish way she reminisces about the first time she met Marloes Coehnen, right up to her describing meeting Chael Sonnen and being truly star struck. For someone who is fast becoming a local sports celebrity in her own right, it’s a great attitude to see.
The other is her respect for the sport of MMA and her opponents – there are so many these days who get caught up in trash talk and social media altercations that they forget to focus on a hard training camp, good partners and coach, Catherine believes it disrespectful to her opponents to show up on the night as any less than the best version of herself – something many more established fighters could learn from.
Speaking to Catherine it is apparent that she takes the fighters lifestyle seriously, living and breathing the sport. Her income is derived from teaching her many skills to others and the majority of it is fed straight back into financing her training and career, indeed her passion is evident when you hear her explaining that far from making a profit from the sport, there have been times when travelling to fight has cost her in excess of £1000. Those days should be done now that she is fighting on top class promotions and has signed with management company Sky High Worldwide but, they do say that to be the best you have to train with the best and this is something the Cagewarriors veteran takes to heart. She has travelled all over the world and trained with the likes of Peter Irving, Lucia Reicher, Marloes Coehnen and Rosi Sexton to name but a few. You might think chalking up a list like this was enough but the Irishwoman still has several to cross off her list:
‘I’d love to train with Demetrius Johnson and definitely Firas Zahabi (GSP’s coach at Tristar), as well as Ronda – to be honest with you, anyone who is going out there and winning in their weight class is who I want to be learning from.’
Don’t let that diminutive size fool you, the Alpha Female is looking to take scalps at BAMMA and put on a masterclass in front of her home crowd. Indeed she has recently taken to social media to announce that she is already over the loss and back training hard, she also has a message for her opponent come 19th September:
‘I handled the loss already and are (sic) very excited about my return to action. A wounded animal is always more dangerous’
I’ve a feeling that you’ll be seeing a lot more of the name (and the abs of steel) in the months to come… Conor McGregor who?