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We are pleased to kick off the Fenomenal Woman series this month with Fiona Muxlow, a BJJ and MMA pioneer from Australia. Fiona is an active competitor at state, national and international level in submission wrestling, knockdown karate, sambo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and has an impressive (5-1) MMA record with 3 submission wins.

Fiona started her martial arts training in 1996, earned her blue belt in BJJ in 2002 and currently holds the rank of a purple belt. In the recent years she has been doing mostly MMA and submission wrestling. She participated at ADCC in 2007 and 2011. This year she is returning to the BJJ competition scene and focusing on earning her brown belt. She is also a highly qualified CrossFit, Kettlebell and Weightlifting instructor.

1. You’ve been in martial arts for more than 15 years. Can you tell us a  little bit about it?

Oh my goodness, has it been that long? I started when I was in university as a way of getting away from my crazy room-mate, there was a notice for a club that had just started on campus, I went along and I think it was a full year before I missed a class. I still train with my original coach, I did relocate to Melbourne for 3 years to train exclusively BJJ but I was not happy living there and ended up moving back to Townsville and the tropics.

2. In 2006 you switched focus to MMA? Can you tell us more about why and what are your plans for future in MMA? Active competing? Coaching?

MMA was a natural progression for me when I first started we used to do a mix of striking, aikido and BJJ. Eventually my club switch to mostly BJJ, once I moved back from Melbourne they had gone full circle and  where focusing more on the standup side. I competed in a few knockdown karate competitions and enjoyed it, but I still liked grappling. In 2006 to went to do my CrossFit coaches training in America and stopped over in Japan, while I was there I was lucky enough to train/spar with Roxanne Modafferi and a few other female japanese MMA fighters. In 2007 I got an offer to fight on Princesses of Pain Australasian knockout tournament in New Zealand and I jumped at the chance to do ” hugging and hitting”. I’m planning on having a few more fights this year, I had one planned for March but my opponent had to pull out so I’m not sure when the next one will be at the moment. I reffed my first MMA fight in 2011 as well so maybe once I stop fighting this maybe something for me to get into. I just started to teach a girls only grapple group once a week as well.

3. You are the Head Trainer and owner at CrossFit North Queensland. Do you still have time to train and what is your training schedule?

Depends on the time of year I teach season Aqua Fitness classes so over winter I have more training time, but I have to make time to train if I want to do well. I’m lucky I had two great CrossFit coaches working with me which left me to do my own training. This year however I’m back down to one coach as the other is just about to have her second baby and is on leave. I have to get used to training at odd times, which can be hard and some times there seems not to be enough hours in the day.

4. Why has CrossFit and Olympic lifting suddenly become so popular?

I don’t think it’s a sudden thing, it’s just gaining momentum really quickly now. I was introduced to CrossFit via one of the guys at BJJ who one night came up to me and handed me a piece of paper saying “ here” you like weird stuff… It was a print out from that day’s crossfit.com. He had found it via a link on BJ Penn’s site. That was back in 2004. I’ve been a CrossFit affiliate since 2006 and  my Affiliate CrossFit North Queensland is actually the first CrossFit Affiliate in Australia. I think people like CrossFit because it gives them an outlet to test themselves, it gives them a place to play, it empowers you,  it’s a community and it works.

5. Do you follow a special diet all year around or try to lose weight right before competing?

I was an obese kid and teenager at 90 kg. It wasn’t till I left home and started training and actually getting off my butt and moving in general that I lost weight.  I found during my time at University that wheat didn’t really agree with me. Nowadays I follow the Paleo/ primal diet . No grains, legumes or dairy. Meat and veggies, nuts and seeds, some fruit and avoiding sugar. Although, my old friends chocolate and ice cream can be hard to resist. If I’m not preparing for a competition or fight  I will allow myself to have them as a treat. But I find that if I eat clean I feel and train better and can also recover quicker.  In 2011 I competed at under 65 for an MMA fight, Open weight 60+ for ADCC and under 68 in Sambo, with my walking weight being up around 72-73. This year i plan to keep it under 70. Ideally 69 or below to make it easier to cut down to the lower weight class when I have to or at shorter notice and also to give me more opportunities to compete.

6. What was the highlight for 2011 for you and what are you competition plans for 2012 now that you are focusing on BJJ again?

2011 is hard to pick… it was a big year. I racked up a lot of frequent flyer points.   I had 3 overseas trips in order to compete

  • Winning ADCC South Pacific Qualifiers for the second time (and after only being back at training for 2 months after a 12 month layoff).
  • Fighting MMA in the cage for the first time (all previous fights had been in a ring and let me say the cage is so much safer than the ring because there is no risk of falling out of it, like there is with the ring.
  • Being invited to coach the stand up and no gi section of the first Australian Girls in Gi day camp.
  • Competing at ADCC World Submission Grappling Championship in England for the second time and coming up against Hannette Staack.
  • Representing Australia at the World Sambo championships in, Vilnius, Lithuania.
  • And finally having my old training partner Sophia McDermott Drysdale and her husband Robert come to my club The Arena Townsville and school me for almost a week and help renew my desire to progress in BJJ.

In terms of competition I’m trying to do as many as I can the ones at the top of my list include

  • 2012 FILA Oceania Grappling Championships in January
  • WPJJC Australian Qualifiers in February
  • BJJ State, Australian and Pan Pacific titles

I ‘m  also saving up to head over to the USA to train and compete at the World BJJ Championships.

7. Talking about Australian Girls in Gi day camp. You were the submission wrestling and take down coach. What were your expectations before the camp and were you pleased with the turnout? Are there any other AGIG events planned for 2012?

It almost didn’t happen my plane got delayed. I was meant to do the second session after the yoga  and had to ring Jess from Brisbane and tell her the bad news. They swapped the program around and put me on last. I actually arrived just in time for the gi session and it all went fine. It was an awesome turn out of 30+ ladies. I didn’t really know what to expect before I went down there, Jess Fraser, the brains behind it sent me a list of people ranks and experience so I could plan my session around this. I was actually quite nervous, I’m used to coaching CrossFit not Grappling.

In December I went back down to Melbourne for the AGIG Christmas party which was awesome, it was an open mat/free rolling with at least 20 people. At the moment I know that there is a seminar with Ester Tavares Tutida in the works and I’m sure there will be another day camp but I’m not exactly sure when.

9. Is there anything else interesting you want our readers to know about you?

I used to work with dolphins when I was in high school and have a degree in Zoology. I have a little Koala named Walter who is my travel companion. He goes with me everywhere and has become quite famous.