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FWW: Hi this is Rich Serpa from Fightswewant.com and I am here today with 16 year old MMA up and comer from Brewer Maine, Jessi Lee Parent. Jessi, it’s a pleasure to talk to you and we thank you for your time today.
JLP: Not a problem, I certainly want to be here.
FWW: Jessi, you currently wrestle on the Brewer High Wrestling Team.
JLP: That’s correct.
FWW: How did it all come about you got into wrestling, wrestling on the boy’s team and what that whole experience was like for you?
JLP: Well, first of all, when I went to Team Irish MMA fitness Academy, my trainer Garth Krane was doing a grappling class. He is a phenomenal wrestler, mma fighter, and coach and he suggested that I should start wrestling. So I was like, oh great, the high school I am going to be going to I am going to be wrestling. So that is how I got into it and it was basically to get the experience of it and really help me with my mixed martial arts training.
FWW: So you actually started out at Team Irish and then you joined the wrestling team at school?
JLP: Right, that is how it worked out.
FWW: And so the high school didn’t have a woman’s wrestling team or a girls division?
JLP: Oh certainly not, no…you are lucky if you see one girl on each wrestling team. In Maine there are not a lot of girls that wrestle. If you do its really rare and especially to find a girl in your own weight class. So I am wrestling boys…all the time. We just had the first Maine State Girls Wrestling State Championships not too long ago. They paired me up with a girl, who was closest to my weight mind you, that was 250 Lbs. I did also wrestle another girl but it was in the open division and she was closer to my weight but much older than me, we went almost 3 rounds; and I almost had her a few times but she got me in the scramble in the end of the 2nd round. She won wrestling nationals a few years ago when she graduated.
FWW: And what weight class do you compete at?
JLP: 150, so there aren’t a lot of girls.
FWW: When you went and joined the team did or was your team, family and friends supportive of you initially? Did you experience any push back?
JLP: The boys on the team, they are really great. They are great teammates but were always a little iffy because I was the girl and they didn’t know how to take that. I mean they had girls on the team in the past but it was still kind of iffy for them and I don’t think they knew how to handle it because there were some of them never had a girl on their team before. So for them it was like “oh wow, this is weird.” But they always support me no matter what and it’s a blessing to have them as teammates. I mean I see some boys and girls on some wrestling teams and they look like they all hate each other. So I am very blessed to be on the Brewer wrestling team, for sure, they always support me. My coach (she says laughing), he always says, “Girls shouldn’t wrestle.” That is his way of thinking but he still accepts me on the wrestling team and he treats me like one of the boys. So that is always good. My father is a 100%, I mean he wants me doing this. Even though sometimes it’s hard for him to watch me, he really wants me doing this and that feels good to me. My mother, she supports me. She always tells me, “It’s not what I want you to do but I am going to support you on this.” So I have really good support for the most part. I always get the questions of “why do you do that?” “That’s kind of stupid.” And then I have some people that say girls should never wrestle. But, you know, I honestly could care less.
FWW: What about when you go to tournaments? Do you ever get any flak from any of your male opponents that maybe do not want to wrestle a girl?
JLP: I never met a male opponent that didn’t want to wrestle me. Actually if anything, it’s more that they go harder on me. Because when they wrestle me, they realize I am not just going to flop over and get pinned. I am actually going to fight them and they are going to have to work for that pin. And most of the time, they have to try and beat me. So they realy try to muscle down on me. I remember my freshman year, there was this one guy, I believe he was a state champion and I went up against him. I had never wrestled before. It was my first year wrestling. When he realized he wasn’t going to take me down so easily…and the times he did take me down I got straight back up…he wasn’t too happy with that. We ended up in a scramble and he broke my collarbone. He was just pushing so hard. I have heard of boys that didn’t want to wrestle girls but, all the boys I ever faced…they all wanted to wrestle me. So I never had to experience that.
FWW: Incidentally, the girl you mentioned you faced that was 250 lbs, how did you fare against her?
JLP: Well, I won, at the end but my strategy was to tire her out the first two rounds. We were tie at one point but it was mostly me being the aggressor the entire match. I was the one pushing. If you look back at the pictures, you see me pushing forward, you see me muscling under her head and getting control. But I just wanted to be safe, I didn’t want to be cocky or anything and I just wanted to wait till it was a good time to get her down. At the very end, I got her down and got the last few points. And I won by decision. I was very happy that day.
FWW: Sort of along the same lines, how did you come to start training at Team Irish MMA Fitness Academy and what has the experience been like?
JLP: It has been just absolutely phenomenal. That is probably the greatest gym ever. My dad supports me 100%, he's the one that got me into all this; he taught me how to box when I was very little, and he's always wanted me to learn how to defend myself. He brought me to team Irish and that's when I found that I really enjoyed MMA. So he decided to go there first to see what it was like and he met Garth and he met Marcus and all them. And he thought “wow, this is a great gym.” Then I started going there for the kids grappling classes and I just fell in love with it. That was about two years ago. I thought to myself, wow, this is so different and a lot of girls don’t do this. It was just up my alley. It is a great environment. You don’t feel threatened; you don’t feel scared to be around all the males. Everybody there is a family. That is what we always say, were all a family we are all teammates and we all help each other out. And that’s the best part about it. I think the biggest thing that females fear is about being around males all the time. And how scary they are going to be or act like a punk. You know, “ I am so big and tough and big and bad” this and that but at Team Irish, it is not like that at all. We’re all there to help each other; we’re all there not to beat each other up. We’re to just be a family and that is why I love training there. Marcus Davis is a great trainer too. He really likes what he does so it really helps. And like I said, Garth Krane is also an amazing trainer. He is an uber genius as we call him. It's a great place to learn, and Marcus and Garth are great teachers.
FWW: In addition to going to school and training you are also a part of Brewer Air Force Junior ROTC Unit. I'm also the Co-Commander for our Drill Team.
JLP: I started that this year and basically Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corporation is not really recruiting for the military although it kind of is. It is more of leadership and becoming a better citizen. The reason that I am involved with it is because I am really interested in joining the military and now I am interested in joining the Air Force. So I thought it could help me when I get out of high school, I can join the military. Right now I am a Second Lieutenant and I am the PT Health & Wellness Officer, which basically means I create all the workouts that we do as a group. And also the health and wellness part of it. So basically I keep everybody in shape. So that is going to help me for what I want to do in the military. I am also the Co-Commander for our Drill Team. I want to be not only an MMA fighter but I also want to be serving my country in the US Air Force. I am actually having a little bit of internal conflict deciding between the Air Force and the Navy. I haven’t really made up my mind yet.
FWW: Well that is a good segue, you might have touched on it a little bit but talk to us a little about your goals and aspirations in the sport of wrestling as well as MMA?
JLP: Well my biggest and number one goal has always been to become a world champion mixed martial artist. At the same time, I obviously know you have to have a life outside of that. So I really want to also have a big military life because that is what I think I am made for. I really want to be a Military Police Officer or a Combat Arms Specialist. Do something in the security forces. I also thought about possibly becoming a trainer in the military about mixed martial arts and self defense. I have always also wanted to travel to Thailand and train with Muay Thai Masters as well as go to Israel to train with Krav Maga masters because Krav Maga, to me, is the best self defense fighting style you can have. That would be perfect for the line of work I want to do. You know you not only have to know how to shoot a gun and everything else. You also have to know how to defend yourself if there are no weapons around. I am all about the fighting, I am all about security and whatnot so I really want to be serving my country and doing MMA at the same time. Just like Brian Stann. I always say to people that I want to be the female version of Brian Stann. He is one of my biggest role models.
FWW: That’s a great compliment and yet another good segue as my next question is who or what inspires you?
JLP: Brian Stann for sure is one just because he is a phenomenal MMA fighter and he is in the military. He is one of my biggest. Tisha Rodrigues, she really inspires me too. She teaches me that not only can you be sweet and beautiful and nice but you can be tough as nails too. She is really awesome. Gina Carano, she was the one that first inspired me. I saw her and I was like “wow, I want to be just like her.” And my dad said, “You can!” So that was awesome, she totally kicks A**.
FWW: Have you ever trained with Tisha?
JLP: No, I want to though, really really bad. We were talking about it a little while ago. I would like to take a few weeks off in the summer and go train with her. That’s how you get better. You go from gym to gym and pick up different things as you go. Felice Herrig, she’s awesome too. I love Courtney, what’s her last name her name?
FWW: Courtney Cardoza?
JLP: Yes, she is the cutest little thing and I really hope she keeps going along with this because she is just awesome too.
FWW: Yes, she is a sweetheart and a talent without a doubt.
JLP: And Marcus Davis Garth Krane inspire to as well. They really inspire me to go the distance and really keep up with this. They support me all the time.
FWW: Relatively speaking, the sport of MMA is still young and professional women’s MMA even younger. How does it feel to know you are a part of the emergence of women’s MMA as it has increased so much in popularity over the past years?
JLP: That makes me want to do this even more. I want to be one of the founding women about this. I really want to help make this big. You know obviously Gina Carano, Tisha and all of them, they have set the path for us. For us girls out there interested in this. I think girls that are out there my age and younger should really try and expound upon that and really try start trying to get this going even more.
FWW: Jessi, as you know the Fightswewant.com site is set up for fans to pick bouts and their dream bouts they would like to see regardless of what league a fighter might be fighting for or what have you. If you had to pick a dream bout, and we cover all combat sports so whether it’s MMA or BJJ or Boxing or Judo, but if you had to pick a dream bout that you’d like to see what fight would that be?
JLP: I would love to see Felice Herrig Fight Gina Carano or Lisa King fight Gina Carano in a Muay Thai match. I am not sure if they are all in the same weight class but those would be a few I would like to see.
FWW: Do you have any events planned in the next 3 to 6 months that you will be competing in?
JLP: Yes, I will be competing in theScarborough Maine Wrestling Tournament.
FWW: Lastly, if people want to get more information on you or where are some of the places they can go to follow you or hear about what you are doing?
JLP: Well, I don’t have a website right now. I sort of like to be low key. But I am on Facebook and if anyone was interested in following me or reaching out to me they can send me a message and a friend request. You know, just mention they saw this interview or something like that and I can connect with them that way.
FWW: Ok, great. Well Jessi, I want to thank you again for your time and we wish you luck in the tournament and we hope to be hearing and seeing more of you soon.
JLP: Thank you very much Rich. I really appreciate it.
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