Roxanne Modafferi shakes off UFC curveball with 'Happy Warrior' mentality

Elias CepedaYahoo Sports Contributor
Yahoo Sports
Roxanne Modafferi reacts after the conclusion of her women's flyweight bout against Antonina Shevchenko on April 20, 2019 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. (Getty Images)
Roxanne Modafferi reacts after the conclusion of her women's flyweight bout against Antonina Shevchenko on April 20, 2019 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. (Getty Images)

UFC flyweight Roxanne Modafferi (23-15) was set to fight former world title challenger Liz Carmouche (13-6) July 20 in San Antonio. Then, the rumors started.

“I heard a rumor that the UFC would put Liz and [UFC flyweight champion] Valentina [Shevchenko] on the San Antonio card and I was a little bummed,” Modafferi said in an interview with Yahoo Sports.

“Then I thought, ‘Well, OK I guess Liz deserves the title shot.’ It’s nice to be the champion when you can choose when you want to fight.”

Tuesday night the rumor turned into fact as Modafferi learned from her Syndicate MMA coach John Wood that the UFC had indeed slotted Carmouche to face Shevchenko, who earlier this month successfully defended her title at UFC 238. At this point, Modafferi continued to live up to her “Happy Warrior” moniker, as she took being taken for a ride in stride and saw the positive in her new situation.

On Wednesday, the UFC announced that Modafferi would stay on the July 20 card and would now face Jennifer Maia in a rematch from their closely contested 2016 bout which Maia won by split-decision.

“As long as I can fight I’m happy. And I could fight on the same night, perfect,” Modafferi said. “Coach John said they were going to book Jennifer Maia and I said, ‘Oh cool!’ I got really excited, then. I’ve been crossing my fingers since I came back to the UFC that they would sign her so I could get a rematch. Then they signed her and I was excited, then she lost her debut fight [to Carmouche] and I thought, ‘Oh no!’ I wanted her to climb the ranks so that it would make sense for us to rematch. Then she won her next fight [against Alexa Davis] and now we’ve both won our last fights and we get this opportunity.”

It would seem from the outside that Modafferi has gone through an emotional roller-coaster in recent days but she insists that she’s content to fight, regardless of who it is against, and how winding the road is to get there. “From the beginning they were suggesting that I’d get to fight someone else,” she said of the UFC after they took Carmouche out of their matchup and paired her in a title bout instead.

“I just want to fight, man. If I had lost the fight with Liz and then not gotten to fight for six months I would have been upset but as long as I still get to fight, I’m happy.”

The idea that fighters in the major league of MMA could have such one-sided deals that they could be contractually obligated to fight at a certain date against a particular opponent, with all promotional, name and likeness rights exclusive to the UFC, but that the UFC could then unilaterally take not just their opponent but an entire date away seems hard to believe. To her knowledge, Modafferi believes this type of hypothetical situation could have indeed happened to her.

“Personally, I think I have no latitude,” she admitted.

“If I were Ronda Rousey maybe I would have more latitude and control. But I’m just a humble warrior. You offer me a fight, I say ‘Yes.’ I’m cool with that. I’m happy with that. I just have to know my place in the scheme of things.”

Thankfully, of course, Modafferi hasn’t had to change dates on her next fight and is certainly thrilled at the replacement opponent offered by the UFC. Modafferi wants to get even with Maia, even though she won’t take away credit from her rival for her close decision nod nearly three years ago.

“I’m really bad at judging fights,” she said, when asked if she believes that she deserved to get the judges’ decision over Maia in 2016.

“It’s hilarious because I’ve had 43 fights but even watching other people’s fights I sometimes say, ‘Oh, that guy won,’ and then my coach John will say, ‘No, the other guy, did’ and I’m like, ‘Oh, ok.’ I remember the first fight with Jennifer being even. I know I didn’t get beaten up and I didn’t beat her up so I think it could have gone either way. I won’t say that I don’t think she deserved the decision over me the first time, I just think it was close and I’m excited to get to fight her again.”

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