Interview with Rosi Sexton

After what has been a long 12-16 weeks for Rosi Sexton, we get to have a chat about what has happened.
1. You were recently planned to fight Sheila Gaff in Cage Warriors, what happened?
I got a phone call from Ian Dean, the Cagewarriors matchmaker a week before the fight telling me that Sheila had pulled out of the fight, claiming illness.

2. Why did you want to get the VADA testing, obviously you thought your opponent might have been using performance enhancing drugs?

I think there’s a big problem with performance enhancing drugs in MMA. Whatever your views about anabolic steroids, under the rules we currently fight under, they’re a banned substance. Unfortunately the standard of drug testing isn’t very high at the moment, which effectively means that this rule isn’t being enforced. It leaves fighters in a difficult position – if you choose to play by the rules, then it puts you at a big disadvantage against anyone who isn’t. Honesty is penalised under the current system.
In getting VADA testing for this fight, I wanted to make a statement, that I was willing to prove that I’m clean. And if I’m honest, yes, there was a degree of suspicion based on Sheila’s recent performances, and comments made privately by several people who’ve competed against her.  The advice I took from my coaches (and other people I consulted who have experience on the issue of PEDs) was that I shouldn’t agree to that fight without full, effective drug testing in place.
3. Who funded the VADA testing? 
I funded it myself, with the help of donations from friends and fans (for which I’m extremely grateful).
4. What was the reason for her withdrawal from the fight? And do you believe this?
The news I was given was that she’d had tonsillitis several weeks earlier from which she “hadn’t fully recovered” and that she was suffering from a lack of energy in training. Her doctor ran a series of tests, which apparently showed no reason for the fatigue, and he could give no diagnosis that was supported by the test results. The conclusion was that it was “probably a virus”.
I can’t say for certain what’s going on here, but the circumstances are suspicious. Not only are there photos on Facebook of Sheila posing with her sparring partner from the very period that she was supposedly unwell and collapsing in training; but I’m also aware that her symptoms of fatigue and lack of energy are precisely those commonly experienced by fighters when they stop taking anabolic steroids. There’s always the possibility that this might all be an unfortunate coincidence – but looking at all the evidence together, I can’t help being skeptical – especially since several people warned me beforehand that this situation was likely to happen.
5. You prepared hard for this fight and sacrificed a lot. How does this make you feel when you know other fighters are using PED’s both male and female to reach the top of their game?
I think it makes a mockery of the sport. A rule that isn’t enforced isn’t a rule – either the decision needs to be taken not to ban performance enhancing drugs and to openly allow fighters to use whatever PEDs they wish, or else more effective testing needs to be a priority. It’s not just about winning and losing; fighters with a significant strength advantage due to steroid use are a serious risk to the safety of their opponents. This is particularly true in women’s MMA. Women have a much lower level of testosterone naturally, so artificially increasing this can make a huge difference in terms of strength and power. In some cases – for example, with Cyborg prior to her positive drug test – you’ve effectively got a woman fighting a man (in hormonal terms). Weight categories and gender categories exist for a reason.

6. What would you like to see in MMA in regards to drug testing?

I’d like to see effective testing as standard throughout the sport. VADA have an excellent model, and probably run the toughest anti-
doping program in sport at the moment. But unless all fighters are subject to this kind of random, out of competition testing (both blood and urine), then there will always be wriggle room for those fighters who are determined to avoid having to compete clean.
7. A victory in this fight could have seen you be named the number 1 in the 125lbs division, as this is not the case now, where do you go from here in terms of MMA?
I think I’ve already done everything I set out to do in MMA. I’ve proved what I wanted to prove to myself, and I know what I’m capable of. For me, it’s always been about being the best I can be, and learning as much as I can from the experience. Anything else is just a bonus. Credit from other people is nice, but chasing after it is a dead end. It’s precisely that mentality that encourages fighters to cheat in the first place.

8. If the MMA federations are not going to help with the funding of drug testing, would you think of retiring from the sport and consider taking up wrestling or ju jitsu on a more serious level?

I’m sure I’ll be involved in some form of competition for a while yet. Jiu-jitsu as a sport may not be any cleaner than MMA, but there’s also a lower risk of serious injury when facing an opponent with that kind of “artificial” strength advantage. I’d also like to do some more freestyle wrestling competitions. I’ve been really enjoying my BJJ and wrestling recently, and I’d like to put some more time and focus into this aspect of my training.

9. If the Sheila Gaff fight was offered to you again would you take it?

Sheila’s camp have stated that they hope for the fight to be rescheduled in 3 months time. They’ve made no mention of any drug testing, and are well aware that we can’t afford to fund it a second time. I’d be a fool to accept the fight under those circumstances. Of course, if they were offering to raise the money for another round of VADA testing, I’d be only too happy to prove my point in the cage.

Thanks very much to Rosi for doing this interview.

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