Photo by Attack The Back
“Any girl who makes it to black belt in the UK and competes is going to be dangerous.”
It’s almost time for the ADCC World Championships, taking off at September 23d in Helsinki, Finland. Without a doubt, everyone has fought hard to earn her place in this championship. Either by being champion at one of the trials, or by getting invited due to an impressive list of World Championship titles on her name. The women’s divisions (overview here) are stacked with 16 talented females. Two of these are representing the United Kingdom – for the first time in history. Meet Samantha Cook and FFion Davies!
Team: CF24 (affiliated with East Coast Jiu Jitsu Academy)
Highlight results: Polaris V winner, 2x IBJJF World Champion No-Gi (purple belt, blue belt), 2x IBJJF European Champion Gi (blue belt, purple belt)
Seen at: Polaris V, EBI12
ADCC: -60kg trial winner
Congratulations Ffion, you won the ADCC trials in Poland – as a purple belt! How did it feel, knowing you were to compete against very experienced black belts?
I definitely didn’t expect to win at all! I was honestly just going for the experience and to roll with higher grade females. For the first time, I was hardly nervous and just excited to see how I’d measure up. To win was really shocking and I was very emotional.
How does this affect your preparation for the ADCC World Championship?
I’m very excited for ADCC! I have no expectations and am just thrilled as I know I will gain so much experience from it. But I always aim to win, even if I don’t expect to!
“I always aim to win, even if I don’t expect to!”
You come from a small team, which you often refer to as “small but mighty”. How do you manage to be listed as one of the top athletes in your division, while training at a small team?
The academy where I train is called CF24, and we started it less than a year ago. Every time I’d enter a major tournament it would be daunting seeing my opponents with World Champions in their corners. Especially as I usually wouldn’t have any corner at all for myself, since going out to California for Worlds is so expensive from the UK.
“I usually don’t have someone coaching for me at a big tournament.”
But recently, I’ve realised just how fortunate I am; my coaches Bryn and Omied have worked extremely hard to teach us using a systematic approach. They teach using concepts and principles that work in various positions. I feel if we would have been in a giant gym full of black belts, we wouldn’t have studied, and would have just been spoon-fed whatever technique was taught in class. So in this way, training at a small gym has helped me fast-track my progress. It has made such a massive difference to my game!
Do you have a lot of women to train with?
My main training partners are larger males, because that’s what our higher grades mainly consist of. But it means I have to be so perfect with my technique in order to pull off anything, that training with them is great for highlighting my flaws. All the guys are very technical and roll with me accordingly, and we have a crop of white belt women coming through which gets me excited for the future!
You come from a judo background – how does this translate to jiu jitsu?
Judo definitely made me originally prefer the top game, but now I love playing guard. My game is built around advancing the basics. As much as I love all aspects of jiu jitsu, I keep my game simple, whilst also making sure that my game can cross over from gi to no-gi smoothly.
You were injured at the beginning of this year, forcing you to skip Europeans. However, we’ve seen you have a great comeback! Fighting at EBI-12, and winning Polaris V. How did you manage to let the injury not get the best of you – physically and mentally?
I injured my back around Christmas time. It was very scary for me, as I’ve never been seriously injured. Missing Europeans was horrible but it made me more determined, I was advised to do a lot of yoga so I mainly focused on that. I was very lucky though; I experienced very minimal pain and rarely had radiating pain in my leg (only if I put myself in stupid positions). My injury was very minimal in comparison to some so it has made me very grateful.
For this weekend: who do you hope to fight in your division?
It would be my dream to fight Beatriz Mesquita, I’m a big fan of her!
Team: FightZone London (affiliated with CheckMat)
Highlight results: Polaris V winner, IBJJF World Champion No-Gi (brown belt), 4x IBJJF European Champion Gi (purple belt 2x, brown belt 2x) 2x IBJJF European Champion No-Gi (brown belt)
Seen at: Polaris V
ADCC: +60kg trial winner
“I love a good footlock.”
Being in the +60kg division, how does it feel to face opponents who are much bigger than you?
I feel being in a heavier division gives me an advantage in some respects. I tend to struggle more with girls who are much lighter and small than me. I’ve been training my whole career against men who are bigger and stronger than me. So I feel well prepared already.
You recently fought Vanessa English at Polaris V, under 64kg. How was it to fight at that weight and what have you done to move back up again?
For Polaris V, I cut a fair amount of weight. I wanted to prove to myself I could make 64kg, but also that the weight advantage I had on my opponent wasn’t a factor in the deciding result. It was nice to be a skinny 64kg but it was a task in itself. I’m happy to be back up to the 69/70kg mark for ADCC, just to give my bones some padding (haha). I have been doing more strength training to prepare for the bigger girls.
How have you been preparing for the ADCC World Championship?
I have focused more on my wrestling for ADCC and my cardio. If I am quicker and fitter than my opponents, the opportunities for attacking will present themselves. I would love to say I’m ‘bulking’ just so I can excuse eating all the food (haha). But I’ll just be fighting at my normal weight, as I’ll be fighting the IBJJF Copenhagen Open the weekend after ADCC as a middleweight, to collect some points for IBJJF Worlds next year.
What is your favourite way to start a match?
Normally I vary between guard pulling and take downs, but for no-gi, I prefer to take down. I favour no-gi over gi, I feel most free without the gi and able to move regardless of the size or strength of my opponent.
“I feel well prepared.”
How would you describe your fighting style?
My fighting style is an attacking one, with capitalising on the gaps my opponent makes with their mistakes. I love a good footlock and it’s been fun to incorporate heel hook attack and defences into my game for ADCC.
The UK has produced a lot of female black belts who either have been or are successful internationally. How do you see this developing in the years to come?
I believe this is only going to grow and improve. I’ve said all along that women develop differently in this sport, because we have to swallow the ego early- we get dominated and crushed from day 1 so it forces us to learn the technique. So any girl who makes it to black belt in the UK and competes is going to be dangerous.
Who do you think is a stand-out in your division?
Women’s no-gi is for anyone to take really. It’s a shame that Ana Laura Cordeiro wasn’t able to compete this year, but understandable with her new family commitments. It’s a stacked division already and I’m happy to be among one of the only females representing from the UK alongside Vanessa English in 2011’s ADCC and this years Ffion Davies.
Thank you Sam and Ffion for your time, and good luck this weekend at the ADCC World Championship! If you want to stay updated, keep an eye out on our Instagram: we’ll be doing live updates from Helsinki, Finland!