September 22, 2023

I’m a former UFC star who sent opponent to hospital – now I go incognito in my new job as an English teacher


ROXANNE MODAFFER is a pioneer of women’s mixed martial arts – but she now lives a completely different life as an English teacher.

The Happy Warrior began her MMA career in Japan in 2003 – long before the likes of Ronda Rousey contemplated competing in the sport.


Roxanne Modafferi is one of the pioneers of women’s mixed martial artsCredit: GETTY
The 'Happy Warrior' walked away from the sport in 2021


The ‘Happy Warrior’ walked away from the sport in 2021Credit: GETTY
Modafferri has been enjoying her retirement


Modafferri has been enjoying her retirementCredit: INSTAGRAM@ROXYFIGHTER
Modafferi now has a new career teaching English in Japan


Modafferi now has a new career teaching English in JapanCredit: INSTAGRAM@ROXYFIGHTER

Modafferi took on allcomers right until the end of her career, which she called time on after her UFC 271 defeat to Casey O’Neil in February 2021.

Unlike so many fighters of yesteryear, the 40-year-old hasn’t struggled to find work – using her degree in Japanese language and literature to land her a teaching job in the country.

Modafferi bagged herself a job teaching 18-60-year-olds English in January and it is filling the void left by fighting.

She said: “I finally got a job after over a year of trying to find the perfect job, and holding out for something that wasn’t happening.

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“I finally got a good job. I’m teaching English now as a second language and I’m good at that.

“My students like me, my boss likes me, I feel like I’m making a difference in people’s lives still, which is still important.

“I’m doing that part-time in the morning.

“I am teaching kids Jiu Jitsu in the evening at Tribe Martial Arts and Fitness.


“I get to come home when my husband comes home.”

Despite being a well-known figure in MMA, most of Modafferi’s students are oblivious to her former career.

“My English students do not [know who I am],” she told Zenger. “I don’t think they are really MMA fans.

“One guy recognized me. I said I did Jiu-Jitsu, and he said, ‘Oh, I’m a Blue Belt.’

“But nobody really knows who I am at my English school.”

Modafferi’s decision to walk away from the fight game was hastened by post-sparring headaches.

She revealed: “A few years ago, I started getting headaches after hard sparring.

“I thought that was very bad. I didn’t want to get brain damage more than I possibly already have.

I’m teaching English now as a second language

Roxanne Modafferi

“I’m not noticing any poor speech patterns or memory loss or anything.

“But I know it’s a bad sign to get headaches after training.

“So, I thought, I think I’m reaching the end of the line here.

“Also, I see everyone becoming a super athlete, I’m no super athlete, so my guess is that in a few years, I wouldn’t be able to hold my own physically with all these young pups coming up.

“So, I reached 50 fights and that seemed like a good number to call it a career.”

Modafferi’s fear of competing with the “young pups” of the sport became reality when she fought Maycee Barber at UFC 246 in January 2020.

The then-undefeated Barber was a huge favourite to beat Modafferi, who shocked the world with a dominant display of grappling and ground and pound to bloody the prospect and earn a unanimous decision victory.

As well as suffering a horrific cut on her skull, Barber completely tore her left ACL and was forced to go to the hospital after the fight.

Roxanne Modafferi upset Maycee Barber in the tail end of her career


Roxanne Modafferi upset Maycee Barber in the tail end of her careerCredit: GETTY
She bloodied the former undefeated flyweight prospect at UFC 246


She bloodied the former undefeated flyweight prospect at UFC 246Credit: GETTY

Dragon Ball Z super-fan Modafferi will live long on the memory of MMA fans, including UFC president and CEO Dana White.

“I love her,” White said of Modafferi after her retirement. “She’s a great human being. She’s always tough and durable, she brings it.

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“She’s had a pretty stellar career here at the UFC. She lives in Vegas, so I’m sure she’ll be around the office still.

“We love her. This is her house, so she’s welcome any time she wants.”

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