Around the time when Jessica Andrade was born in 1991, Rosi Sexton was stepping into a martial arts gym for the first time. It was taekwondo then, eventually progressing to other disciplines until settling on MMA at the age of 22. At that time, Andrade was 8. That’s the kind of experience advantage Sexton is bringing into the cage at UFC Fight Night: Machida vs. Munoz.
In her learned opinion, that’s going to be too much for Andrade to overcome, so much so that she smilingly predicted a third-round submission on Wednesday.
“I think the fact that I do have those extra years of experience, it does make a difference,” the 36-year-old Sexton said. “You can’t buy experience. She has done a lot in a very short time, but at the same time, there’s no short cut in this sport. All those years in the gym refining things and developing an understanding — when the pressure is on and we’re both tired, in the second and third round, I think it’s going to show.”
Sexton (13-3) has seven career submissions on her record, but hasn’t forced a tapout since 2009.
But back to her learned opinion. Sexton has a first-class math degree from Cambridge, a PhD in theoretical computer science from Manchester and then went back to school to get an additional degree in osteopathy. The Renaissance women is also the mother to an eight-year-old son, Luis.
If that seems like way too much for one person’s plate, there was a time when Sexton agreed. Just over a year ago, Sexton decided she was done with fighting.
“There was a stage where I felt like I did most of what there was to do in the sport at that time,” she said. “I’d fought at a top level for quite a long time. I’d fought the best girls in the world, for the bigger promotions that had women’s divisions at the time. I thought it was time to move on.”
Just as she started to come to grips with her decision, she was pulled back into the sport when the UFC launched its women’s division and contacted her to offer her a contract.
“I couldn’t turn it down,” she said. “It’s something I always kind of dreamed of, but without ever really thinking it was going to happen. When it did happen, I said ‘I’ve got to do it’.”
In her Octagon debut, Sexton lost against Alexis Davis in a decision. In her second time out, Andrade offers a different kind of matchup. The two are almost identical in size, and Andrade is not nearly as schooled on the mats as Sexton is. That should offer her a clearer route to victory than her match with Davis, who was bigger and a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt.
For her part, Andrade says that her debut performance in the UFC — a TKO loss to former No. 1 contender Liz Carmouche — was negatively impacted by nerves. Then, everything was “shiny and new,” but now she has a better idea of what to expect.
Still, she is likely to experience some blowback from the crowd, which will definitely be in Sexton’s corner and try to push the hometown girl into the win column.
Sexton refuses to think much past that. Despite a lifelong pursuit of academics and martial arts, and a proven ability to succeed in multi-tasking, right now the prospect of winning a single UFC fight is her sole focus.
“You must remember that when I first got into MMA, it was a niche sport,” she said. “Even UFC wasn’t that popular at the time. Originally I was just going to have a couple of fights as a personal challenge. It was something I wanted to do to prove to myself I could. I never foresaw myself actually being a professional athlete or being where I am now. It’s slightly surreal but very, very cool. Now I want to go earn a win.”