I was amazed and very touched to get this message from Jill, not only because it’s so nice and supportive, but also because she’s praising me for doing exactly what she has done for me. She was one of my first female Muay Thai heroes and remains an inspiration to me. We’ve been in touch over Facebook over the four years since we first met, by being on the same card together in New York (it was my 5th fight), and our lives have gone through serious metamorphoses (I moved to Thailand to train and fight full time and she’s had a baby, getting back to training as the mother of a toddler is no joke!), but she’s remained a point of reference to me as someone who guided me, and continues to guide me forward as part of my female Muay Thai lineage.
When I got back to New York from my first trip out to Thailand in 2010, I started training with Kru Nat Fuz (interview here) at her nearly-then opened gym Chok Sabai. My first fight back in the US and my first fight in New York was Friday Night Fights’ all female card. At the time I was excited to be fighting in New York and very excited for an all female event. As it happened, I was matched up against a fighter who trained under a woman I’d been friends with on Facebook for probably close to a year already, but had never yet met in person. So, I got to meet Stacey Scapeccia (see my interview with her here) because I was going to be fighting her student, Min Goodspeed, who it turns out is also very cool. The real exciting bit for me, however, was that Florina Petcu, who at the time was probably the most well-known female fighter in New York who fought high profile fights close to my weight. I’d known her online and met her in person at my very first fight down in Virginia at the WKA Nationals. She’d given me a big hug when we first greeted each other and even offered to corner for me when she noticed that I kinda didn’t have anyone there for me. (Master K was kind of cornering and mostly not cornering. It had been a long time for him and, to be fair, I had seriously twisted his arm to come to this fight and to let me fight at all.) Offering to corner for me out of the blue in my first fight, a fight I was terribly prepared for (having hardly ever sparred – lol) was a huge thing – though I can’t recall if I accepted the offer.
So now I’m in New York on year later, fighting on the same card as Florina and I’m very excited. But we’re in different rooms because they’ve segregated the fighters by corner and Florina’s opponent is in my dressing room. She’s come out from California and I’m watching her get her hands wrapped. She’s got earbuds in her ears and is nodding her head to music while one of her coaches wraps her hands. She’s got another coach, a really well put-together woman with rolled hair (like, waves from rollers) and a T-shirt of their gym. I’m so impressed by this fighter’s “game face,” mostly because she’s just so focused.
Jill landing a body punch
This fighter is Jill Guido from the Bay Area. I’m the second fight of the night and my fight ends quickly, I think in the second or third round TKO. I go back to the dressing room and Jill smiles at me and says something encouraging, like “good job, sister!” I have time to cut my wraps off and get changed, then head down to the crowd and join my brother Shane, who has never seen me fight live before and is now all about it, our friend Nick, my best friend Nell, and a very supportive crowd. We cheer for the fights and then finally the main event rolls around and it’s Jill vs. Florina. I am, of course, cheering for Florina.
Even the Ram Muay is exciting. Jill has this incredible Ram Muay that is so slow and relaxed. She does this thing as she seals the ring that looks like she’s sweeping dirt off the canvas with her foot. It’s very stylized. It’s very cool. And she’s so relaxed. The fight starts and the crowd is going nuts for the hometown girl Florina – my brother Shane is a little tipsy by now and he’s calling out “Flo-leee-na!” as he rolls the “r” in her name. Florina is a long fighter, using lots of teeps. But Jill is sweep-parrying almost every single one of them and manages to put Florina down at least once. When the first round bell rings Jill looks Florina dead in the eyes and nods her head, like “you got that?” I don’t say anything, but by round 2 Jill has won me over and I’m secretly pulling for her. Even though I still love Florina, but in this fight… I see something happening.
I can’t remember the whole fight but there was a lot of back and forth. Florina fights hard and makes this incredible grimace when she throws strikes. It’s cool to see because Florina is so beautiful, so to see her make this seemingly “ugly” face with abandon because she’s in a fight is startling, but then you can see how she’s putting everything out there and that’s what makes it actually beautiful again. Jill is beautiful also and she doesn’t make faces when she fights. She’s got a poker face that I hadn’t become used to yet – it’s very Thai, so I know it now, but it was amazing to see her so unaffected. Jill lost the decision and I’m pretty sure it was for a title. My husband and I thought the decision was wrong, although I will admit that neither of us had much experience in how fights are scored at that point.
Florina’s famous clinch game.
A day later I “friended” Jill on Facebook and sent her a message about how I thought she’d won. I admitted being a Florina fan and acquaintance, to which Jill wrote back, “Oh! There was an enemy spy in the dressing room!” It was funny. And since then we’ve been in touch here and there. Jill has since gotten married and had a baby, so she’s not fighting, but she’s remained really supportive of me, sometimes even out of the blue. I’m writing this because we never really know how much we are impacting someone for the positive. I writing this because Jill really influenced and still influences me, more than 80 fights later.