Dear Roxy: How is your brain health post-MMA?

Roxanne Modafferi is back to answer your most burning questions about MMA, the UFC, and life in general, 'Happy Warrior' style with her Dear Roxy column.

By: Roxanne Modafferi | 2 months ago
Dear Roxy: How is your brain health post-MMA?
Roxanne Modafferi

MMA is a sport filled with burning questions. What’s the right way to defend an armbar? What’s the best way to cut weight? How many Demetrious Johnsons would it take to beat Francis Ngannou? Fortunately, former UFC title contender Roxanne Modafferi has the answers, in her Bloody Elbow exclusive column, ‘Dear Roxy’.

In our last edition, Roxy tackled a few more of readers’ burning quandaries, such as how young is too young for MMA, on theatrical presentation, secrets for boosting sales to regional MMA events, and advice for female fighters on resisting pressure to develop a sexualized persona for marketing purposes.

This time around we’ve got questions on whether the MMA scene gives young women room to grow without being abused, how Roxy’s brain has fared after a long MMA career, and Roxy reveals some of her favorite fighters and also what she thinks about kickboxing heavy MMA.

Let’s get to it.

Dear Roxy – Women in MMA

As a woman who has been in the martial arts scenes for a while, do you feel that the scene provides a good space for young women to grow and succeed without being victimized or set up for abuse or failure?  Many “counter-culture” scenes claim to be progressive yet perpetuate misogynistic views regardless. I’m curious if this applies to the MMA scene as well. – From freewaveCanada

Dear Freewave,

I think that depends on the gym and the teachers. I’ve been fortunate to get treated well by my instructors at all the various gyms I’ve been at around the States, and in Japan. I personally have been taken seriously and have always felt safe. Well, actually there was one Thai instructor who always told everyone to go easy on me and that angered me, but that wasn’t abuse. It was just annoying. In the defense of some men, I think some women come to the gym wearing skimpy clothes hoping to attract men’s attention.

That happens more in the general classes than in the fighter classes, but still. It’s great when everybody just wants to train and get better, but that’s the ideal situation. In regards to being victimized, yes, I’ve heard of certain teachers being accused of sexual harassment. I’ve learned that parents have to look out for their children, and we should all be aware of possibilities. I think overall, the martial arts scene is very positive.

Dear Roxy – Brain Health

Serious Question: How is your brain? It is really rare to see current and former MMA fighters talking about their mental health. – From KnowledgeFair

Dear KnowledgeFair,

Gee, thanks so much for asking! There’s a clinic in Vegas called “The Cleveland Clinic” that specializes in brain trauma studies for contact sports. They ask full-contact martial artists, boxers, and football players to come in for routine check-ups so they can study the effects of impact on the brain. Back in 2016, I needed a CT scan or MRI to get clearance to fight for Invicta FC. A teammate worked for The Cleveland Clinic and said they offered a free MRI and $50 if I spent 4 hours doing tests.

I was poor so I said, “Sign me up!” They scanned my brain and analyzed it. I did memory tests, where I had to look at words and remember them ten minutes later. I did reaction tests where I had to tap the space bar the second I saw a red circle flash on the screen. I balanced on one foot with my eyes open and closed. They recorded my voice saying something to analyze the speed of my speech, and if I slurred.

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I did this three times, the most recent being last month. I knew it would be great for them to get a retired fighter’s information, especially after all this time. They want me to come back next year, but I’m done. Anyway, in this most recent visit, the doctor told me that my brain was exactly the same size (virtually identical!) as back in 2016.

My memory and reaction time was essentially the same. The doctor said the variants I noticed in the numbers weren’t significant, and I was above average for a female my age. The doctor actually shook my hand and said, “Congratulations, you made it out (of the sport) with a healthy brain.” I immediately called my parents with the news because they had been so worried.

Doctors say that players should be more informed. Brains can recover from concussions if it’s treated like an injury. You splint a broken bone, right? You need to take certain action for injured brains. Fighters aren’t educated enough, though, so that’s why those studies are done. Thank you, Cleveland Clinic! And go me! I educated myself about what to do after brain trauma in fights, and I successfully cared for myself.

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Dear Roxy – Favorite Fighter

Who are your favorite fighters to watch ? Male & female? – From Money-Firefighter

Dear Money-Firefighter,

Robbie Lawler is one of my favorites of all time. I cried when I got to shake his hand and tell him he inspired me to fight. We fought on the same card.

I love watching Raul Rosas Jr. because his grappling is sick, and I used to train with him at Syndicate. I love Gillian Anderson for the same reason – amazing grappling, and I trained with her on TUF 26, so I always root for her. Merab is an energizer battery and is amazing to watch. He was often at Syndicate when I trained. Super nice guy.

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Actually, I love watching fighters I saw on The Ultimate Fighter because I know about their personalities and histories, and it makes it more interesting for me. Since I’ve seen so many fights, it’s harder to entertain me. I literally fall asleep if the fight is only kickboxing (since I don’t like kickboxing much). Even with Grasso and Shevchenko, I kept nodding off until it went to the ground.

Sorry, it was late and I’m getting old. Haha. Volkanovsky is awesome to watch. Justin Gaethje is one of my favorite fighters, and my coach on TUF 26. I’m also a huge fan of Jonny Walker.

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If you’d like to submit your own questions for ‘Dear Roxy’ feel free to email me at, with the subject line “Dear Roxy”, or reach out on twitter @RoxyFighter with the hashtag #DearRoxy. Or simply leave your questions in a comment below on Substack or Look forward to hearing from you all soon.

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About the author
Roxanne Modafferi
Roxanne Modafferi

Roxanne Modafferi is a former UFC fighter with 19 years of MMA experience. She’s fought for titles in the UFC, Strikeforce, and Invicta. A jiujitsu blackbelt, she teaches jiujitsu at the gym, and English in the classroom. Roxanne has self-published three books in addition to contributing articles for this site. In her free time, she watches anime and plays video games (Twisted Metal, Skyrim, etc).

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