Fans on Twitter have demanded that UFC President Dana White and matchmaker Sean Shelby give prospect and Four Horsewomen member Jessamyn “The Gun” Duke a fight and now they’ll get their wish.
Duke will rematch Elizabeth Phillips at UFC on Fox: Dillashaw vs. Barao II, July 25. The two first met in 2012 when they were both amateurs. “The Gun” submitted Phillips with a guillotine choke early in the second round.
The Four Horsewoman is coming off a year layoff, a result of the broken hand she suffered in her fight with Leslie “The Peacemaker” Smith. Duke has made appearances at professional wrestling shows – including Pro Wrestling Guerilla and WWE – and started streaming gameplay videos, but her heart was always into fighting and she’s ready to return to the octagon.
Duke took some time out of her schedule to talk about recovering from her injury, training, meeting Phillips and WWE rumors.
Al Stover: Like James T. Kirk and Khan, or Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate, there are rivals who are destined to meet. How does it feel to be facing Elizabeth Phillips again?
Jessamyn Duke: I always knew we’d be facing each other again. The first time, she took the fight on short notice. I always knew she’d want a rematch. I’m excited and she’s a good opponent.
AS: Right on. Let’s talk about the injury for a moment. I interviewed Daniel Straus a few weeks ago and he put it best when he said “injuries suck.” How was the healing process?
JD: Four months after the time I broke it, it was healed but hard for me to train it. Four months isn’t that long, but it felt like forever. I did a lot of therapy to get my strength back. You saw it, it was quite broken. I couldn’t even run, the impact of the ground was painful. Josh Barnett got me into a lifting program shortly after my surgery. It kept me strong without the impact. It also strengthened my grip. It was the change up I needed. It worked out in the end.
AS: Besides physical therapy and healing, how has training been for you?
JD: I’ve been ready to fight since December. I’ve been in pre-camp mode for months. My weight is pretty good. I’m training at CSW full-time, it’s different than what I’m used to, being in this kind of shape. There’s a lot of wrestling. I’m training with a lot of different guys and experiencing a lot of different styles. It’s really good for me.
AS: You’re training with some pretty good wrestlers like Josh Barnett and Shayna Baszler. How has wrestling helped your fight game?
JD: Wrestling is something that I’ve been lacking before. I always knew what it was but I never focused on it. Before my submission game had a lot of rubber guard. This style, it’s about maintaining top position and funding any position I can get my hands on. I’m way more developed in those areas and much more balanced. I’m also working on my striking and clinch game. It’s to complete of myself. I love it. I love going to sparring and seeing what I can do. It’s reignited my fire. I never had that fire, but this training has added to it. It shows that you can learn something every day.
AS: Before we talk a little bit more about training, let’s point out this rumor about the WWE being interested in you. I know you’re a big wrestling fan and anyone would love to be a part of the WWE, but is there any validity to these rumors?
JD: It was something you see on those rumor websites. People are going to talk. Everyone knows we (the Four Horsewomen) are wrestling fans. They are huge supporters of us as well. There’s nothing outside of the realm of possibility but what I am focused on right now is my fight July 25.
AS: As they say in the wrestling business “never say never.” Back to training, I’ve seen a familiar face in your training camp. She’s one of my favorites – Kaitlin Young, a one-woman wrecking machine. What’s it like working with someone who has not only been in the fight game for awhile, but is also one of the hardest hitters in combat sports?
JD: Ever since Kaitlin moved out here, we made an effort to train together whenever we could. She’s one of my favorite people to train with. She’s also working with many high-level coaches and continually evolving. She’s really helped me fine tune my striking and we’ve gone through some brutal Thai sessions. I feel confident I can unload all of my tools, especially since I’ve fought Elizabeth before. She’ll come into the fight in good shape and I fully intend on coming into this fight in better shape. Kaitlin is also going to be in my corner for the fight.
AS: It will be good to see Kaitlin at a UFC event, even if she’s just a cornerman. As for the fight itself, what it will be like for you to finally return to the octagon after such a long time away?
JD: I’ve tried to visualize it and dream about it. I’ve never been super nervous. I’ve felt a little bit of the butterflies. It’s been nerve racking because I’ve never been out of a fight for this long. Even when I fought as an amateur and was struggling to get fights, I would compete in a kickboxing match or grappling tournament to keep myself busy. I would find ways to stay active. Fortunately, I’ve had training sessions where I felt like I was in a fight and you feel like the pressure is on. That’s why they call it the “pressure cooker.” It’s different because it’s the UFC. It’s the whole process leading up to the fight. That’s another thing. I haven’t cut weight but I am at a better weight than I was before. It’s a new me and I’m still trying to figure myself out. This is a whole new experience.
AS: It sounds like it and many times fighters who go through a transformation find that success. To finish it off, something about you that is not a rumor is you are a gamer. E3 just happened and there are many great titles coming down the pipe. What are you excited for?
JD: One thing I’m excited for is Fallout 4 and that comes in November, which is probably when I will fight again. I also want to play the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Everyone has been talking about it. I’ve gotten back into H1Z1. That’s a really fun game. I had a gaming channel on Major League Gaming, but I’ve been having some problems with my machine. I should have that fixed after the fight.
AS: I’m sure fans will be waiting. As always Jess, good luck with the fight.