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MMA pioneer Debi Purcell on Sexton, road to mainstream TV

In late 2007, Muscle and Fitness HERS wrote an article about female fitness role models entitled, "Women Strength". The article opened by introducing readers to four women that were the class of their sports.

"Skateboarding has Tony Hawk. Women's soccer has Mia Hamm. And if female mixed martial arts (MMA) ever goes mainstream, it will have Debi Purcell," the magazine said.

Unfortunately, when female MMA first did go mainstream the woman most credited for helping to start and keep the sport alive wasn't getting the fights on television. Purcell, whose website FighterGirls.com helped keep the sport vibrant in the dark years was notably absent.

It wasn't that the women who were fighting on EliteXC's cards didn't do a great job, because clearly they did. It's just hard to fathom that when the sport finally did go mainstream the first woman to compete on a King of the Cage card didn't get her just due.

But times have changed, folks. Along with this, Debi Purcell is finally going to get that chance to shine in front of a mainstream audience at ShoXC's next event on August 15th. And lucky for MMAFighting.com's Robert Rousseau, she found the time to discuss this, the past, and more with him.

MMAFighting.com: How has training been going?

Debi Purcell: Except for the last two days, it's great. I'm in the best shape of my life right now. So it's great.

MMAFighting.com: Where have you been training and whom have you been training with?

Debi Purcell: I train with Marco Ruas. I train at Subfighter with Adam Lynn, Russ Muira, Rick Estrada, and Dinicola. I train my hands with Genaro Hernandez. He's my boxing coach and I've been doing jiu jitsu with my fiancé, Ronald Assumpcao, who's a Brazilian.

MMAFighting.com: I know you've been doing martial arts for a long time. When did you start training in it?

Debi Purcell: When I was a kid I got into martial arts when I was I think about 14 or 15; that was the first time I started. Just because I was kind of like a street kid and I just wanted to learn how to beat people up. I thought it was cool. Obviously, now my motives have changed but that's how I got into it.

MMAFighting.com: What kind of martial art did you start with?

Debi Purcell: Kickboxing.

MMAFighting.com: Recently there's been an awareness in the sport if you will, in terms of female MMA and now you're about to become a part of reaping those benefits in EliteXC. That said, some other females got their shot to shine maybe a little quicker than you despite your resume. Was that every disheartening to you?

Debi Purcell: I think in the beginning, but I see the door that's opened up for me now and so instead of being bitter I'm just trying to be grateful. I think in the beginning, yeah I was. In the beginning I was pretty like? wow, kind of crushed. But it is what it is and that's just life.

MMAFighting.com: Yep, that's the truth. You lost your last fight to Hitomi Akano, who's a very good fighter I know. What did you think of your performance there and how much did ring rust impact you because I know there was a little bit of a layoff between fights?

Debi Purcell: I had a long layoff. I think the ring rust didn't impact me as much as everything that happened during the fight. It was not a great experience for me. Marco asked me not to take the fight because he didn't like the rules for me because the rules do not suit my style of fighting. It's because there's no strikes on the ground and there's a 30 second ground rule, all these weird rules. Also, he said it's in Japan so you're going to lose unless you knockout or tap out.

But I didn't want to listen. So I went and then the weigh in didn't take place until about ten minutes before I fought; I didn't know that until the day that I got there so I cut all this weight and I'm really stubborn about making weight no matter what. So I made weight like right before I walked into the ring.

I personally don't think I performed anywhere near my potential. And then I tore my knee in the first or the second round, my ACL. I fought and I don't think I lost. I don't think I fought well but I definitely don't think I lost the decision. But they gave it to her and that's what's going to happen in Japan, you know?

MMAFighting.com: How's your ACL now?

Debi Purcell: Good. I had surgery and I took a long time to fix it up and heal and rehab and all the stuff I hate doing (laughing).

MMAFighting.com: I know you have FighterGirls.com. Tell me about that.

Debi Purcell: It's growing a lot now. It originally just started as a place for the women and the promoters to meet because when I first started in the sport I could not get a fight. I tried everywhere and it was impossible. I just wanted to network. So that's why I originally started it, to just kind of build the sport for the women so we had a place to go.

Now it's evolved and we've got a really good message board with a lot of information?news, clothing, everything?it's still there to support the sport; that's what it's about for me. It's my website.

MMAFighting.com: Yeah, it sounds like it helped the sport in the beginning because it was tough. What do you think of your upcoming opponent, Rosi Sexton?

Debi Purcell: She's amazing. She's definitely world class. I like her as a person; she's a great person inside and outside the cage, so I've got nothing bad to say about her. All good stuff.

MMAFighting.com: Without giving away too much, what do you think her strategy may be going into this fight? Do you have any idea of what you think she's going to try?

Debi Purcell: Well, I mean if I go by her previous fights, in all of her fights she tries to kind of bum rush and hold you against the cage and then go to the ground. I'm assuming that's probably what she's going to do because it's probably considered that my stand up's better and she probably thinks that her ground is better. That's what I've watched her do in past fights. But you never know. She's been training since then and you never know. . .

We're pretty much prepared for anything. So me, I'm comfortable on my feet; I'm comfortable on the ground; I'm comfortable on my back; I'm comfortable on the top on the ground; I'm comfortable in the clinch, so I feel really confident, you know? Anything can happen, but I feel really confident in every position right now.

MMAFighting.com: If we assume going forward that this fight goes well for you, is there anyone in EliteXC that you have your sights set on?

Debi Purcell: Obviously, I've had my sights set on Gina Carano from the beginning. But she has a target on her back; everyone wants to fight her. So we'll see what happens. I'm fighting in a lower weight class at 130 instead of 140. I think I'll be willing to fight at 130 or 140; it doesn't really matter to me.

MMAFighting.com: Do you have a prediction for the fight?

Debi Purcell: I think I'm going to knock her out. That's what I think.

MMAFighting.com: Just for the fans, do you have anything you want to say to them or anybody else out there?

Debi Purcell: I appreciate my fans because I don't have fair weather fans at all; they've always stuck with me. I get a lot of support and a lot of emails and I really appreciate it.

I just feel that this is an opportunity to showcase what I've been training for my whole life and feel as long as I do that I'll be happy. That's all I ever want to do is just do what I'm capable of doing. If I do that, I'm happy.

Watch Debi take on Rosi Sexton live on Showtime this Friday, August 15 at 11pm ET/PT.