Fight week is a massively stressful time for an athlete under the most ideal circumstances, having to deal with the last stages of preparation, a grueling weight cut, and various media obligations. Not to mention the fight itself.
Now imagine having to deal with your house being ransacked and your pet being killed just three days before you have to compete. That was the reality Jessica-Rose Clark faced prior to her bout vs. Paige VanZant at UFC St. Louis on Jan. 14.
Originally from Australia, the 30-year-old flyweight currently resides in Las Vegas and she was already in the process of changing addresses when the robbery occurred. Clark tweeted about the incident shortly after it happened and she appeared on The MMA Hour on Monday to elaborate on what went down while she was all the way over in Missouri.
“My housemate messaged me, she’s like, ‘Someone broke into our house an hour ago and destroyed it,’” Clark said. “She sent me a bunch of videos and there was so much stuff missing, the whole place had been ransacked and then I guess the cat had been taken to the vet, so she didn’t mention anything about that when I spoke to her. And then she texted me 10 minutes later was like, ‘They also kicked the cat. The cat had to be put down.’ It was a pretty horrific day.”
It’s that last detail that sticks with Clark the most. Her one-year-old cat Dwight - who she described as being “part of the family” - was attacked by the robbers and had to be put down due to the injuries he suffered. The intruders took training clothes, shoes, UFC gear, and cameras among other valuables, but it was Dwight’s murder that left Clark shaken and bewildered.
“That was the hardest part of it because all this stuff, some of it can’t be replaced, like they stole my UFC debut gloves and a bunch of stuff from my first fight, which I’m upset about, and some jewelry that meant a lot to me,” Clark said. “But at the end of the day that’s just stuff, but that cat, he would have been trying to talk to them. He was so friendly. He would have been talking to ‘em and then - who does that?”
Much confusion still surrounds the case, and Clark wasn’t sure if her home was targeted or whether she was simply caught up in a spate of crimes in the area. All she knew was that she had to cut weight and get ready for her fight, one that she never even considered withdrawing from given that she needed the money for her pending move.
The results spoke for themselves as Clark was able to focus on the task at hand and win a unanimous decision against VanZant. It wasn’t until that business was resolved that she allowed herself to process what had happened back in Vegas.
“I didn’t get emotional until afterwards, but literally as soon as the fight was done, I had to go kind of be alone for a little while because I had a real hard time with it afterwards,” Clark said, later adding that the incident did not sour her on the city. “I love Vegas. Vegas has made a lot of things possible for me that I couldn’t do back home. Something like this isn’t gonna make me want to leave, it just made me move into a more secure apartment and get a dog.”
So Clark has a new pet (two actually, as she’s also taken in another cat), a new place, and an unblemished record in the UFC. She’s also received support from fans and others who heard about her plight and have sent her DVDs and Blu-Rays to replace the ones that were stolen.
It’s a small gesture given what was lost, but Clark is choosing to focus on the positive and the people who chose to help rather than to harm.
“It’s just nice, like little things, it’s just nice to know that people care,” Clark said. “When people could be so bad to do something like that, there’s even more people who are good and want to help out.”