Mixed martial artist Roxanne Modafferi

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A veteran of the Ultimate Fighting Championship league, Roxanne Modafferi attributes her durability to her positive mental attitude.

For mixed martial artist Roxanne Modafferi, it’s all about positive thinking.

Nicknamed “The Happy Warrior,” the 38-year-old fights in the flyweight division of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) based in Las Vegas, where she trains with the Syndicate team.

She was ranked ninth in her division in June, with 25 wins, including four by knockout, and 19 losses, mostly by decision. She has appeared on two seasons of “The Ultimate Fighter,” a reality television series and mixed martial arts competition.

Modafferi was born in Delaware and grew up in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. She has a bachelor’s degree in Japanese language and literature from the University of Massachusetts and lived in Japan for eight years, where she taught English as a second language to Japanese children.

She is a black belt in jiujitsu, which she now teaches to children at the Syndicate gym in Las Vegas. “It’s extremely fulfilling, and I’ve become very passionate about it,” she says.

Modafferi started training as a teenager “for fun and to become a stronger person,” and eventually started fighting to test her abilities, according to her online UFC profile.

She tells Fra Noi she is most proud of having won “K-Grace,” a one-night, open-weight mixed martial arts tournament in Japan. She’s also proud of having fought for the title in the world’s major mixed martial arts organizations — UFC, Strikeforce and Invicta FC — even though the ultimate win has eluded her.

Modafferi is the author of two books, “Memoirs of a Happy Warrior” and “How to Be Positive: Mental Training by the Happy Warrior.”

“My mother taught me a lot about positive thinking,” she says. “I always try and end every thought or story with a positive thing. Some days it’s easier than others, but I tend to naturally think positive now.”

Modafferi recently posted a video on Twitter thanking her fans for helping her reach 100,000 followers on Instagram. In it, she credits her mother for teaching her how to tackle life. “Guys, thank you. Thank you so much,” she says in the video. “Mom, you were right. I don’t think I’m sexy. I don’t think I’m pretty. But from when I was a kid, my mom said, ‘Don’t worry. That’s OK. Be unique. Be yourself. You’re nice, and people will like you. Don’t try to be something you’re not.’ I’ve always held that close to my heart.”

Modafferi’s personal website is a testament to her sense of humor, featuring a “frequently asked questions” section with several lighthearted answers.

Question: “I’m 6 feet, 190 pounds, could you beat me up?” Modafferi’s answer: “That depends on a lot of things … mainly how fast you can run!”

Another question: “How about coming out to ‘Roxanne’ by The Police as an entrance song?” Her answer: “How about not? That song is about a prostitute.”

Also: “Why do you fight?” Her answer: “Because I frick’n love it!”

When asked to elaborate, Modafferi says she wants to be able to win fights using her jiujitsu skills. “I also want to challenge myself against strong opponents and see if I can apply what I’ve learned in training,” she says.

Her major regret is having taken a few fights while injured, she says. “I wish I had not done them.”

Modafferi says the toughest fights are the ones that are mentally challenging.

“Fighting Lauren Murphy (in June 2020) was hard due to circumstances around it, including training during the pandemic without a team behind me,” she says. “[Fighting] Laura D’Auguste (in March 2005) was hard because I felt my body wasn’t responding to me.”

Modafferi was scheduled to fight Brazilian Taila Santos in a flyweight match at a UFC event on May 8, but had to withdraw due to a meniscus tear. She had surgery in early May, and recovery went so well she was already back to training by late May.

Modafferi doesn’t speak Italian, but she once visited Calabria, Italy, where her father’s family is from. Her mother is Lithuanian.

“I believe my great-grandfather was one of several brothers set to inherit a family fishing business, but he said, ‘Heck no!’ and stowed away on a boat to America,” she says.

The above appears in the August 2021 issue of the print version of Fra Noi. Our gorgeous, monthly magazine contains a veritable feast of news and views, profiles and features, entertainment and culture. To subscribe, click here.


About Elena Ferrarin

Elena Ferrarin is a native of Rome who has worked as a journalist in the United States since 2002. She has been a correspondent for Fra Noi for more than a decade. She previously worked as a reporter for The Daily Herald in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, The Regional News in Palos Heights and as a reporter/assistant editor for Reflejos, a Spanish-English newspaper in Arlington Heights. She has a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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