An Olympic boxer is ready to show the world there’s more to her than just her hands. Jennifer Dugwen makes her MMA debut this Friday for Triton Fights as the featured Strawweight bout. Newly-signed to Battlescar Management, Dugwen has been looking forward to this day since she left Rio in 2016.
“I’m ready for this!” she says excitedly. Originally set to fight in October, Jennifer’s fight fell through and she has been anxious to get in the cage ever since. While she counts famous boxers Alicia Ashley and Katie Taylor among her role models, Dugwen found there is much more opportunity for female fighters in MMA.
“Boxing is my first love, but I like to challenge myself. I see boxing and MMA as apples and oranges–they’re similar but completely different things.”
While Dugwen has been boxing for almost 8 years and represented the Federated States of Micronesia at the last Olympics, she added Muay Thai and Brazilian JiuJitsu more recently.
“It’s been completely new and different, but exhilarating. As soon as I finished the Olympics, I wanted to jump into MMA right away. I’ve been focusing on nothing else since, because this is something I want to prove myself in.”
Jennifer has proved herself many times in the past through her dedication to training and fights, but she feels like there is always more to improve on. The fighters she trains with inspire her to give nothing but her best. She says, “My role model is Alicia Ashley, who is definitely an amazing boxer. I look up to her so much. I train at Gleason’s, so I am surrounded by my talented friends Heather Hardy, Ronica Jeffrey, and Melissa St. Vil. I have a lot of respect for them. Boxing is a tough sport and they are some tough women.”
With a Filipina mother and Micronesian father, Jennifer feels like she represents the Islander fighting and warrior spirit.
“Courage is a big thing back home, regardless of what the obstacle is. You never know what you’re going to come across, but you have to make the decision to push forward. You MUST follow through, because you said you would. The island spirit values courage and it takes a lot of courage to step into the ring.”
Jennifer counts her mother as the biggest facet of her support team. When asked who else supports her, she laughs.
“I have so many people that I can’t even list them all. There are so many in my corner that have my back, that I don’t even know where to begin.”
She has two different gyms she can count on to help sharpen her to be her best, both of which are known for breeding champions – Gleason’s Gym for boxing, and the highly regarded mixed martial arts gym, Class One MMA. Despite the encouragement from her teammates, it has taken Jennifer some adjusting to get used to the variations between boxing and mixed martial arts. The techniques are completely different and some things that may be effective in boxing can get you hurt in MMA.
“I guess one of the hardest parts is figuring out which discipline I apply and at what time. Should I worry about punching at this moment or would a kick better serve me? Is this an opening for a takedown or can I do something else here? That’s another thing I love about it–I have so many options and can do so many different things. It’s never the same training session twice.”
What motivates Dugwen the most is seeing that her teammates are growing through the same exact things she is. She knows she is not alone in her pursuits, and can count on them to get her through her highs and her lows. Jennifer says, “Everyone has their own battles. But they still manage to wake up and get to the gym. Being a part of a group like that motivates me and makes me happy to be there. It takes a lot of work and energy–some days can be harder than others. I’m constantly training. But it is motivating to see that everyone has that same struggle. We can relate to one another and push through it.”
It takes a lot of guts and a huge heart to do everything that Jennifer Dugwen has already done–compete in the world’s biggest ring at the Olympics–and what she is about to–dive into a completely new sport. She credits her fearlessness to her passion.
“I live for this. I live to fight. It doesn’t matter how I feel or what’s going on around me. This is my life.”
Writer: Pari Aryafar
Photos: Provided by Jennifer Dugwen
Jennifer Dugwen, MMA, New York Fighting, Triton Fights, WMMA