Roxanne Modafferi (15-11) and Tara LaRosa (21-4) first met at a NAGA grappling tournament in the early 2000s. After going pro, they met again at HookNShoot in 2004, both fighting different opponents.
“It was the first time that I had really gotten to talk to Roxanne,” Tara told MMASucka.com. “We had always been around each other at NAGAs – she ran the higher weight divisions and I ran the lower. We finally got to hang out in a hotel room with other fighters on the card, watching videos of our opponents on somebody’s laptop. I was sitting up on the bed and she was sitting on the floor. Roxanne looked up at me and said, ‘I’d really like to fight you some day.’ Those days, I’d wear all black and sunglasses like I was some badass, and I was always so serous. That one comment changed the whole way I looked at the sport and opponents. It changed my entire life. I thought, ‘Okay that’s cool. I can be cool with someone I would fight.’
They fought for the first time in 2006 in Atlantic City in the MFC, where LaRosa won a dominant decision.
“I started thinking of us as rivals after that,” Roxanne said, “But we were also friends. We chatted by mail and sometimes on the phone. Fightergirls have the same challenges and issues, and relate to each other differently than they would their male training partners.”
A number of years and other matches later, they rematched in Moosin, in Massachusetts in 2010. Both fighters had improved greatly, but this time Roxanne took the win by split decision.
Now, they are set for their third rubber match in Invicta 8, September 6th in Kansas City, to see who breaks the tie.
“When I was first offered her as an opponent, I felt somewhat reluctant,” Roxanne admitted. “Tara used to talk now and then about a rubber match, but I kind of liked it even. If I win, she’ll be bummed, and if she wins, I’ll be bummed. But after I accepted it and thought about it more, I realized that I feel more comfortable fighting her than anyone. Our styles are similar, and our fights are always an exciting up and down scramble. I had no problem punching her in the face last time, and I doubt I will this time, either. In the end, the audience will win.”
Roxanne spent eight of her ten-year MMA career in Japan, but moved back to the US last September. She was selected to participate in The Ultimate Fighter season 18, won her elimination fight to get into the house, and then lost the first preliminary fight once inside.
“While in TUF, I got a sense of what it was like to train in the US. The coaching style was different than that of Japan, and I knew that if I wanted to stay at the top of the game, I had to move back.” She quit her English teaching job in Japan and moved to Las Vegas, joining Syndicate MMA, under the tutelage of head coach John Wood. She was offered a fight on the UFC TUF 18 finale, but dropped a decision to Raquel Pennington. Now officially 15-11 (16-12 including TUF), she looks to make a comeback against her old friend and rival.
Tara was also selected to participate on TUF 18, but lost her elimination fight against Sarah Moras. “After TUF, I went back to the gym and did what I could to find another fight. I was really disappointed that things didn’t go my way (in the TUF fight),” Tara said. “I really think I needed a third round. I’ve closed a fight in the 3rd round before, and I didn’t adjust for a two-round fight.”
She next fought Rin Nakai in Pancrase 252 last September, 2013, and found herself on the wrong end of a decision. “I thought I did pretty well. I ripped my shoulder out in the last round,” she admitted. “I didn’t tap, though. I thought I won the first two rounds.”
After that fight, she took a few months off to heal, but went back to training at her gym, Jackon-Winklejohn’s MMA in Albuquerque. “I’ve been training ever since, revising everything and learning more stuff.”
LaRosa has now been at Jackson-Winklejohn’s for a year and a half. “It’s absolutely awesome. Just the level of people I get to train with now is through the roof. There are always coaches to work with, always classes, always trainers and teammates. It’s just a really professional place that runs like clockwork.”
“This fight is just gonna be fun,” LaRosa said happily. “Roxanne and I are just so evenly matched, and our styles complement each other, that we just put on a really good show. It’s just such an honor to be able to come back to Invicta and being able to show myself, especially against Roxanne. This will be Invicta’s first show on Fightpass. What an honor to be a part of that!”
When Tara isn’t training, she’s reading lots of books – military genres, biographies, and history. She’s also obsessed with cooking. If you follow her on Instagram you won’t see selfies, but rather pictures of food.
Tara had a few words about her strategy for this fight. “I thought I’d take a Machida-esque approach and maybe run laps around her for a first couple of rounds. Cardio is going to be huge for this,” LaRosa admitted candidly. Roxanne also shares insight into her gameplan for this fight. “My main focus is to strategically place the knuckles of my right fist upon Tara’s jaw,” she stated.
Watch their fight on UFC fight pass. For updates, check out invictafc.com . For prefight entertainment and possibly taunting, follow the fighter’s journeys and ramblings on Twitter and Instagram : @roxyfighter and @taralarosa . Check out Roxanne’s blog at http://roxannemodafferi.net/RBlog/