Jessica-Rose Clark has a serious abundance of stories to tell that expand far beyond the realm of her mixed martial arts (MMA) experience. When it comes to in the cage reflections, however, Clark remembers her second career bout to be particularly traumatic.
The Cairns, Australia, native made her professional debut in Dec. 2012 in successful fashion, taking out Mae-Lin Leow with a third round technical knockout stoppage. Clark would return in the following summer for a match up that was seemingly unfair on paper.
Tasked with future multiple-time Bellator 145-pound Featherweight title challenger, Arlene Blencowe, “Jessy Jess” was incredibly low on confidence with all factors considered.
“When I fought Arlene, that was the first MMA fight that my mom and my sister came to and I remember being out the back and being like two weeks before our fight, Arlene had just won two world boxing titles two or three weeks beforehand,” Clark told MMAMania.com. “I remember being at the venue in the Gold Coast and knowing my mom and sister were there and being like, ‘F—k. I’m about to get knocked out in front of my mom.’ I was terrified.”
While Blencowe’s striking background was established, she too was early on in her run as an MMA competitor entering the Bantamweight bout at 1-1. Despite Clark’s fears, they ultimately helped lead her to victory as she leaned on her wrestling skills — something she’s found herself criticized for by fans after her most recent win in Oct. 2021.
“That’s the only time I’ve been legitimately scared of someone I was gonna fight,” she said. “I was adamant that [me getting knocked out] was gonna happen. Which is why I won with wrestling, that’s why I wrestled her. I was not getting knocked out in front of my mom, I’m not letting that happen. So I actually think I got hit once or twice by [Blencowe] but I was so focused on getting my takedowns and doing what I needed to do to win that I don’t even remember. That’s the only person I’ve ever been scared of and that’s because I thought I was going to get knocked out in front of my mom.”
Both women have come a very long way since their days in the Australian regional scene and now find themselves on MMA’s grandest stages. In Nov. 2017, Clark made her arrival in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and has gone 4-2 since (11-6, 1 NC overall).
The 34-year-old Combat Sports Academy (CSA) product started her UFC run in the 125-pound Flyweight division, but returned to her original 135-pound home three fights ago and has begun gaining plenty of momentum.
This Saturday night (Feb. 19, 2022) at UFC Vegas 48, Clark looks to make it three straight wins by defeating Switzerland’s Stephanie Egger.
“I was stoked,” Clark said of getting the match up. “I had just switched from Ruby to Iridium [as management] and I hadn’t even given Iridium my list of girls that I wanted to fight. Because I’m kind of like, yeah, I’m not getting paid that well yet, you know? And the girls that are in the rankings, even though I know I can hang with all of them, they’re no joke. I always prepare for the best no matter what. But the girls that are in the top 15-top 10, they’re all f—king legitimate contenders. When I fight them, I want to be making a little bit more money. That’s just it. We all want to make more money. I don’t really care about ranked opponents vs. non-ranked opponents outside of the financial side of it.”
The timing of Egger needing an opponent worked out perfectly for Clark, who has dealt with injuries over the past three years. First after a 2019 defeat to Pannie Kianzad then in her 2020 return masterclass against Sarah Alpar that resulted in a third round finish accompanied by a torn ACL (watch highlights).
Now, it’s back to all systems go as she continues her ascent at a comfortably manageable pace.
“I was previously being told that I wasn’t going to get a fight until April,” Clark said. “After the last fight, I had been asking for March. That gives me a month or two to chill. Every time I’m not in camp I’ve got to travel a lot for sponsors and stuff like that.
“I was just so f—kin’ happy to not be on the shelf for a year,” she continued. “[My manager Jason House] could have offered me a fight on two weeks' notice and I probably would have said yes because I was just so stoked to not have to wait. I’m tired of waiting. I’ve had so much time off between the last three fights, I’m just tired of having to wait. As long as I’m getting my win bonuses, I don’t care who I fight.”
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