Elizabeth Phillips is scheduled to make her professional MMA debut against Miriam Nakamoto. Originally from Omak, Wash., Phillips currently trains at SikJitsu in Spokane, Wash., and is 3-1-1 as an amateur. She will face Nakamoto, who is 15-0 as a kickboxer, at Red Canvas: Submission 2 on Sept. 15, in San Jose, Calif.
In addition to being a fighter, Phillips is a senior at Eastern Washington University where she is pursuing a degree in exercise science. Phillips took some time out of her training schedule to talk to me about her upcoming fight, her beginnings in the sport and how MMA has impacted her life.
Nakamoto is a 15-0 kickboxer and usually those fights are highly touted in places like Strikeforce. How did you end up being tapped for the fight with Nakamoto?
I really don’t know. I won a title back in June. It was going to be my first pro fight and we really didn’t have many [opponents] to choose from to fight in Washingto, and my coach just asked me if I wanted to fight Miriam.
This is her first MMA fight and she had asked if I wanted to fight and I said, “Sure.” She’s a kickboxer, but I’m well rounded and I have a lot of cage experience so I thought it would be a good pro fight for me to take.
Looking back, how did you get your start in mixed martial arts?
One of my really good friends wanted me to get into it and asked me. I’m from a small town and I’ve always loved fighting. My first love is boxing and I actually had gotten into a little bit of trouble for street fighting and things like that. I thought it would be a good thing to do to stay out of trouble.
My friend took me to a gym and told me about SikJitsu. I tried it out and I fell in love with it ever since I first tried it.
What’s it like training and learning, not only with instructors at SikJitsu, but also pros like Miesha Tate, Sam Sicilia and Mike Chiesa?
It’s amazing. It really teaches you need to be well-rounded. MMA is a growing sport and you can’t ever really master It unless you are a freak of nature like Anderson Silva or someone like that. It’s something that you’re constantly learning and I think I’ve learned a lot on the ground from rolling with Miesha Tate and watching Mike Chiesa. I’m learning a lot of things from him and his style of fighting.
I’m really focused on that and sharpening my stand up. I don’t have an extensive history of boxing or muay thai like my opponent does, but you learn something new every day as far as sparring with someone like Miesha Tate, Mike Chiesa and Sam Sicilia. You can learn a little bit of every style of martial arts from training with those guys, so I’m pretty fortunate.
Miriam a straight up kickboxer and will probably have a little bit of ground training. What’s your initial strategy going into that match up?
I’m not really afraid to stand with her. People think,” Oh you just need to shoot right into her,” but that’s not the cage. Even though she’s a stand up fighter, this is still going to be different because it’s a MMA fight.
I’m going to look for the clinch and look for the takedown, but it’s not going to be right away and it’s not going to be predictable. If I have to stand with her, I will.
She’s got a longer reach and her striking is very good, so I’m going to stay far away or when I go in, I’m going to attack in hard.
I was looking over your fight resume and one of your fights was with Jessamyn Duke in Nebraska back in March. It was the first time you were traveling to fight outside of Washington. What was that experience like, not only fighting in Nebraska, but also being on the same card as experienced fighters like Elina Maxwell, Tara LaRosa and Gilbert Ivel?
It was first experience I’ve ever had with fighting [on the same card] with people who are very good at the sport and have been in it for a while. [Frank] Shamrock was there. Maurice Smith is a legendary MMA fighter that I met down there. I’d love to train with him sometime. It was a whole new experience.
I’d wish I’d trained a little bit longer for the fight. I had only known about it for two weeks prior to the fight and I was still very new. I only had about six months of MMA training and Jessamyn is a well-rounded athlete. She’s a blue belt in jiu-jitsu and really good at muay thai.
I thought that was one of best experiences I have had as far as fighting goes because she’s so awkward to fight and she knows what she’s doing. I would love to fight Jessamyn again. We’ll probably face off again sometime down the road. I was privileged to go down there [and fight] so early in the game.
What have you learned from that loss that you’ve applied to your training and have worked on since then?
I’ve learned a lot since then. I’ve worked on my ground a lot more, getting the clinch, using my hips way more and just training harder. Learning to cut weight the right way and working on my stand-up and my striking. Everything is a little more on point than it was before.
I think I would have done a lot better if I had been in better shape [for the Duke fight]. Who knows?
Off the topic of MMA for a moment, how has fighting and training affected your schooling?
My life is definitely harder. It’s fortunate for people who can just go and train and that’s all they focus on. I started school before I got into fighting and it’s something that I am determined to finish, but I don’t think it affects my game at all.
I still show up for practice. I still train as hard as everybody else. My day is definitely full, but so far I’ve been able to do both at the same time and it’s worked out. I don’t know how it will work out in the future, but I hope to finish school soon. I think it’s good for me to finish schooling as well as do MMA.
Is there anything you’ve learned from school that you’ve applied towards training?
I’m a personal training at Chrome Fitness in Spokane. I’ve trained a lot of people. I’m learning how to train body builders, working with a few different softball players and learning strength and conditioning. I think it does help sharpen my game. It makes me a little bit faster.
I definitely think strength training and knowing the science of exercise helps me and gives me an advantage. I see a lot of fighters who do well, but I think they should do strength training and proper nutrition because it’s very important.
You mentioned that Omak was a small town and talked about boxing being your first love. What led you to boxing and combat sports?
It was a small town, but it was also a school of hard knocks kind of thing. A lot of people got into a lot of fights for no reason. When I went to school and there’s a large Native Americans and Hispanic population and we were all just rough and rowdy.
I was a pretty quiet kid growing up, but as I got older, I started not taking people’s s**t, so I started fighting and grew to love it.
I got in trouble with the law not too long ago and ended up having to do some jail time. I sat 120 days in jail and pretty much hit rock bottom, losing my house and having to drop out of school. Once I started getting into MMA, my life turned around. I think MMA has helped me deal with stress and other things like that.
What does your family and friends think about you a fighter?
I have a lot of support from my hometown and they’re cheering me on. My best friends growing up, they are not surprised that I got into it.
My dad loves that I’m doing it, but my mom still has a hard time. She hasn’t come to any of my fights yet, so I’m hoping she’ll come around some time soon. Other than my mom, a lot of my family gives me a lot of support.
Win, lose or draw, against Nakamoto, how far do you want to go in MMA?
I don’t know, as far as I can really go honestly. It’s something that if I’m going to do, I’m going to put 100 percent into it and I’m not really afraid of failure. I’m not afraid of losing, I don’t think about losing.
I’ll go as far as it will take me. I’m going to go as hard as I can, as long as I can.
What else would you like readers to know about you?
I’m representing Spokane and I’m going to fight my ass off and come home with the win.
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