Sunday 23 July 2017

Costigan promises a 'Rocky' moment as she battles to the top on home turf

Catherine Costigan pictured in the Pankration Kickboxing Gym in Limerick
Catherine Costigan pictured in the Pankration Kickboxing Gym in Limerick
Fighter Catherine Costigan spars in the the Pankration Kickboxing Gym in Limerick ahead of her Dublin bout

Shane O'Riordan

She is one of the rising stars of the martial arts world.

Now Catherine Costigan is set for top billing in the first ever female fight in one of the largest MMA organisations in Europe, the Irish Independent can exclusively reveal.

The 'Alpha Female' will fight Simona Soukupova in the 3Arena in Dublin on September 19 in what is the BAMMA martial arts organisation's first foray into Ireland.

"This fight has been put off again and again so we've been anticipating it for a long time and are expecting fireworks at the showdown at BAMMA 22," said spokesman Matt Bourne.

The Limerick native is fresh from her sixth professional fight, at the Invicta Fighting Championship in New Mexico.

She was defeated for the first time against American opponent Amber Brown.

But the defeat is only a minor setback and has made Costigan even hungrier to become a future champion. "Everyone loves Rocky - a real comeback kid - and I'm going to come back stronger than ever," she said.

"This is a pivotal moment in my career. I could easily just take a fight with a girl who has little experience to boost my confidence after that defeat, but in the back of my mind I know I wouldn't be happy doing that.

"I want to fight the best of the best, and I think Simona will be a good test. She won her Invicta debut so I know she'll be a difficult opponent," Costigan added.

Preparing for the battle ahead is tough. "The fight itself is obviously hard but the hardest part is cutting weight and training relentlessly for months leading up to it," she said.

Despite coming so far in the sport, Costigan admits that for women who are coming up through the ranks, the path presents more challenges than it does for men.

"Being a woman in this game is a lot tougher; I could count the professional Irish girls who fight on one hand…

"I normally spar against men because there just aren't enough of us here in Ireland to practice against."

Being settled out of the capital adds its difficulties too: "I'm not saying all the best fighters are in Dublin because they're not, they're all over the country. But getting access to sparring partners and meeting other fighters mostly happens up there."

There are also huge financial costs for up-and-coming fighters. "I'm constantly on the road to Dublin and Cork and travelling to other countries and paying for my own medicals… I teach Pankration (an ancient martial art) to pay the rent.

"Teaching comes first at the moment and fighting comes second. Sponsorship is difficult to get a hold of too."

Costigan co-owns the Pankration Kickboxing gym with her husband Dermot in Limerick and teaches classes there.

She has been involved in martial arts since she the age of 14, but at 35 she could easily pass for half her age due to taking anti-ageing supplements since turning 20.

So far she has refused the allure of moving to the USA.

"I feel as though I'd be turning my back on a lot of the amateur girls I train here," she says. "The US is nice for a holiday, but Ireland will always be home."

There will be 21 fights on the card at BAMMA Dublin and tickets start at €20.

Irish Independent

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