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Dear Roxy – ‘What are your thoughts on sparring?’

Roxanne Modafferi competing at the UFC Fight Pass Invitational 2 grappling event in 2022.
Roxanne Modafferi competing at the UFC Fight Pass Invitational 2 grappling event in 2022. | Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Roxanne Modafferi tackles your questions, Happy Warrior style, in her latest ‘Dear Roxy’ column for Bloody Elbow.

Readers have questions, Roxanne Modafferi has the answers. The ‘Happy Warrior’ is back to tackle all the whos, whats, wheres, whys, and hows of MMA with her Dear Roxy column. Going toe-to-toe with inquiries about fighting, training, and life in general.

In our last column, Roxy took a look at pre-fight interviews: why are they all the same? She also discussed the growth of women’s MMA and the sponsorship market, as well as her secrets to years and years of success in fighting.

This time around, we’ve got something of a health and wellness theme going on. We’re fielding questions about rehab and recovery from injury, nutrition and supplement use, and sparring in training. We’re also taking a more in-depth look at camp management and how much time to spend doing what.

Dear Roxy,

What have you found helps with recovery? How hard is it to find the balance between resting and recuperating, and getting back to the active life of a professional athlete? Thanks again. — Squib2012

Dear Squib,

Healing after daily activities is always a challenge. I, and most other motivated fighters, tend to push ourselves without giving our bodies much of a chance to heal. There is no time to wait, though. We can’t very well be taking every other day off, so we use other recuperation techniques. For example, after a grinding session of wrestling or physical conditioning, I take a five-minute ice bath. That reduces inflammation and lactic acid buildup in muscles. My trainer warns that it can minimize muscle growth if done immediately after training, so he suggests I wait at least half an hour for the heat shock proteins to do their job.

Yoga has been instrumental in reducing my back pain. Stretching my hips, legs, and hamstrings daily have helped those muscles connecting to my back feel looser. While competing, I got a sports massage once a week. Approved supplements are great – protein powder, BCAA (animo acids), and recovery drinks. This is where some naughty athletes take steroids for muscle gain, recovery, adding to stamina, and healing injuries. A super important factor that most people don’t think about is sleep. I wish I were able to get more myself. Whoever can balance these things the best for their individual needs often performs the best.

Dear Roxy,

What’s your protocol in terms of nutrition and supplements? – 3L1T Romania,

 Roxanne Modafferi
My sponsor Dominate Your Game gave me Musclepharm supplements. photo from 2013

Dear 3L1T,

I never used to take supplements before coming to Vegas, and then got introduced to Musclepharm’s “RECON” recovery drink. It worked miracles for me! I didn’t feel run down after hard MMA practices. It was approved by non-doping agencies and passed USADA tests, so that’s all I would take. That and protein powder, but mostly Recon. I took calcium, glucosamine, and caffeine pills every morning, and multivitamins at lunch. I don’t really like pre-workouts. My breakfast and caffeine are my pre-workouts. I was afraid to experiment with other supplements because USADA is finding tainted supplements with forbidden ingredients in random places, so I only trusted major brands like Musclepharm.

Dear Roxy,

What are your thoughts on sparring? Some top guys say they no longer spar before fights, while others ( old chute boxe team) felt it prepared them for fights better. Where do you stand? — PMA1974

Roxy sparring Serena DeJesus at Syndicate, 2017

Dear PMA,

Maybe I’m old-school but I also need to spar before fights. In the last year of my career, my coach suggested that I don’t spar because I was complaining of concussion symptoms in training if people hit me too hard. I need to work my technique on resisting opponents, though. I couldn’t just drill. I needed to practice fighting to be able to give that final push and get myself ready mentally and physically. I didn’t want to bang it out, though. I wanted to go 70% power, but my brain couldn’t take it.

Dear Roxy,

How about a breakdown of Fight Camp? How long, weight before and during, intensity of sparring, ratio of grappling to cardio and strength training? – Maton12

Dear Maton12,

I found a balance in training that worked for me so I tried to maintain that every day, regardless of whether I had a fight set or not. That’s probably why my cardio was so good. I wanted to be ready to take last minute fights. I liked to ask myself, “Could I make weight in two weeks?” I cut to 125 lbs, so I wouldn’t let myself go over 143 pounds. That way, I could diet down to 138 and cut the rest via water weight.

I tried to do extra cardio activities twice a week, like running stairs or burpees before class. I’d do strength training twice a week on other days. I’d spar three times a week, always at the same intensity unless I was injured and had to go easy. I liked to go 70%, which is hard enough to be serious, not enough to hurt someone.

I never understood people who tried to knock me out in training and then say, “Oh I have a fight coming up, I got excited.” No. Control your weapons. It shouldn’t matter if you have a fight or not. (sorry, rant)

I’d take only one day off for rest. It’s true that in the month before the fight, my strength trainer had me do more cardio and stamina exercises, so I’d never have a problem going hard the whole fight. In hindsight, I should have done more strength training and tried to bulk up more. However, my body type is more of a stamina fighter rather than power. Who knows, though. Lorenzo tried hard to get me strong!

Trainer Lorenzo Pavlica coaching Roxanne on squats, 2020

If you’d like to submit your own questions for ‘Dear Roxy’ feel free to email me at, with the subject line “Dear Roxy”, or reach out on twitter @RoxyFighter with the hashtag #DearRoxy. Or simply leave your questions in a comment below on Bloody Elbow. Look forward to hearing from you all soon.


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