- Alexis needs no introduction to those familiar with the sport.
- Ranked n. 1 in the UK and Five times World champion at around 53-55 kg. in a weight division full of talent at the moment. Ambassador of female Muay thai, a fighter’s heart and a hard working woman, Alexis divides her time between training herself and training other women in her home Stars Gym London. I missed Alexis in couple of occasion during her stay over in Thailand, but I saw her fight on TV a couple of times, so I did take the chance to finally ask her a few questions. She is coming off her American debut at Lyons Fight promotions event in Las Vegas and she is set to face fellow UK fighter Iman Barlow soon for another World title.
- 1.Hello Alexis, how are You? Could you Tell us a little ‘about you, your childhood what you wanted to be as a grown up?
- 1) Hi Chantal! I am good thanks, back in training now for my next fight, so I am happy I grew up with 2 brothers so I used to get into fights with my siblings quite a lot! I was always playing outdoors hanging out with my brothers and their friends so I suppose I was a bit if a Tom boy growing up. Was heavily into sports at school, on all the teams and highly competitive. I did go off on a tangent when I was 18 and studied fine art sculpture at university and then worked ten years in London in the art industry. It was only until recently that I moved full time to become a personal trainer, but I have been training in Muay Thai for nearly a decade and a pro fighter for about 7 years.
How did you you discover Muay Thai and combat sports?
- 2) I discovered Muay Thai through a close friend of mine who suggested I join her at a class as an alternative to normal workouts at the gym. One class and I was hooked! I met my trainer and friend Mati Parks about 3 years later and he inspired me to become a fighter. Seeing what he did and what he achieved, I was drawn in.
I know you had spent 6 months training in Thailand last year. Could you tell me something about that experience?
- 3) it was actually 8 months in the end. It was probably one of the best things I ever did, on a physical, mental and emotional level. It is always something I wanted to do and I decided now is as good a time as any. I lived at Kiatphontip Gym, training and fighting full time. Training was intense, 6 days a week twice a day and if you were fighting you were expected to work extra hard and do even longer runs and training sessions. I learnt a great deal about the Thai scoring system out there which is different from in the Western world. My clinch work improved massively as did my basic technique. It also calmed me as a person. Being around Thais it really grounds you and makes you less worried about little things which may seem so important back at home. The whole experience really opened my eyes.
- 4. Can you compare the training/fighting in Thailand and in the UK? What are the differences?
- 4) the basics of the training is the same wherever you go in the world. At the end of the day you are learning a sport. You are taught to punch, kick, knee, elbow, clinch etc. but the intensity is higher in Thailand and you have other factors to take into consideration. Such as the heat, the food, the fact that you don’t have to work outside of training so there is very little to do or to distract you. The Thais have a very healthy approach to fighting, win or lose as long as you show a big heart and train hard, that is what matters. In the western world too much emphasis is put in to winning, adding a more stressful dimension to the fight and also your training. The minute the Thais saw me stressing about a weight cut or about not training hard enough or not doing enough running etc, they would simply just laugh. “No worry Alexis! You train hard, you fight easy!” The scoring system in the fights is different. For instance rounds 1& 2 are not really counted, rounds 3 & 4 count then by round 5 depending if there is a clear winner you either go heavy or sit back. In the western world we tend to go heavy for all 5 rounds.
- 5.When you won the first title of Muay Thai, against who have you fought and what emotions did you feel?
- 5) my first title was the UKMF English title against Lucy Payne. I was in a bit of a strange place at this time and is the only fight outside of Thailand where Mati has not trained me or been in my corner. He had left the gym I was training at at the time (I soon followed afterwards) and I was very unhappy with the coach I had at the time. He did not train me properly and although I won the title, the fight was a real mess. I overpowered Lucy and won on pure aggression and my clinch but it was not one of my most graceful of fights! My first world title win was about 3 years ago against Malika Machtoune of France. I had trained with Mati for about 3 weeks and then spent the next 2 weeks at Kiatphontip training for it. I look back on that fight as the day I really executed my game plan to perfection. I felt elated, unbelievably happy and a huge sense of achievement. It was the day I confirmed to myself that if you apply yourself 110% and get your mind as strong as you can, anything is possible. No one would have beaten me that day.
- 6. Who has been your toughest opponent so far? I know you have recently being stopped for the first time by Tiffany Van Soest in Las Vegas. Could you tell us something about that fight. I personally watched the fight live and thought you were dominating the fight all the way.
- 6) my toughest opponent to date was Jessica Gladstone of Canada. I fought her shortly after my first world title win at a weight category heavier than normal for me. She is the only girl who really stood her ground with me and traded for five rounds. She has a massive fighting heart and true Thai style. Tiffany was not my toughest opponent but was probably the smartest I have fought, her corner found my weakness and she capitalised on it. Now I have had time to reflect and watch the fight back I do believe I would have won had it gone the 5 rounds. It was a big mistake I made but I have learnt a huge lesson from it. It just wasn’t my time to win that day. I do hope she will consider a rematch in the future.
- 7. Could you tell me 3 emotions you feel right before a fight.
- 7) Excitement, anticipation and a nervous energy which I always channel in a positive way and keep happy and smiling (you’ll notice me always dancing into the ring with a smile on my face!)
- 8. What is your pre-fight-ritual? What do you do the day before the fight? Is there anything special you do? Any particular food you eat? Are you superstitious?
- 8) I don’t tend to get superstitious and I never normally do the same thing before every fight. I think maybe living out in thailand and also being with Mati for so long has taught me not to believe that any of this stuff affects how you fight in the ring. Mati always tells me that if I train hard and believe in myself then you can only do your best and that is all he ever expects from me. The Thais tend to have a similar approach. I think the only thing I do the same is go to the toilet about ten times before I fight! It drives Mati mad, especially as we are just about to glove up and I say…”just one more time!”
What are the titles you have won in your career?
- 9) I hold the IKF, ISKA, WKA, WPMF & WMC MAD World titles, the ISKA & WMC European titles, and the UKMF English & British titles.
- 10. How do you feel being a woman in a male dominated world (the world of Boxing /Muay thai)? Do you suffer? Are you doing something to promote females in the sport?
- 10) I don’t think I have ever really suffered a great deal being a female in this sport although I do admit I have often been treated differently by men because of my sex. But normally that only lasts a few minutes before they realise I can hold my own against most people at my gym! I have experienced the stigma towards women in the past and although it does not really affect me now I do see it affect other women. As a result I promote female Muay Thai at my gym, I have a large number of female clients and I teach women only Thai boxing classes twice a week. Some women prefer to train in a female only environment where they feel they can work comfortably.
How did you feel having to go under the bottom ropes to enter the ring in Thailand?
- 11) going under the ropes to enter the ring when I fight in Thailand doesn’t bother me one bit. How I enter the ring does not affect how I fight.
Describe your typical day? (Training, entertainment, etc.)
- 12) a typical day for me would be up at around 5am or 6am and straight into work (my journey normally takes around an hour). I teach until around 10 or 11am then I normally go for a run and work on my shadow boxing and bag work. I might have another client or two to train and then I will train with Mati at around 2pm until 4 or 5pm. I normally then get a couple of hours to chill out before I take an evening class until around 8pm. I get myself home, have dinner and bed. Weekends are different, Saturday I work until 1pm then train until 3pm and Sunday I rest.
How do you train Muay thai camp, who is your instructor, who’s your relationship with him?
- 13) I train at Stars Gym in London. My trainer and manager is Mati Parks. I have been with him for about 7 years. He is in charge of all of my training, pads, sparring, strength and conditioning & cardio. I also have another trainer Neal Dunn who does pad work with me and some strength work. I have a very good relationship with both my trainers. I trust Mati 100% and over the years we have developed a strong bond and a winning formula in our training. Neal I have only been training with for the past few months but he is a valuable part of our team. We all get on very well and have a good laugh.
Life in Thailand, living every day and see so much poverty, what do you think? What is your relationship with Thailand, you feel included, or you feel like a stranger, a “farang”?
- 14) I think westerners will always be treated differently and as a “farang”. The Thais are a very friendly and welcoming race and it is easy to fall in love with the place and the people. But they do very much look after their own and they will always put you in your place should you step out of line. But they treat with with respect and a big heart until you cross them, they are fiercely loyal to their own. I enjoyed living in Thailand for the time I was there but after 8 months I was ready to come home. I love my country and I missed normal things like the food, the cooler weather (believe it or not!) and speaking to English speaking people! But Thailand does have a big place in my heart and I am extremely fond of the place.
Who are your favorite fighters? tell us about them and if you’ve got to know them or train with them.15) I love Yodsanklai, his solid aggressive style and perfect execution of his opponents. I really like Andy Howson and his forward style of fighting. I always see him as a ‘fighter’ as opposed to a ‘boxer’. There are so many fighters I love I can’t really choose a favourite. Favourite female fighters of mine are JoJo Calderwood (who I fought a couple of years ago) and Germaine de Randamie.
- 16. Which one was your most memorable fight?
- 16) I think my most memorable fight was one I had in Thailand the first year I went in 2007 or 2008. I had gone out for a 2 week trip with a few of my friends from the gym. I wanted to fight at the end of it and so Mati arranged that for me through the WMC Camp in Koh Samui where we were staying. The day I was supposed to fight, my opponent had been changed and I was told I was fighting on another show 2 days later (this often happens in Thailand, last minute changes). Unfortunately Mati had already booked his flight back to Bangkok so he could not be there for my fight. I was left with only 2 friends from the gym. I was in good hands with Noom my Thai trainer who looked after me well. On the evening of my fight Noom drove me to the venue, getting lost several times on the way. We got to a large outdoor festival and it took us nearly an hour to find out where the ring was. When I arrived I was told to change straight away as I was up in 2 fights! Changing rooms were the field next to the ring and there were no toilets anywhere. I had the quickest massage and hand wrapping session ever and then I was told to sit by the ring. My opponent showed up and she must have been at least 5 or 6 kgs heavier than me and actually looked like a man! When we got in the ring I could see the looks on the Thais faces as they were thinking this poor little farang about to get a beasting! The betting started in my opponents favour. The bell went and I stormed in with punches and kicks, the Thai didn’t know what had hit her! By the end of the second round all of the betting had turned in my favour and the ref then stopped the fight in the third as I had cut my opponent badly with an elbow. It was my most memorable fight because so many things had gone wrong or been changed in typical Thai style that night. But I decided to go along with the chaos of it all, enjoy it and against all odds I won. It was the start of a saying that I now live by. If the mind is strong, the physical possibilities are endless.
What are the next events you will participate to? Tell us about your future opponents.
- 17) my next fight is a big one. It’s a K1 world title fight against Iman Barlow at the O2 in London. It’s been a much anticipated fight and I am really looking forward to it. After that we have nothing planned but Mati is in talks with a few people about some matches. Watch this space!
In your free time what are your hobbies and your passions?
- 18) I don’t really get much time out of the gym at the moment. I love what I do and I get paid for doing my hobby every day! If I am not training myself I am teaching others and helping Mati develop the fight team at Stars. As I mentioned before though my background is in art and so when I can I try and get to see exhibitions, living in London I have access to a huge amount of galleries. I have a niece who was born last year and so I try and visit her as much as I can as well as other members of my family who all live outside of London.
What are your future ambitions? who will Alexis Rufus be?
- 19) my future ambitions are to retain my spot as UK no. 1 at my weight and continue fighting successfully for the time being. I hope to fight abroad again perhaps America again. There are a few girls I hope to fight before I retire and I definitely want a shot at a WBC belt (of course I want to win it!) I want to then put my time and energy into others, into the fighters we have at Stars and the clients I teach too. I want to work alongside Mati helping him develop the team at Stars and continue to push female Muay Thai when and where I can.
- You can follow Alexis on her Facebook page
- and on her website http://alexisrufus.co.uk/
- or Twitter https://twitter.com/AlexisRufus