Diving into Women’s MMA again, we approach a young star, Sarah Marie Goodlaxson. Fighting at 105lb and an Amateur record of 4-3. With little knowledge as to her fighting career besides our chats every other week. Let’s get into this and get to know Sarah and her fighting career.
Jason Przewoznik: Sarah, thank you very much for taking the time out to speak with me. We never really got into the personal life of who you are – usually it’s all jokes when we speak, but let’s do this! Care to tell us a little about yourself? Where did you grow up and share a bit about your upbringing and social life outside of MMA.
Sarah Goodlaxson: I grew up in Galesburg, Illinois – a country town of 30,000 in central-western Illinois. I usually don’t open up about specifics of my upbringing other than joking about growing up in such a conservative home. However, lately I’ve had some experiences in life that have made me even more grateful for the life I’ve been given and a little credit is due, I believe. My parents are like two lights in my life and I appreciate them more than I could express! When I was one day old, they flew to pick me up and bring me home – I’m adopted! My dad always tells me how he was wearing a blue suit with a yellow tie when the Social Worker brought me to them and that he still has that very tie! Without them my life wouldn’t have been half as amazing. I have had the great pleasure of being able to visit numerous different countries and travel all around the United States growing up. These memories with my family are some of the sweetest I have! …Due to my religious upbringing, I always felt a little different than most kids in school but looking back, it kept me from getting in a lot of trouble! The closest I’d ever come to being in a fight (with someone other than my brother, who is 6 years older than me) was playing around on the school bus in 1st grade and accidentally hitting my seat mate in the nose! My brother didn’t let me life that one down for quite a while- he heard about it all the way in his high school!
My life has changed drastically since those days. I’ve had a few “interesting” life experiences that were very unexpected, that have made me into an extremely independent and self sufficient person! Late in 2010 I made the move to Michigan for a new start and it was the best decision I’ve ever made!
I’m not a huge party person, I’m actually a pretty lame 23-year-old. On a usual day to day basis, I go to work and go to school, or go to training. I just adopted two super cute kittens so coming home every day is now extremely exciting. On the weekends I spend time with my boyfriend, his family, or our mutual friends (between studying). I’m mostly focused on achieving my academic goals and paying off some crazy medical bills I’ve had the pleasure of dealing with!
JP: Well I’m glad you were able to open up a little bit with us during this interview; and it’s great that you’ve seen the positive through your upbringing and matured with it! …What an actually touching story too. Parents seem great! I am also a lame 23 year old, so I understand that completely! (Haha) I also have a cat [She’s the spawn of Satan, though]… So you lived a somewhat conservative life in which you rarely [never] were involved with violence… What was it that inspired you to get into Martial Arts?
SG: Well, it’s a bit of a story. I actually got married at 18 years old and was divorced almost exactly one year later due to ye’ old cheating significant others! I’d moved back home and was very sad at the time. I didn’t get out much except to go to work and school, I was trying to avoid all the questions. Divorce is hard enough for an adult and it was pretty traumatic for me still being a teenager. Kids, listen to your parents when they tell you to enjoy your youth! …One day I happened to be hanging out with one of my best friends from high school, who is very interested in all kinds of Martial Arts and I accompanied her to a boxing/conditioning session. It annoyed me that I didn’t know what an uppercut or hook was and it felt GREAT to hit pads. I needed an outlet and that was just the thing for me! I started attending classes to let out some anger and found I really loved the workouts, too. Slowly, I gained confidence back, and began to believe in myself in all aspects of my life!
JP: Awesome, you’re an inspiration! So, was it a full-on conditioning course that led you to fighting? Was it actually contact boxing or was it more of aerobic boxing?
SG: I enrolled in the MMA class- sadly taught by someone that should never have been a coach. An 0-5 pro doesn’t have clout to teach, but I didn’t know that at the time! If I didn’t know how to do something I usually just stayed in the gym and practiced over and over until I felt I had it right. At that gym, they did an insane amount of conditioning to actual training. Every day was the same: you were required to do MMA Conditioning for an hour before doing stand up for an hour, and by the time their grappling hour came around basically everyone was already gone or too tired to get any real work done- thus the reason my stand up was always much better than my ground while I was with them! …To answer your actual question: I didn’t spar for a good couple of months when I first started. I was scared.
JP: Haha… This is very true, and persistence and dedication is really what paves the way. …I train myself currently as an 0-0 Amateur …ok, I’m not a fighter; I just hit the bag and think I’m tough – I guess so I can walk around saying, “I train UFC!” But, realistically, you gotta start somewhere – a horrible coach at first will at least get you into the basics and ‘fit’ to fight – the essential skills that are taught can always come later. You mention, “while I was with them” hinting that you left – what was next for you at that point?
SG: I left my first gym and went to Miletich Fighting Systems in Bettendorf, Iowa. It’s still my very favorite gym and I miss it. Pat Miletich is the greatest coach, so knowledgeable, and kind too! He gave me a lot of confidence in my ground game that I hadn’t had before. Any time he worked one on one with me I felt super lucky. I think I’ll probably sing their praises forever. Their gym has some exceptional fighters- every class I was amazed by something.
JP: Awesome; friend of mine chats with Pat often – apparently he’s an awesome guy – and yes, very knowledgeable! That’s great though. Did you start fighting Amatuer at this point or are we still slowly progressing towards that?
SG: No, no. I had my first fight September of 2009. It was ugly beyond ugly. I was thrown to the wolves by that very same 0-5 Pro a couple times, too. I think I was 2-2 when I went to Miletich.
JP: Haha, aw. Though, even though it was ugly… sometimes being thrown to the wolves is a great learning experience! …Due to me bringing it up now — would you like to share any horror stories of your Amatuer career up to this point, prior to leaving Miletech?
SG: Which story to tell- there are so many! My first “coach” was controlling in every way. I wasn’t allowed to go on a leisurely run without his permission and if he found out, I’d be kicked off the team- crazy stuff like that. His ex was part of the opposing team in town and he was obsessed with one-upping her and her team… and I unfortunately became the guinea pig for that crusade. He thought that if he had one student that got attention, he would feel legit as a gym, get more students than his ex and her team, and “win”. Win what, I really have no idea. It took me a while to figure out what was going on and by that time I’d been thrown under the bus in so many different ways. …It taught me to be really careful with who I trust.
JP: I definitely understand that. Trust is a valuable luxury – and people are ALWAYS willing to take advantage of young talent, or really just other people in general. It’s a cruel world. So you made your fight debut in 2009 and it wasn’t pretty – do you have any war stories (good or bad) that you’d like to share regarding actually stepping in the cage/ring?
SG: My first fight was the worst physically. I took on Angie Voorhees and she was 3-2 at the time. I won via split decision and I definitely looked like it. I was so nervous to go home I called my dad ahead of time to let him know my face was a mess! My professors at school all gave me a look of horror when I walked in to class the following Monday. Happily, I cut her left eye and that was pretty ugly! I wasn’t the only one with wounds – I just blocked a LOT of punches with my face in that fight. (Haha) …The worst injury I’ve had was actually during training. A rather large girl fell on my ankle as it was twisted the wrong way and broke it! It was crazy!
JP: Oh no! …and HAHA … I believe you’re supposed to use your hands / arms!
SG: Just a lack of training! (Haha)
JP: Awesome stories, Sarah! Going to trek back to where I left off before throwing us in a big circle. You were at Miletech with a 2-2 Amateur record, what was next for you after that?
SG: After leaving my first gym, I was planning on making a lot of changes in my life. After my divorce (seems like it was so long ago it didn’t even happen) I fell into a really abusive relationship and like I said earlier, I really needed a fresh start. …I was lined up to face a girl here in Michigan and her old team invited me to train with them for a week in preparation for that fight. Obviously, I readily accepted. While in Michigan, I found I got along with everyone here and applied to a school here. I got accepted and just took a chance! I didn’t want to leave Miletich but I knew I needed to finish my degree and get my life back on track! Now, I’ve never been happier! I’ve had three fights since moving here and went 2-1 on those. Unfortunately the Wednesday before that fight, I was sparring (lightly mind you- basically just moving around) and I stepped wrong and rolled my ankle badly. I tore a few ligaments and couldn’t even walk on it. I had to withdraw from the fight and they never agreed to reschedule, for some strange reason. It’s a fight I’m still wanting.
JP: Well that’s definitely unfortunate; and hopefully it’s a fight you will get in the future! Going 2-1 after those fights leaves you at your recorded 4-3 Amatuer record… What gym do you currently fight out of now?
SG: For my last fight I was training out of MASH/Warrior Way and Fuse MMA. FANTASTIC training there, very accepting and friendly instructors. I learned so many things so quickly there. …Money is tight and I can’t afford the memberships to MASH and FUSE MMA, even though I love both gyms. I’m still at H8 Squad.
JP: Alright, so you have a 4-3 Amateur record; now are you GOING pro or is that 0-0 record on Sherdog just up there because you haven’t made the switch yet?
SG: Yeah, the 0-0 record is because I haven’t made the switch and I don’t plan to any time soon. Too many girls go pro after a few fights and they aren’t ready. Guys have double or triple the amount of fights girls have, and even though girls use the excuse that there just aren’t many girls, they still could gain experience in Muay Thai, do grappling tournaments, etc… I’m making sure I graduate college also before I go pro and that I do everything right. I’m looking out for myself since nobody did that for me when I first started out!
JP: Very honorable, and very wise. At least you have a good head on your shoulders – keep that up! …Now I heard you have a fight coming up, but you also said you have some things to figure out before you’re ready for your next fight… Are you still on for May 5th?
SG: No, my coach wouldn’t let me fly down there alone, which is understandable. However, Ashley Cummins was going to corner me so I felt very comfortable with that. It’s hard to do something when your team isn’t behind you, though! Right now I’m 100% focused on my finals and getting my financial situation figured out (I’m needing a new car, stat!). After those things are taken care of, I’ll be able to get back in the grind!
JP: Alright, that makes sense and in time things will work themselves out. As an Amateur fighter – your personal life definitely needs to come first and I respect that! So besides the personal situations you’re dealing with; what’s next for you?
SG: Basically, right now, I’m concentrated on getting all the pre-requisites taken care of for my program. I just decided to switch my major to Marketing and minor in Communications. I’m transferring to my university after next semester so that’s a big change in location, apartment, gym, etc… so I’m really looking forward to that! I’m just taking things one day at a time!
JP: Understood, so where do you see yourself placing in the next year? What about the next 5?
SG: A year from now I think I will be completely focused on my program! I’ll be at a new gym (Slade Bittler has offered to help me find a good place close to where I’ll be living at that time, he’s fantastic!) and I’ll be thinking about Graduation! 5 years from now I plan to be either in California or Colorado… but we will see where life actually takes me! Either way, I plan on moving from Michigan. I’ll be at another new gym, hopefully one I can finally make my home. By the time 5 years has passed I’ll definitely be aiming to go pro by then!
JP: That’s great; love the way you think! Now, with the idea of going pro in the next 5 years – what do you see for the future of women’s MMA? Do you think it’ll finally get it’s notice in the larger promotions?
SG: As more girls, with talent, begin to come up, there will be more of us that deserve to be on the bigger level. As it is right now, I don’t believe fighting is a good way to sustain an actual career or make any kind of decent living. Basically all I can say with certainty is that I’ll continue to put my time in the gym, and watch how the game changes!
JP: Again, that’s a great mindset as you don’t let it consume you, but definitely dedicate a lot to the sport. You’re a hero to women! We’ll I’m almost out of questions… so let’s get to the good stuff! As a woman in the sport and as a fighter in general – is there any wise words you can provide to the readers or those aspiring to be fighters?
SG: Just train your butt off. Don’t let the attention consume you (especially if you’re a girl). Train for at least a year before your first fight and find a coach that cares about your well being and best interests. It’s much better to be cautious than to begin something when you’re not ready! Participate in grappling tournaments, kickboxing matches, boxing matches, etc… there’s no such thing as being too prepared. Take you time and focus on being a fighter through and through.
JP: Wise words, definitely wise words – many up and comers should follow this and not think because they can fight in the streets that they will succeed to the UFC…I’m bouncing all over on this one, but can you tell us where you got the nickname “Piranha” from?
SG: While I was at my first gym, there was always a “story” I was made to tell… but in all honesty, it was just suggested by the guy downstairs who ran an Embroidery and screen printing shop. He said, “What about The Piranha?” And, I liked it because it seemed to fit how I was in the gym at that time. The real story isn’t glamorous but, it’s the truth!
JP:How are you at the gym? Quick and aggresive? Or do you like to bite?
SG: Biting is my favorite move, obviously. Really throws people off. (lol) …But yeah, it seemed to fit because I’m small, quick, and aggressive.
JP: Haha…I like it, and yes it does seem to fit! Sarah, I have to ask our ‘trademark’ question because it’s been floating around since we started these interviews — who is your favorite super hero, and why?
SG: I was obsessed with Cat Woman when I was little. I think it’s pretty obvious why- I’m obsessed with kitties, and the character was played by Halle Berry. Hellooo! (lol) …I also loved Storm from X-Men (I still love X-Men). My brother had all kinds of super hero action figures and so she was my girl to play with. Her and Wolverine!
JP: Love the responses I’ve gotten from you this whole interview! This was definitely fun and I hate to see it end! But..before I allow you to walk away – is there any one you’d like to give a shout out to or any special thanks? Also, if anyone wanted to contact you for open fight cards and/or sponsorships – how can they reach you or your manager?
SG: I’d like to thank Slade Bittler from Tussle Fight Gear. He’s the sponsor that’s been with me since my 3rd ammy fight, supports me in EVERYTHING I do. Also, Vegas Chompers Mouthguards– they make AWESOME custom mouth guards! And, Intimidation Clothing! Also, Facebook or Twitter is a great way to get a hold of me as I look out for myself, line things up for myself, and probably won’t commit to any serious management until I turn Pro! My feelers are still out on that subject! I do everything myself due to the terrible past experiences I’ve had, haha! I haven’t found someone I trust to take on that task yet.
JP: In this game [and life in general] as I mentioned before, many are out for their own personal gain. It is definitely a good thing to hold out until you at least go pro and see what management can offer YOU for your talent… Regardless of all that – I have to say this has been a great interview and I’m looking forward to the finished product. I also hope to remain in contact throughout your career. You have Knockout Lounge’s support, Sarah!
SG: Peace out, girl scout! (Hahaha) — [I had to allow this ending because Sarah is freakin’ awesome! Hope you enjoyed reading!]
I just thought this was a cute staredown, sue me.