Listen – Catherine Costigan – “Don’t listen to everything people say you can’t do, because if you’re strong enough you can really do anything.”

Catherine Costigan – “Don’t listen to everything people say you can’t do, because if you’re strong enough you can really do anything.”

Long before boxing/MMA hybrid super fights and the explosion of McGregor mania, fighter Catherine Costigan was attempting to find her way in a sport that very few Irish people understood.

The Limerick woman was small for her age growing up and was discouraged from participating in contact sports due to her epilepsy. She first fell in love with martial arts through watching Bruce Lee movies with her dad, a smaller man using his skills in the art to overcome larger opposition.

Costigan has a 6-2 professional record, losing twice in 2015, before returning to the octagon this year and claiming a comeback win. At one point in her career the fighter was advised to retire by a medical professional, but chose not to give up on her dreams.

“The surgeon who refused to do the first neck surgery on me said it’s a very barbaric sport and to retire. Obviously, I didn’t go with that surgeon because I didn’t believe in him. I went with the surgeon who did Brian O’Driscoll’s neck and he had me back in 5 months. That surgeon even sponsors me now, to this day he’s on my banner because he gave me back my dreams. I’m trying to tell people, don’t listen to everything people say you can’t do, because if you’re strong enough you can really do anything.”

The mental aspect of combat sports is massive, months of training and preparation all fall on one night against another trained athlete whose goal is to do you harm.

“They are there to hurt you, in the way that they’re looking to win as fast as possible. You will get nervous, you will get scared, any fighter that tells you that they don’t get scared, that’s rubbish. Three hours before the fight your thinking, couldn’t I just have a normal life. This is the biggest thing mentally you will face in your life, I don’t care what people say”

Costigan’s first loss came in the summer of 2015 at Invicta FC in America. The Limerick woman was suffering with an injury at the time but did not want to pass up the opportunity of fighting on such a big stage.

“I was undefeated for a long time, then I made the mistake of fighting when I was injured and went to America and fought for Invicta. I did maybe 70 or 80 interviews in a month it was crazy. I gave so much of my time in every way but I needed to look at myself and say that there’s something up, I am injured I shouldn’t go in there.

It was such a big weekend and Conor (McGregor) was fighting the same weekend for the UFC, it was international fight week, this was my dream no one was going to stop me.

At the end of the day as my sports psychologist  said, I wasn’t even in that fight from the minute I got in there, I didn’t have a proper camp”

The shock of losing served as an eye opener for Costigan, the media attention began to fade and she was left pondering who were the people that were really in her corner and who were only interested in her for her success.

“When you’re winning everyone wants to know, everyone wants interviews you but when you’re losing they don’t really call you anymore and you filter out those people, and you see the really good people who will stand by you.”

The UFC have made a name as the biggest promotional company in the world of MMA. The narrative and build up of a fight or event can sometimes overshadow the actual fighting. Combat sports has always been a lucrative business, and Costigan says it took her a while to realise this.

“If you don’t market yourself promoters don’t want to use you. At the end of the day you’re a ticket selling tool, you are that, you are that product. I found that out quite early, I was quite shocked when I first found it out but then I said hold on now this is business, I’m a business women myself, at the end of the day it’s about the money”

You can listen to Catherine’s interview in full on the link below.

Despite the fact that the industry is driven by money, it is not something that Catherine has ever been interested in. As with most fighters the love for the sport and hunger for success is what drives her on.

“It’s never been about money for me. My first fight I made 50 pounds back in the day I kept it for good luck, my promoter always jokes that if he knew that he would have given me a cheque. I’ve never done it for money it’s been for the desire of showing myself.”

“It’s me going in there no one else is going in there, even if my coaches are outside they’re not taking the hits, they’re not taking the losses, to a point they do but to me, it goes straight in through my heart and after the two losses I learned a hell of a lot to make sure I’m going in there for the right reasons.”

Watch highlights of some of Costigan in the octagon below.

Video courtosy of SplitDecisionMMAUK.

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Luke Liddy