by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
(Photo courtesy DebiPurcell.com)
While much of the attention the IFL has garnished has been focused on the team coaches, and rightfully so, there is none the less an abundance of talent within the assistant coaching ranks.
For example, Renzo Gracie’s Pitbulls have incorporated former King of Pancrase Ricardo Almeida as one of their assistants. The Anacondas of Bas Rutten’s leadership have brought in top tier instructors such as BJJ Master Sergio Pena and Muay Thai guru Shawn Tompkins. Perhaps even more impressive is the pool of talent Matt Lindland has drawn from for his Wolfpack in the form of National Champion wrestler/MMA veteran Chael Sonnen and current PRIDE Middleweight/Welterweight Champion Dan Henderson.
Yet, among all the talent within the assistant coaching ranks, one name stands out amongst the rest, Debi Purcell of the Marco Ruas-lead Condors.
Purcell, one of the true pioneers of woman’s MMA, brings decidedly unique and equally skilled attributes to the Condors as an assistant coach, which will itself be on display when the team takes on the surging Sabres at the IFL’s next event on March 17th in Los Angeles.
Shortly after one of her personal training sessions, Debi spoke to MMAWeekly about joining the IFL, the Condors’ upcoming battle, and the state of women’s MMA.
MMAWeekly: First off Debi, How did you get involved with the IFL?
Debi Purcell: Marco just asked me. [Laughs] When he asked me to do it I was in shock because I didn’t expect it. I was just really, really happy and grateful for the honor.
MMAWeekly: Nobody says, “No,” to “The King of the Streets” Marco Ruas do they?
Debi Purcell: No, you don’t say, “No,” to Marco Ruas. [Laughs]
MMAWeekly: What did you think of the IFL prior to joining as an assistant coach on the Condors, and what do you think of it now that you’ve had one show under your belt and your second coming this weekend?
Debi Purcell: I might kick myself in the butt after saying this, but this is true, I did tell Gareb [Shamus, IFL CEO] this so I guess I can say it, when I first saw it for the very first time in the first season, I didn’t really like it. I thought that production was quality, it was good, and I liked what they were trying to do, but I thought it was a little boring, not enough excitement.
I actually told them that when me asked me what I thought about it. [Laughs] But, I have to say that since then, they’ve come a very, very long way in changing that and trying to do something about it. They had a good concept and were trying to be professional about the whole thing, so that and what they are trying to do now [combined] is turning into something amazing.
MMAWeekly: What do you think of the way the IFL conducts business?
Debi Purcell: My personal experience with them…I wouldn’t be able to describe it words because the way that they treat me and the fighters is the first time in my fight career I’ve ever been treated like a professional athlete. I don’t know how to explain this, but it’s been a really great experience, you really feel like an athlete there and that’s really rare in this sport.
I think they care about the fighters and the sport, and that’s really rare. So it’s been a really great experience and I’m really pro-IFL, not because I’m working with them, but because I really believe in what they are doing.
MMAWeekly: Tell us about the Condors showdown this weekend with the surprising Sabres, what are your thoughts on how your team will perform?
Debi Purcell: We’re going to win…that’s what I always say and that’s what I believe. I think the team is really coming together as far as brotherhood. We’re really pulling for each other, helping each other and these guys are really starting to care about each other better, so we’re pulling together as a team, which is great.
MMAWeekly: What’s it like being an assistant coach in such company as the likes of Ricardo Almeida, Shawn Tompkins, Chael Sonnen and others?
Debi Purcell: I don’t profess to be one of the best coaches in the world, and even when I look at those names I’m like, “Wow,” but what I can do, what I do bring to the plate is really caring about these guys. I have faith in them and I’m going to be there for them no matter what. I think that goes a long way.
I don’t say that the other coaches don’t [do that], but I’ve just trained with some of these guys for years and cared for them for years and we’re like a family. I think that helps, and that’s what I bring to the plate. I like to think that I have some [coaching] skills and knowledge now.
MMAWeekly: You’ve been around MMA for a while now, what are your thoughts on the way the sport has changed since you first started and where do you see it headed?
Debi Purcell: I think that people’s reason for fighting in the future are going to be very different than they were in the past. When we, the men and the women, fought before, it was because we loved it. That drives you, you fight because you love it, for your team, and now because it’s become popular I think the motivation for some people will change.
I think with the growing fame and money involved, there’s going to be people who fight for that reason. I’m not saying everybody is going to do that, but who really loves the sport and puts in the work will really determine who reigns supreme in the future.
As far as the changes, I’m grateful. I think the sport is growing at an amazing pace and there’s going to be lots of opportunities for fighters who never got opportunities before. The sport is growing so fast that you can’t produce new, quality fighters in a year, two years; I think it takes quite a few years of hard work to be good at this sport. So, I believe all the people that have been putting in their time are going to get their fair shot, and that’s really exciting.
MMAWeekly: Being one of the pioneers of women’s MMA, what do you think of the recent popularity surge its gotten over the past few months?
Debi Purcell: It’s awesome. Of course I’m going to love it, because I’ve been telling promoters that [it can be popular] since the first day. I remember back in the day when I was begging Terry [Trebilcock, KOTC Owner] to fight on his cards, and now it’s come a long way since then. I’ve always thought that if you’ve brought in skilled women on a card, it’s going to bring in fans.
I don’t think that we’re necessarily better [than the men], but we come to fight and it’s always exciting. Usually when you watch a women’s fight, it’s never boring, we come out to go, and that’s what the fans like to see. So having said that, I think there’s going to be a lot of opportunities for us, and I hope the IFL fallows suit.
MMAWeekly: For those fans who don’t know, you manage Julie Kedzie, who has become one of the more well-recognized female fighters in the States. Tell us your thoughts on her recent performance at EliteXC and her exposure.
Debi Purcell: It’s great for her, it’s awesome. Julie came to me a couple months before Showtime, and when she did she told me how she wanted to train, become better and build her career right, and I have so much respect for her for that. That girl can bang, and I’d like to see that fight happen again with her and Gina [Carano], I think it would go different under different circumstances.
MMAWeekly: There was some talk that EliteXC may be building Gina for a fight with you. Has there been any communication between you and the promotion about that?
Debi Purcell: I’m not sure, I haven’t been approached, but I would do it in a heartbeat. You won’t hear, “No,” from me. I’d actually pay to get into that fight. [Laughs] I actually met Gina finally and she’s a real nice person. I didn’t want to like her because of all that stuff at that show, but she was really nice and I was like, “Darn it!” [Laughs]
MMAWeekly: Okay, let’s talk about your career. You recently came back after some time off, tell us what you’ve got planned for the coming months and what your goals are.
Debi Purcell: I am doing Abu Dhabi on May 5th, so I’m training for that right now. I supposedly may have a fight coming up. I’ve been approached by a top company saying that they want me to fight [for them]. I’m planning on going to Abu Dhabi and winning, I know that may sound arrogant, but I’m giving it everything I have, I’m focused and I want it badly, so that’s my goal.
My next goal a couple months after that is to line that fight up and go and keep fighting. I’d like to fight for at least two years and then just focusing on building the women’s divisions, managing and that stuff. So I think I’d like to give it two more years and hang it up probably.
MMAWeekly: And with the time you’ve been able to put into refining your game, we’re going to see a much more well-rounded and dangerous Debi Purcell than we have in the past?
Debi Purcell: I sure as heck hope so.
MMAWeekly: Good stuff Debi. Thanks for your time, is there anything you’d like to say as we head out?
Debi Purcell: I want to plug FighterGirls.com, Alpha Female Fight Wear, and I want to thank Marco Ruas, Jeremy Williams, Chad – who if it wasn’t for his support I wouldn’t be here, Nathan my lawyer – for everything that he’s done for me, and the IFL, because they are so awesome, and all the people I work with in fighter management, I work with great people.
To the fans, come check out the show, it’s going to be awesome. It’s going to be a kick-butt show, we’re got some great match-ups, a great line-up, and we’re going to put on a show.
MMAWeekly: Bas Rutten will be at the show with his Anacondas, so I guess you’ll have to go up to him and tell him that since you’re there, he’s not the prettiest person in the building that night, huh?
Debi Purcell: I’ve already said that. [Laughs]