I had an opportunity to sit down with Joshu Sofia Gegaj of TSMMA Manhattan ahead of her upcoming June 1st Warriors Cup bout in North Bergen, NJ. She was kind enough to answer some questions about her return to the ring.
Hi Sofia, thanks for talking with me today. How about we start with some basics.
Sure! Let’s go.
Where did you grow up?
Here. I was born in Queens and raised in the Bronx.
A NYC Native? Nice. So how’d you get into this sport?
I started training a little over 11 years ago. Every martial artist I ever met was always confident, tough and wise, and I wanted to be surrounded by that. I wanted to become like that. I also thought it would be fun and a good workout.
Who was your first instructor?
When did you know you wanted to be a fighter?
I never wanted to be a fighter. Or rather, I never thought I could be, so I didn’t entertain the idea. It wasn’t until an advanced class with Shihan Ron Schulmann, when I was a brown belt, that the thought crossed my mind. He pulled me over after class one day, told me I had a lot of talent and that he wanted me to do the NY Golden Gloves. I only remember feeling my heart in my throat, and I didn’t hear anything else he said after that. That’s how it all started.
That’s an awesome story. So, how many fights have you had?
About 20 so far.
That’s some great experience. Looking back, what did you take away from those bouts?
A couple of things really. I learned that my biggest enemy was myself. I would put too much unnecessary pressure on myself which, in turn, hurt my confidence for a while. I also learned to trust my coaches, train hard and realize how good I was. Now I can move forward. The greater thing I learned is that the more you face your fears and challenges, the tougher, the more confident, and ultimately the happier you are.
Great lessons. So, how long has it been since your last fight?
It’s been about a year and a half.
Why the long break?
I think I stopped because of too many personal obligations I had to take care of. However, I also think I had too many personal issues in my head to deal with first. And anyone who has stayed away from anything for a while knows how difficult it is to start again. I actually thought I wouldn’t fight anymore.
Really? What made you decided to come back now?
I decided to start up again when I realized I wasn’t satisfied with what I had accomplished so far. I hadn’t finished what I started. My potential had not been reached, and I didn’t want to have any regrets. So here I am.
That’s brilliant. And inspiring. So, I’ve heard a few times that you have some of the best hands in TSMMA, how did you become so good?
I don’t know about the best hands thing. I just do what my coaches tell me and it usually works.
Wow. Talented and modest. That’s a great combo. So going into this fight, what do you want your opponent to know?
She should know it will not be a good night for her. However, afterward, I’ll shake her hand and wish her well. I don’t hate my opponents, and I never want to seriously hurt them either. I respect anyone who has the nerve to step into the ring. But, the plan is to win by any means and that is what will happen.
And what do you know about her?
I don’t know much about my opponent except she likes to clinch a lot and her striking is not as good as mine.
That’s good intel. So what is your strategy?
My plan is to beat her up.
Thanks a lot for answering my questions Sofia. I can’t wait to see you go to work on Saturday.
My pleasure. I’m really looking forward to this fight. I want everyone to understand that when a fighter goes into the ring, they never go alone. They take a piece of everyone in there with them. That support means a lot, and I really appreciate it.
Dax Alexander is a mixed martial arts practitioner, personal trainer and writer for NewYorkNYMMA.com. Follow Dax on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DaxMMA