Former SH resident makes mark as MMA writer

Sean C. Morgan

When Rachel Frederick graduated from Sweet Home High School in 1994, mixed martial arts wasn’t anywhere on her radar. She didn’t even know what it was.

Since then Frederick has become one of a few female journalists who cover the sport, serving as an ambassador for MMA through her blog and as a writer for ESPN, carefully iterating that the sport is not about violence but rather a sport that requires strong discipline and intense training.

Her goal is not concerned so much about what happens in the ring but more about who the fighters are as she tells their stories.

Her fiancé, Phil Baldacci, who wrestled at Oregon State University where future MMA star Randy Couture was an assistant coach, became a fan of MMA, she said. He wanted to get back into training and joined a local MMA gym.

He was encouraged to get into the cage and give it a go, Frederick said. “At first, I wouldn’t say I was a casual fan.”

She liked football, she said, but she didn’t understand MMA.

When they would watch MMA, her fiancé would tell her bits of information about the guys they were watching – “Probably so I wouldn’t make him change the channel,” Frederick said. One fighter might be deaf, another from New Jersey and still another recently returned from Iraq.

As she started getting into MMA, she was working for a blogging company, she said. She needed to understand the company’s product, so she decided to start blogging about her life.

Her posts about MMA got the biggest responses, Frederick said. Her readers enjoyed her attitude, the female perspective on the male-dominated sport.

Since then she has tried to get her girlfriends interested in MMA. They would tell her it’s too violent.

But the sport is less violent than boxing, she said. It’s even less violent than football.

It’s about respect and understanding, Frederick said. It’s an art, and there’s a lot to it.

“I try to humanize these guys – who they are, where they come from, their personalities,” she said. “That’s what drew me in.”

Some people just want the statistics, she said. That’s interesting, but there’s more to the story of these fighters.

Following her graduation from high school, Frederick went to work for Sony Music in Springfield. She worked on implementing Oracle at Sony before taking a position with Oracle, a database and application software developer. She left Oregon for San Francisco as a requirement of her work with Oracle.

In Sweet Home, she played basketball her sophomore year, Frederick said. She grew up fishing and camping, and her dad taught her football at an early age.

She started following MMA about eight years ago. She started writing about it in 2006, initially covering Strike Force, a San Jose promoter, which is the second largest behind UFC/WEC.

“It’s amazing how much it’s grown since 2006,” Frederick said. “It’s been exciting to watch it grow.”

Early on, she told the story of one fighter who had grown up in foster care, been stabbed and gotten his girlfriend pregnant – very personal information.

Someone from Yahoo! News told her to keep it up, “continue the human thing,” she said. From there she began contributing to ESPN Dallas, one of five ESPN regions She also manages some pro fighters, helping with marketing, radio shows and sponsorships.

She covers fights across the nation, she said. “I travel for fights more than he (her fiancé) does.”

MMA is an individual sport, but it requires a team to prepare, Frederick said. It is a mental game as much as it is physical, requiring strategic understanding of each competitor’s strengths and weaknesses.

The training regime changes day-to-day, boxing and cardio one day, jujitsu the next, Frederick said. The fighters must meet weight requirements, cutting or adding weight for their fights.

They’ll cut 15 pounds for a fight just like in wrestling, she said.

Women’s involvement in the sport is growing, Frederick said. “I think women having a presence in the sport has come a long way.”

Mostly, they serve in marketing and PR positions, she said. The sport has two or three female journalists, period. A few women fight.

Involvement has probably been limited largely by the newness of the sport, Frederick said. Their presence is growing, and she hopes the sport continues to mature and develop that way.

More than anything, she just wants to educate people about the sport so they can make an educated decision about the sport, she said. “It’s more than cage fights. Before you make a fast decision that it’s a violent sport, get educated. It’s an event. It’s a sport. It’s a show.

“It’s not just about watching violence. That’d be like saying you go to a football game just to watch guys tackling.”

It doesn’t pay well unless the fighter is in the top tier, the top 1 percent, she said. Fighters come from all walks of life, often raising families, and it doesn’t pay that much.

“It’s become our lifestyle,” Frederick said of her and Baldacci. “This is what we do. This is what we’re doing all the time.”

Baldacci spends his time training or training someone else, while she does interviews or goes to fights, Frederick said. Everyone they meet along the way joins an ever-growing circle of friends who support the sport, other fighters and journalists like her. It’s more of a community, and she finds that appealing.

Frederick also is publisher for a couple of different magazines, one for Blackberry and a World of Warcraft gaming magazine (though she is not a WOW player), for example.

She manages a group of editors, she said. “My writing has helped me understand their job better.”

Frederick’s blog may be found on the Internet at http://www.mmahotstuff.com

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