By Rudy Mondragon
The state of Washington is not known for its boxing. It is the home of Greg Haugen, the Auburn man who once stepped foot in the ring against Hector Macho Camacho, Freddie Roach, and the Mexican legend of boxing, Julio Cesar Chavez. Outside of that, boxing is a combat sport that is geographically known to take place in the likes of Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Atlantic City, and New York City.
There is a hungry fighter in Washington however. Except this fighter isn’t fighting inside the boxing ring but rather in the octagon. This fighter is also not a male as many would assume in this hyper masculine sport. Elizabeth Phillips stands strong as a biracial woman from Omak, Washington who’s career is founded on the fusion of boxing and jujitsu and uses her education from Eastern Washington University to sharpen her craft in order to achieve her goals.
Elizabeth grew up in Omak, Washington, a town she describes as being rowdy. She had a love for boxing and practiced it at a young age by engaging in backyard brawls. When fights were taken beyond the backyard, it landed Elizabeth in some trouble. Having been sentenced to six months in jail and serving four, Elizabeth set out to make some changes in her life. She has since earned a degree in Exercise Science from Eastern Washington University and has embarked in a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) career.
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress,” is a quote by former slave and abolitionist movement leader, Fredrick Douglas. It is a quote that is applicable to fighters both in boxing and MMA. To know what it is to struggle and have a lived experience of fighting gives a fighter the necessary tools to rise up against adversity both in and out of the ring.
As a biracial woman, Elizabeth from the beginning embarked in an uphill battle in a white male dominated sport. Not only amongst the majority white male fighters, but the decision makers of the sport as well. Elizabeth states that many people have tried coaching her despite their lack of real MMA experience. She also receives a great deal of criticism as a woman. “They make it seem like your not feminine, which is totally not true,” Elizabeth reflects. Her message to the world is that woman can be good in the sport and at the same time be woman who do not need to ascribe to hyper masculine norms. Her motivation is to be the first woman of color in UFC to win a championship title. A powerful goal for a biracial woman from a small Washington town.
Photo by Keoke Silvano & George Andrade JB Photography Studio
Elizabeth has had her share of struggles and it has provided her with perspective. Having done time has made her hungry. Her source of motivation or X-Factor is simple: To have a better life because she has worked hard to overcome her time in jail and her bad decisions. When she enters a fight, it’s personal. Elizabeth knows her opponents present a threat in taking away what she has already accomplished and what she is trying to achieve. “When I go in the ring” Elizabeth states, “I feel that the other person is not going to take that and it’s very personal to me. That person is trying to take away my goals.”
During my time with Elizabeth, I was also able to see her humility and appreciation for what she is doing. She feels that Omak has really supported her and that the people in her hometown have responded well to her career. When it is all said and done, Elizabeth hopes to go back to her hometown to share what she has learned from being an MMA fighter. Along with her degree in Exercise Science and what she has learned about the needs of her community, Elizabeth would like to help create an organization that focuses on health and well-being. She stated that too many times, healthy food and nutrition education are not easily accessible in low-income communities. She wants to make it accessible so that people in her community can live healthy and productive lives.
It was a fun experience sitting down with Elizabeth. More than anything it was great to hear and see her passion for what she is doing. The struggles she has experienced are what fuel her motivation to overcome and persist. Her fusion of boxing and jujitsu and integration of her Exercise Science academic degree will make her a well rounded fighter. Elizabeth is one who lives to train and trains to live in order to be ready to compete with the best. For Washington fight fans, it is important to take advantage of her local fights now. Just as former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweight champion, Josh Barnett, who left Seattle to fight out of California, Elizabeth too will eventually take her craft on the road. For Elizabeth, it is essential if she wants to compete in the UFC stage.