If she weren’t busy prepping for her upcoming pro Muay Thai fight, Jeri “Fists of Fury” Sitzes might instead be planning her wedding. The 35-year-old Sitzes, a lesbian who has committed to the girlfriend Jen White for the past 12 years, lives in Missouri, a state where a same-sex marriage ban was lifted last week. While some counties in Missouri have yet to implement the new law allowing gays to marry, such as Greene County where Sitzes lives, St. Louis immediately began allowing gays to marry on Nov. 5th.
“Guess we’re going to St. Louis :-)” Sitzes texted.
The wedding must wait until after Sitzes’ main card bout against Netherlands-based Chajmaa Bellekhal (43-10-2). Bellekhal had originally been scheduled to face Caley Reece for the Lion Fight 126-pound women’s world title, but Reece pulled out of the contest due to injury. Insert Sitzes, a tough-as-nails pioneer who turned pro way back in 2002 and has fought inside of cages (a 3-1 MMA record), boxing rings (15-9) and Thai rings (4-1 record).
“When Christine (Lion Fight matchmaker and vice president Christine Toledo-Badua) called me I just jumped on it,” Sitzes said. “I don’t care if I get my a– whipped, I’ve always liked challenges. I won’t be an easy opponent. I might not have as much Muay Thai experience as her but I’ll be there to fight.”
Raised by a strong-willed mother who battled Cystic Fibrosis and yet raised eight children – six of them girls – in rural southeast Missouri, Sitzes says she inherited her mother’s fighting spirit and grew up obsessed with Bruce Lee movies.
“My mother is the definition of a fighter,” said Sitzes, whose mother passed in 2007 at the age of 63. “My mom constantly had her back against the wall but would always fight her way out. We had a roof over our head and we always had food. She had a terminal illness and definitely blew the doctors away with how long she lived with her rare lung disease, Cystic Fibrosis. She had basically no lung capacity at all and doctors gave her 7-10 years to live. But she lived another 20 years, so she was a bad Mamma Jamma. She’s my hero.”
Sitzes’ mom lived long enough to see Jeri win an NABF boxing title in 2006. The fight took place in Hollywood, Calif., and Sitzes proudly noted that Laila Ali, daughter of the sports icon of the same name, was in the crowd watching that fateful night. As a fighter, Sitzes prides herself on versatility.
“I like to mix it up,” she said. “In boxing I’m a boxer/puncher; when I throw I throw hard! In Muay Thai, I’m comfortable in the clinch and can sweep and dump well. I’m well-rounded. I love counter-punching, too. But if I have to eat two (punches) to land one, I don’t mind.”
With MMA suddenly and surprisingly moving into the Golden Age of Girl Power, with more and more women competing on the sport’s biggest stage, there may be a ripple effect to other combat sports such as Muay Thai. There has perhaps never been a better time in history to be a female fighter to make money or gain notoriety. Some seasoned fight fans and pundits have observed that the average female fight seems to pack more action and emotion than the average fight between men. Sitzes shares this view and even offered a theory as to why female fighters ‘get after it’ more than their male counterparts.
“I think we still have something to prove maybe, and that gives us a little more motivation,” she said. “We’re still trying to get up there with the guys, stilling wanting more pay and more attention like the men get.”
Twelve years into her career, Sitzes has another chance to add to her legacy and gain fans since her bout will be televised live on AXS TV. Though Bellekhal is formbidable, Sitzes expects to find a way to get her hand raised.
“I see myself winning,” Sitzes said, “but I think it’ll go all five rounds because, man, she’s a tough chick.”