Catherine Costigan: The support of the Irish is like an extra weapon

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Catherine ‘The Alpha Female’ Costigan is gearing up for the biggest test of her career as she faces off with Amber Brown in her Invicta Fighting Championship debut tomorrow night in Las Vegas. Having spent the last few weeks in the fight capital of the world in preparation for the atomweight matchup, Costigan discussed what it’s been like to prepare in ‘Sin City’.

“It’s been great,” exclaimed Costigan. “The girls at Syndicate MMA, the training with them has been excellent. I know that I’m sharp and ready. Obviously we haven’t been going all out because I don’t want to pick up any injuries before the fight – we don’t want to break any ribs or anything like that!

“This is an exciting time for me. It is nerve-wracking to a point, but it only really overwhelms people when they aren’t ready for it. You’ve got to accept what you’re going to do, and I’ve accepted that I’m going to be the best fighter in the world a long time ago. I’m excited for that moment to come.”

The Pankration Kickboxing Academy proponent is looking to prove a point at Invicta 13. Having garnered a lot of intention after signing on the dotted line with the promotion due to the massive support she boasts in Ireland, the Limerick fighter wants to show some of the American fighters what she’s all about.

“I feel like this fight is something I’ve earned. It’s amazing being here during international fight week. I try not to think about the different things that I’ve gone through to get here, because what’s important is what happens on the night. I want to set myself apart right from the get go with Invicta.

“There are a few American’s asking who this Irish amateur is that’s come over. I’ve heard that from my opponent too, she doesn’t know if I’m able to fight. This is my time to not only defeat Amber, but to defeat the masses. I want to get the people on my side and after Thursday night they will know that I’m able to fight.

“I’m not taking an easy fight here. Considering the opponent I’ve asked for, I don’t think this is an easy fight by any means. It’s going to be a challenge and that’s what I want,” declared Costigan.

Costigan took some time to discuss her opponent, Brown. According to ‘The Alpha Female’, the American has been “really upset” on social media feeds in the lead up to their meeting.

She said: “She’s gotten really upset on Twitter. I’m not trying to be in anyway disrespectful, but if I don’t think I’m good enough to actually beat my opponent, what’s the point in fighting them at all? I don’t know why she’s the one that’s got upset, I’m not the one posting pictures of bloodied opponents.

“I’ve kept my tweets pretty simple, I don’t expect people to have interest in a fight if we don’t sell it to them. It’s our job to make the fans care. It would be very boring if we were being nice to each other throughout the build up. With Invicta, I want to sell as many tickets as I can for the people who have invested in me. I want a lot of people there that night, and I want them to be excited for this fight.

“Amber calls herself ‘The Bully’, and I honestly don’t know why. I’ve always been curious of people who have that name because it’s not a nice thing to be associated with. I don’t really care what her name is though, because I know I have the strategy to beat her.

“She’s actually the first southpaw I’ve ever fought, but throughout my career I’ve faced so many different opponents and so many different styles that it’s not hard for me to switch my style to suit any strategy Dermot has put together for me.

“I’ve seen a few of her fights, but honestly, I’ve told you before that I don’t sit and watch hours upon hours of footage of my opponents. I leave that up to Dermot and he tells me the plan and I just gear my training towards that plan so on fight night we get exactly what we want.

“You’ve got to be prepared for the random things that happen outside of that. I look at every weakness I have and I try to make them strengths. If I’ve made a mistake in my last fight, I try and fix it. When people ask me am I worried about certain things, I always tell them that the only fear I have is not doing a good enough job preparing myself for the fight.”

With thousands of Irish flocking to Vegas for international fight week, Costigan is hoping to make a big impression on her new employers in her promotional debut. She is no stranger to big ovations from her previous bouts in the Emerald Isle, and the atomweight spoke about what it means to have the Irish support behind her when she performs.

“I always call the people that support me my shield. They create a confidence in me when they get on to tell me that they’re here to support me, as well as Conor. He’s on such a high level, the fact that they’re even coming to see me is quite an honour. A lot of genuine people have got me to this stage. The support from Limerick and the support from Ireland in general is amazing and of course I will carry that in as an extra weapon.

“That kind of thing seems to have annoyed Amber too, the support of the Irish, but if she is a good enough fighter she should ignore that. Not every crowd I’ve fought in front of were fans of mine. I’ve fought in Germany and Italy, believe me when I tell you that not everybody loved me out there, but by the end of the fight they certainly respected me.

“If I hadn’t called her out, I don’t think she would be getting anywhere near as much attention as she is now. In a way, she should be very grateful for this fight – that’s what my coach has been saying anyway. With all the support I’m getting, she should see this as her moment to shine. She should be wanting to shut me up.”

Brazilian atomweight world champion Herica Tiburcio will defend her title on the same night. Costigan commented on whether a big win could potentially put her into the number one contender spot for the championship belt.

“Everything in life is a possibility if you believe in it enough, you can make it happen – that’s all I’ve ever done. Yes, I think if this fight goes well I could be put into a title shot, but I need to give Invicta a performance that is worthy of a title to justify that.

“If I don’t think my performance is worthy of that on the night, I don’t think I deserve it either and I certainly won’t be asking for a title shot. I want to be deserving of the title. Shannon Knapp has been really good to me, we have a really good relationship and all she wants is for her brand to get bigger and stronger.

“I explained to the Nevada commission when I got my license that I wanted to take Invicta to the next level during international fight week. I want to represent women to the highest level and to be a good ambassador to the sport.

“To me, being a world champion isn’t all about being the best fighter in the world, it’s about being a great ambassador for the sport. People still think the sport is ‘barbaric’ and I hate that word. They should be looking at us like we’re high level athletes who are technically efficient in all aspects of the.”

Costigan’s coach, Dermot McGrath was one of the driving forces behind the Irish MMA scene in its fledgling years. McGrath put together Ireland’s first ever MMA event, ARENA Vale Tudo, back in 1999. Now, with Costigan climbing to the biggest stage for atomweight fighters, the Irishwoman discussed the importance of McGrath’s role in her career.

“Dermot is a quiet man, he just goes about his work everyday, he doesn’t want anything from anyone – he’s very good like that. That’s what you need in a coach. You don’t want a coach that’s full of big noise and constantly talking about himself, because then they start to forget about their fighters.

“He’s never done that. Throughout my whole career, the surgeries and everything, he was always there as a coach in those ways too. He always encouraged me and he always told me that I would get back on track eventually. He believes in me and that’s very important.

“The week I was out here for the medicals, I was training without him and it really showed me how important it was to have him out here. I always knew it, but when I was out here without him it was so difficult. Having him out here this week has made me really happy. You’ll see pictures of me in training and I’m always smiling.

“We’re all ready to go for this. For Dermot, this is the pay off that he finally deserves. I’m going to go all the way and that’s going to show how much a fantastic coach Dermot McGrath is.”

As for her prediction, Costigan promised to put on a show in Vegas in Thursday night:

“I’m going to put on a show out here. I’ve never been lazy in my attitude towards fighting and what I bring to the cage. With Amber, I know that she’s going to be aggressive and bring the fight straight to me. You better not close your eyes for a second or you’ll miss it. At the end of the day, I know my hand is going to be raised.”

@PetesyCarroll

Peter Carroll is Severe MMA's lead feature writer. He has been featured in many top publications and some rubbish ones too. He also writes for the Irish Daily Mirror and Vice's Fightland.