There is a saying that two is better than one, and when it comes to the sport of women’s mixed martial arts, this is certainly a true statement when it comes to the Lybarger family.
Jocelyn and Jillian Lybarger are the only set of twins in the world of women’s combat sports, and even though the sisters aren’t known throughout the entire country yet, both are slowly growing in popularity as two likable female fighters.
Both Jocelyn and Jillian had successful amateur careers and are now looking to impress as professional fighters. Jocelyn will make her debut first, fighting this Saturday as rising women’s-only promotion Invicta Fighting Championships holds its second event from the Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kan.
Before flying out to the Midwest, Jocelyn put in a full training camp at The Lab in Glendale, Ariz., a prestigious gym that is home to UFC lightweight champion Ben Henderson. Having trained alongside Henderson and many other quality partners, Lybarger is well-prepared coming into her fight.
“We started my camp, of course, eight weeks ago, and then Ben’s camp just started too for his rematch against Frankie Edgar,” Lybarger said in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “We had really good vibes, really good people to train with, and everything was amazing with me and Ben going through camp. Everything went perfect and was on schedule, and we just pushed it hard for a good eight weeks.”
“Training with that UFC champion is really fun, just how Ben is before and after practice pumping us up and always saying good quotes. We have good gospel music going to pump us up, and he’s always pushing us and making us go harder. It’s been awesome,” added Lybarger.
If it wasn’t for her sister, Jocelyn may never have gotten into MMA. Lybarger had always been involved in athletics in her teenage years, but recounts one event that had her instantly attracted to the sport.
“I’ve always been athletic my whole life, and I would have to say Jillian—my twin—she started first. She started training in mixed martial arts about five years ago, and then I picked it up probably three and a half years ago. After going to Jillian’s second amateur fight in Colorado, that’s when I said you know what, I’m going to do the same thing,” stated Lybarger. “I’d always trained, went to the gym, and stuff like that because we played basketball at the college level and were always athletic and picked up things very fast. I started going to a gym in California at No Limits doing kickboxing, jiu-jitsu and wrestling, and just fell in love with it and literally been doing it every day since then.”
Lybarger stepped into the local amateur level and compiled a record of 4-2, including capturing the women’s flyweight title in the Tuff-N-Uff promotion. The 26-year-old has now decided to take the next step to the professional ranks, but she isn’t letting her nerves affect her. Lybarger is anxious to step inside the Invicta cage.
“I feel really good. Like I said, I had the best training camp. I have family and friends flying in from everywhere to Kansas City to watch,” said Lybarger. “I’m really excited to be fighting somebody like Cheryl Chen, who did well as an amateur. It’s going to be a good show. We’re fight number two on the card, so we’re going to be bringing fireworks.”
As the flyweight stated, her opponent on Saturday will be Cheryl Chen. Chen will also be making her pro debut with high hopes of getting her first win, but “Lights Out” feels there are some holes in Chen’s game that she can exploit.
“Watching Cheryl Chen, she finished 6-2 as an amateur. What I see in watching all of her videos is she doesn’t like to get hit. But I mean, who does?” asked Lybarger. “But what I see is she doesn’t react well when she gets hit, and we’ve planned putting the pressure on so she can’t do those spinning fancy kicks she tries to do. And when she does throw them, she throws them with her hands down.”
“All of her wins come via submission, but not one fight did I see her go for the takedown,” the flyweight critiqued. ”They only went to the ground when her opponent took her to the ground, so I’ll be looking for that too if we have to end the round with a big takedown. But I plan on standing up and going to a stand-up war with her.”
Women’s MMA is certainly growing in popularity with Invicta evolving, along with Strikeforce champion Ronda Rousey featured on television and on magazine covers. Lybarger is impressed with how females are getting more of the spotlight, but still believes there’s more that needs to happen to push women to the next level.
“I think it’s going in the right way, especially with Invicta now. I know Ronda Rousey personally and as a fighter. She does a lot of great things for women’s MMA and she’s taking it to the next level for us,” Lybarger said. “We need more stuff like the Jessica Penne versus Lisa Ellis-Ward fight at Invicta 1 because that fight really showcased the stand-up, jiu-jitsu and wrestling. So we need more fights like that that showcases the skill of women’s MMA and what we’re bringing to the table. It’s going to take time, just like in every women’s sport. We’re not up there with men, but that’s just human nature and that’s how it’s going to be.”
With a great team around her to go along with the help of her twin sister, Lybarger is on a fast track to the professional level. But “Lights Out” knows that to be successful, you have to work for it, and that’s all she’s looking to do as he professional career begins on July 28.
“My goal is to win and to push as hard as I can in there. Win or lose, if I can walk away saying I did whatever I could do and she was better tonight, then I can walk away smiling. I’m here to get better and to keep learning every day because there’s new stuff to be learned every day.”
Top Photo: Jocelyn Lybarger (L) with twin sister Jillian (Tracy Lee/Combat Lifestyle)