Who doesn’t like a paramedic? The answer should be, nobody. It’s a noble profession that saves lives. What about firefighters? Equally as noble, and even more dangerous. Yoga instructors? They save lives in a different way, and take it in another direction by connecting mind and body in harmony. And, lastly, what about female MMA fighters? They’re tough as hell. They are world-class athletes. And they represent the fact that women can do just as well as men, if not better, in one of the most macho sports in the world.

Even better, what if there was a woman that had the whole package? A girl that heals bodies, saves lives and beats the hell out of her fellow competitors, all to make others happy.

Fortunately, this person does exist in the form of up-and-coming pro fighter Jodie Esquibel. This 26-year-old juggles a lot of activities in her life, but it all sort of balances together.

“I am a firefighter/paramedic, actually, as well as a yoga instructor,” said Esquibel in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “And we just opened a new yoga studio, so I’m usually here when I’m not at the gym, especially when I’m not in camp.

“I’ve been a firefighter for about seven years, and I’ve been a paramedic for about two, and we just opened the yoga studio about six months ago.”

Esquibel (R) delivers a body shot (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

That’s a lot of activity on a person’s plate in the first place. Essentially, Esquibel has two careers already. However, there’s one activity she’s been doing the longest.

Despite all the years that she’s dedicated to helping others, she’s been learning to inflict damage a lot longer.

“I’ve been with Mike Winkeljohn for about 12 to 13 years,” said Esquibel. “Greg Jackson, too.”

Esquibel has been training in martial arts for half of her life. She tried her hand at a kickboxing career, before entering MMA, but found the pool of competition to be nearly dry.

“I did some amateur kickboxing, but after a while, it was too hard to find people, so I did a little boxing as well,” explained Esquibel. “I also did some professional kickboxing.”

As most people have come to find out, the women’s professional MMA pool has a lot more depth, even at the lightest weight class, atomweight, which is where Esquibel performs.

“I’m ready to hang with the best of them in the 105 division,” Esquibel said. “It’s extremely stacked. I don’t know where all these girls came from, but they’re coming out of the woodwork. Everybody’s extremely well-rounded, and it’s exciting.”

In fact, her teammate at Jackson-Winkeljohn, Michelle Waterson, is getting ready to fight for the atomweight strap at Invicta FC 5, taking place tomorrow night at Ameristar Casino Hotel in Kansas City, Mo. Esquibel will be performing on that very same card, in her second appearance under the Invicta banner and fourth pro fight overall.

Esquibel’s last bout was a doozy. She faced then-undefeated Liz McCarthy on the Invicta FC 4 card just three months ago. In a hard-fought battle, the Jackson’s prospect was able to edge out a split decision to keep her own undefeated record intact.

“That fight made me grow up as a fighter real quick,” stated Esquibel. “I learned a lot about myself. I learned a lot about my abilities. She was super, extremely tough, very well-rounded. Her amateur record was unblemished, and she had fought some tough girls. That fight made me grow up extremely fast. So, it made me realize that I’m ready to take that next step, and push my training, learn new things and evolve as a fighter. I’m ready to be there.”

Well, Esquibel got there, and she’s coming back. Shortly after her battle with McCarthy, Esquibel was already lobbying for her own return.

“We were in the lobby after the Invicta 4 fights, waiting for a shuttle to take us back to the airport. Everybody is in the lobby hanging out. I kind of mentioned to [Invicta matchmaker] Janet [Martin] that I was going to go back to the gym Monday morning, and I was going to try to be ready for Invicta 5. I joked around about it.

“Like, I knew they were going to be developing the card, so I just kind of threw my name out there, because I was hungry to get back in there and keep the momentum going. She kind of laughed and acknowledged that I said something. Before you know it, here I am, back-to-back on two Invicta cards. I’m extremely blessed. When I got the call, maybe three or four weeks after that, I jumped at the chance, absolutely.”

Quite often, there are fighters that tell people they’re “hungry,” but it has become a clichéd statement, so it’s important to pay attention to the finer details to see if they’re being honest or just talking. For Esquibel, the signs are clear.

Here she was, fresh off a three-round split-decision fight, after which even the toughest UFC fighters would want to take a break, and she wants more with no break. A girl that teaches yoga and is a firefighter, but still wants to get right back to business? If that doesn’t separate the women from the Brownie Scouts, who knows what will.

Nothing less would be expected from a Jackson-Winkeljohn fighter. Regardless of skill level, the one thing this camp has issues with is people that have poor work ethic. Fighters that aren’t hungry should find a different home. However, Jackson and Winkeljohn are not the only people working to make Esquibel ready for her next bout.

Esquibel (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

“I also work my stand-up with Brandon Gibson, and also working with Gracie Barra New Mexico on my jiu-jitsu,” explained Esquibel. “My teammates? I could go on forever about my teammates. We have a lot of smaller guys, and I think we have the best female MMA team in the world right now, so this is the right place.”

Esquibel’s confidence is key going into her next match-up, which will definitely be her toughest yet. For her Invicta FC 5 fight, she will be facing her second opponent with a winning record and third with any record at all. Janet Martin has pitted Esquibel against Alex Chambers, an Australian who is 3-1 as a pro and, with just one exception, has only fought pros with winning records and a lot more fights under their belts.

Chambers is also a striker, having TKO victories over two of her opponents, both within three minutes of the first round. She has a two-inch height advantage and has been fighting at strawweight, so she’s used to girls a bit bigger than Esquibel. However, this does not shake Esquibel’s confidence one bit.

“I feel good about it,” admitted Esquibel. “Stylistically—which is a funny word, because every time people talk about the match-up, they say, ‘stylistically, it’s a great match-up’—stylistically, somebody’s going to get punched in the face. It’s going to be a good fight. It’s going to be a brawl. You know, she prides herself on her stand-up, and I feel good on my feet too. So, we’ll see. I think it’s going to be a great fight. I trained accordingly.

“I’ve learned that I’ve trained myself to be prepared wherever the fight goes. I think I’ve got the upper hand in the fight. You don’t want to put yourself at a disadvantage anywhere, so you train accordingly and try to round yourself out.”

Part of the training she has received is to keep a level mindset. Although she may want to let her emotions get the best of her, it seems the training in both emergency situations and yoga has kept her grounded. Esquibel is very humble in her prediction for this bout. She might want to say that she expects to win, but she’s not even going that far.

“I’ll give you the cliché and say it’s going to be a good fight,” Esquibel stated. “I’m expecting a battle. I think she has great kickboxing, and I think we’re going to want to kickbox each other.”

Chances are, she is correct in her prediction, but if one thing’s for sure, neither Jackson nor Gracie Barra are going to let the ground game fall through the cracks, and neither is Esquibel. She’s pumped and ready to take the fight wherever it goes.

After this fight, Esquibel’s not really sure what’s next, other than more Invicta.

“I still have another fight left with Invicta after this,” she said. “We’ll get this fight out of the way and then move forward.”

And when she moves forward, who does she have in mind?

“Anybody that’s ranked above me, anybody that’s going to help me climb the way up, any girls that are above me, I would love to step in the cage with.”

In addition to fighting fires and people, Esquibel does have another “next step” in her life, and that’s a wedding. Esquibel’s fiancé is former UFC fan favorite and fellow Jackson fighter Keith Jardine.

“Since I decided to fight back-to-back, we’re shooting for this summer,” Esquibel revealed. “The April fight kind of pushed it back, but we’re hoping for summer still.

“We’ve been engaged for a year on the 20th of this month, and we’ve been together for about six years.”

But Jardine is more than just a boyfriend at this point. He’s a training partner and a guide too.

“I wouldn’t be able to make it through without him,” she confessed. “He has a lot of insight. He’s been there before. When I get beat up at practice and I don’t want to talk about it, it’s pretty easy to communicate with him. It helps me out a lot.”

One thing the Jackson-Winkeljohn fighter said is a very important part of all MMA, not just the women’s side, is the fan base. Esquibel is wise beyond her years in understanding this aspect of the sport as a business.

“I just appreciate all the fans,” she admitted. “I don’t think we say that enough. We could be fighting in a room with nobody in it, and, yeah, we would still go to fight. But it really helps having those fans there. With women’s MMA being so prevalent, the true fans are coming out, as far as women’s MMA. I’m super humbled to be a part of this experience.”

With the female side of the sport on the rise and the Invicta brass, namely Martin and Invicta President Shannon Knapp, doing such a great job with promotion and match-ups, Esquibel is indeed part of something big, and ten years down the line, she, too, will be considered one of the pioneers of this new movement.

For now, she has one thing in her sights, and that’s a win over Alex Chambers at Invicta FC 5. After that, it will be on with her rise in the fastest growing sport in the world.

Jodie would like to thank her team and coaches at Jackson-Winkeljohn: “Without them, I’d just be some yoga instructor, I guess.” She would also like to thank Brandon Gibson, Gracie Barra New Mexico, and Turning Point Strength and Conditioning. Her friends and family for all of their support. Most importantly, she would like to thank her fiancé, Keith Jardine. Last, but certainly not least, she would like to thank her sponsors: Throat Punch, Fighter’s Spirit, Jaco, Tussle Fight Gear and Combatives Gear. Follow her on Twitter: @JodieEsquibel

Top Photo: Jodie Esquibel (L) connects with a kick (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Dan Kuhl
Interview Coordinator