No one would blame Joanne Calderwood if she were a bit frustrated with the way her luck has gone as of late. Since joining Invicta FC last year, Calderwood has twice been matched up against a top-ranked female 115-pound fighter. Twice, that fighter has been pulled from the bout in order to move further up on the card.

Bec Hyatt went from a spot opposite Calderwood straight into an Invicta title bout this January. Barely six months later, Calderwood’s newest high-profile opponent, Claudia Gadelha, was moved into a co-main event fight and title eliminator against Ayaka Hamasaki. Meanwhile, Calderwood went from fighting top-ranked competition to fighting relative unknowns in her last two bouts. This, despite the fact that she’s looked incredibly impressive during all of her professional MMA wins and holds an unblemished 7-0 record.

Most fighters would have shown at least a hint of frustration at this point. Some would even have gone on a complete tirade. Not Calderwood.

Calderwood (R) delivers an elbow (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Calderwood (R) delivers an elbow (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

“My only plan in regards to competition is to fight every girl in my division,” said Calderwood in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “I don’t pay attention to the other girls; my coaches do that. My coaches passed up the title shot when Bec took it, basically because it was offered six days before the event and I was done training. Claudia has a bigger record than me at 11-0, so on paper [she] should be ahead of me for title shots, even if I have fought and won three times at Invicta. The only thing that would frustrate me would be not getting to fight.”

It’s rare to see a professional cage fighter described as patient, but that’s exactly what Calderwood has been since starting her professional career early last year. It’s easy to see why so many fans are excited to see how the Scot, at just 26 years of age, can fare against the high-level competition of the strawweight division, but it’s easy to forget how new Calderwood still is to the sport.

Although she has been training in Muay Thai for over a decade and is undoubtedly one of the best female strikers in the world, Calderwood only had three fights on her MMA resume before she signed with Invicta. Obviously, “JoJo’s” striking background has made the transition into MMA a natural fit, but it takes time to develop a well-rounded MMA game, and Calderwood has used the past two years to her advantage.

“I’ve grown as a fighter. I’m more well-rounded every time I go out,” she explained. “I’ve adapted bits of my game and added to it in the gym, and that’s what I enjoy the most—learning and getting better.

“Mentally, I haven’t changed. I absolutely love fighting. Physically, I’m getting stronger and more explosive working with strength and conditioning coaches. In seven fights, all I’ve really learned is that I’m just scratching the surface of my capabilities.”

If Calderwood is truly just scratching the surface of her skills, that’s a scary thought for the rest of the top-ranked females in the strawweight division. However, the fact that “JoJo’s” rise to the top of the sport hasn’t affected her mental game may be the thing that should worry her opposition the most. After landing a huge knee to the body to knock out Ashley Cummins in her Invicta debut, Calderwood immediately became one of the most highly touted rising stars in women’s MMA. Not only did Calderwood treat the “Knockout of the Night”-winning performance as just another day’s work, but she has found a way to completely ignore the added attention that comes with it.

“I haven’t really noticed. Knocking people out isn’t a new thing for me,” said the Invicta strawweight contender. “People think a 115-pound girl can’t knock people out, but I’ve stopped four out of seven in pro MMA. In Muay Thai, I stopped over 50 percent of my opponents, even when fighting the best girls from around the world. I don’t notice the attention. I come and do my job. I go home and try and get better in between.”

Calderwood’s ability to finish fights is going to make her a fan-favorite sooner or later, and with the UFC looking to add a strawweight division in the near future, “JoJo” seems like a lock to enter the Octagon at some point. Unlike when the UFC adopted the women’s bantamweight division last year, there’s not a Ronda Rousey or Miesha Tate to step into the spotlight and become the face of the UFC’s newest weight class. That makes it entirely possible for a fighter like Calderwood to quickly make a name for herself inside the Octagon.

Calderwood (L) (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Calderwood (L) (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

“My case for being the face of the UFC 115 division?” she said with a laugh. “I don’t know… There’s no other girl doing what I do in fights. You’ll never see me fight the same way each fight, never see me wall and stall. You’re never going to see me lay and pray. Every time I fight, I do it with the intention of finishing fights and being exciting.”

Considering that’s the exact type of attitude that the UFC wants in all of its fighters, it seems like a safe bet that Calderwood could be Octagon-bound as long as she takes care of business in the meantime. That means a fight against fellow undefeated top-10 strawweight Katja “Killer Bunny” Kankaanpaa at this upcoming weekend’s Invicta FC 7 card.

With her first big-time MMA opponent and a potential trip to the Octagon on the horizon, it’s safe to say that Calderwood has more distractions than ever heading into the biggest bout of her young career. However, she’s definitely not overlooking the challenges that Kankaanpaa brings to the table.

“She’s well-rounded. She wouldn’t be ranked so high in the world if she wasn’t,” said Calderwood. “She’s undefeated, so there’s no blueprint to beat her.

“Her strengths are clearly her wrestling and clinch work. She pressures opponents, closes the distance fast and is a bit of a grinder. I’m not planning on countering it—that would mean thinking about her game. I concern myself with implementing my game.”

Calderwood has been implementing her game extremely well during her last few fights, and even though she hasn’t fought the high caliber of opposition that many fans have hoped for, her hard work looks like it is finally about to pay off. With a top-ranked opponent on her radar, an Invicta FC title fight seems like a strong possibility if Calderwood can get past Kankaanpaa this weekend.

“I would think so,” Calderwood said. “But you never know. There’s a bunch of talented girls at 115 that I’d happily fight before a title shot.”

Of course she would. It’s going to take a lot more than getting passed over for another title shot to frustrate Joanne Calderwood.

Top Photo: Joanne Calderwood (L) lands a knee (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Vince Carey
Staff Writer

Vince Carey has been writing about the sport of mixed martial arts since 2010. Although he is just 21 years old, the Omaha-based writer is looking to provide readers with interesting content on all things related to MMA.