“I’m not afraid to get hit. You just have to take it and keep going, if you want to be a champion.”
She has 28 amateur fights (24-3-1), 2 pro full rules fights (2-0), has been training near-daily for the last five years, and is notorious for utilizing Saenchai’s cartwheel kick in the midst of a bout. Not to mention, she’s only ten years old.
It’s Jodie McCarthy’s world, and we are just living in it.
Nicknamed “The Beast” by her father, Jodie has been training for literally half her life. She began her journey at five years old, training MMA at Samson Martial Arts in Ireland. Like most children, she tagged along with her father when he would go to train Brazilian JiuJitsu. Little did anyone expect for the Kindergartner to pick up the sport so quickly and become as dedicated as she is today.
“I’d have to thank Ronda Rousey,” Jodie’s father Dan says, “My daughter saw her doing what she did in the ring and thought hey, why can’t I do that as well?”
At six years old, “The Beast” began training Judo and continued until she was about eight. The yellow belt came across another martial art that she loved, and it soon took up all of her time and attention: Muay Thai.
“She picked Muay Thai over Judo, but really she was doing everything. Jodie did MMA, BJJ, and Muay Thai, but you could tell what her real love is. As a father, I never worried about her training or getting hurt. Everyone is about her age and the gym is very protective and safe over the kids. Occasionally, she’ll spar or fight someone a few years older, but one thing about Jodie is that she’s never afraid. She just goes in there and gets the job done. I want her to continue what she’s doing, but also to get an education. She’s on the right path.”
As she treads that path, McCarthy has been filling a treasure chest of medals that have her name on them. The seven-time world champion has won gold in three different weight classes for Muay Thai and K-1, as well as a few JiuJitsu medals. A brief list of her accolades include:
2x Sandy Open Irish champ
2x 5 Nations Champ
3x Irish Muay Thai Champ
2x European Champ
31 kg WTKA Champ
32, 36, and 40 kg Champ
32, 36, and 40 kg WTKA K-1 Champ
2x Irish BJJ Champ
“Girls can do whatever they want,” Jodie says after her weekly training has come to a close. The pint-sized fighter maintains the same training schedule as a pro athlete, but also has something that Cris Cyborg and Joanna Jedrzejczyk don’t–homework.
Not only does she train at Samson’s, but also spends time with Martin Rooney’s Training For Warriors. “The Beast” is in the gym for two to three hours per day, utilizing everything from Thai Boxing to bettering her JiuJitsu. Mondays are her rest days but she attends school every weekday and has to have her homework done before she goes to sleep.
“Truly, I’m inspired by her,” Dan says. “I try to do what she’s done, I take the odd MMA class myself, but my skills are nowhere near how excellent she is.” His feelings of pride and happiness are apparent as he talks about his daughter. He speaks excitedly about her accomplishments, with the occasional nudge to her and affirmation of, “Isn’t that right, my dear?”
As the world of fighting evolves to include women, and fathers such as Dan manage and train their daughters, there are still setbacks that many fighters are looking to overcome. Oddly enough, in Jodie’s home country of Ireland, the “Fighting Irish” are against MMA and are attempting to get it banned.
“There’s a stigma here about the sport, with loads of people not even recognizing it as a sport. We didn’t receive any kind of grant from the government to take Jodie to the World’s, even though she has brought a lot of recognition for Muay Thai and MMA here. We’ve got Conor McGregor, Aisling Daly, Katie Taylor, and now Jodie McCarthy. But at the end of the day, we’re not looking for support, Jodie just wants to be able to do it. People don’t like to see little girls fighting, but you have to recognize that it’s a martial art. It’s a discipline. Jodie is more likely to have self-control in any situation than someone else who didn’t have the training she did. Fighters are not barbarians you know, they’re people with families and loved ones and goals. Fighting is their sport, and the sooner we recognize that, the better off the fighters would be.”
Despite the backlash that fighting faces in Ireland, Jodie has received many a warm welcome in Muay Thai’s homeland of Thailand. Her two pro fights were held in the country, and the cheers for her were louder than for her native-born opponent. Well-known within the Muay Thai scene, McCarthy has had everyone from Valentina Shevchenko to Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson congratulate her on her wins. A video that went viral showed her boxing a cow’s carcass, a la Rocky Balboa, that helped to put her on the map. Jodie can count fans from all over the world, who adore her walkout style of sunglasses and Irish flag tied like a cape around her neck, and ask for pictures when she is out and about.
“My goals are to be pro in MMA, but Muay Thai will always be my favorite sport. I want to be the youngest UFC champion in 2024. I’m happy that I get to travel all over, from NYC to England, Thailand, Wales, and Italy. This summer I’m going to Greece for WTKA. I’m excited to fight, but also excited to try the different food. I’m training so much because I love it and I get to do fun things like travel for fights. I look up to my dad, my coaches, and my teammates. I want to show that girls can do anything, if it’s fighting or being the best in school. I do it, so other girls know they can too.”
Photos courtesy of Allan Scally Photography, Dan McCarthy