Team UK women’s coach Jo Doyle says that she is enjoying her new role as the face of amateur women’s MMA in the UK.
After competing in four IMMAF competitions during her amateur career, the former European Champion got her first taste of coaching on the World stage in Bahrain back in November.
Following a discussion with UKMMAF President Windy Miller about the lack of women’s participation in the sport, Doyle was chosen to front the women’s team after last year’s European Championships in Romania and has not looked back since being appointed to her new position.
“He said to me, why do you think there are no other girls representing or coming to the trials? I’ve got quite a big gob, so I told him all the reasons as to why the girls weren’t turning up and why the girls need to know how its organised and what it entails.
“I felt like as a female I could say the reasons as to why girls weren’t turning up, so he said, I want you to front it. He offered me the position of the head coach and it’s something that I’m super passionate about, I really want to build the team.
“We’ve got some great amateurs, I feel like it’s a waste that we haven’t had more girls representing the country previously. So I knew it was something where I could get the word out, and people would maybe trust me because I’ve done it and I’ve been there, and that’s how it all came about really.”
Doyle’s appointment marks a big step towards developing women’s MMA in the country as the UKMMAF look to increase female participation.
Whilst she acknowledges that it is a step in the right direction, the 31-year-old still feels that more can still be done for female MMA fighters in the UK.
“There’s a lot of women that train, and it is a big step. We’re still at that stage where it is quite a male dominant sport, but we’re trying to change. It’s helped the cause definitely.
“With big organisations like the UFC going from saying they will never have women on their cards to every single card having at least one women’s fight, I think that has helped develop the sport across the world, not just in the UK.
“There are still stereotypes and there’s still a perception of women fighting and I think that more local shows need to be having women on the card. I think that’s a must, I think that’s a must with any local show because there are girls out there wanting to fight.”
Doyle is now gearing up to lead the Team England girls into Rome in June in what will be her first European Championships as a coach.
The team held their first training session in preparation for the tournament last weekend at 12 Gauge MMA in Stockport with fighters such as Levi Steedman of SBG Manchester in attendance.
Whilst getting athletes from gyms all across the country to work together under one roof may seem a difficult task on the face of it, Doyle admits that this is not an issue with the Team England girls.
“It’s brilliant, we have a really good time at the team training sessions. As I say, I knew that there was talent out there, but it was just a case of finding it and telling them what these championships are about.
“I knew that straight away they would want the challenge because these girls, they want tough fights. They’re not trying to fight inexperienced girls at amateur, they want tough fights on their record at amateur, so it’s great to have them all there.
“There’s a really good bond and we’ve become a really good team. We do all train at different gyms, however, we do really come together when it’s under the team England bracket.”
One of the highlights of Doyle’s first World Championship as a coach last year was the success of Megan Jayne Morris.
Morris, who trains out of Blackburn Predators MMA, won both of her fights out in Bahrain to claim the junior gold medal at flyweight.
And Doyle, who tasted gold herself back at the 2016 European Championships, claims that seeing one of her girls succeed on the World stage was just as sweet as winning herself.
“I got so much from being part of Megan’s journey and the other girls’ journey at the world championships. To watch Megan win the gold medal, I didn’t realise how much of a positive effect on me.
“It was amazing to see someone achieve their goals and that’s what I want for all the other girls in the squad. I want them all to be able to get some good fights under their belt against some tough girls and go and pick up those medals.”
Doyle got her hands on some gold of her own earlier this month after her win at Cage Warriors South East 23 to claim the 135lbs belt.
She overcame the undefeated Kerry Isom despite taking the fight on just three weeks-notice to enhance her amateur record to 9-4.
After receiving her purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu just a few weeks prior to the fight, the win comes as another big boost for the bantamweight as she prepares for the European Championships.
But while Doyle admits that she was buoyed by her recent victory, her focus will now be firmly on achieving success with Team England in June.
“To win a belt under the Cage Warriors banner is just brilliant. I’m absolutely over the moon. For me now I really want to focus on the girls for the Europeans, and put my training to the side a little bit to really focus on coaching.
“But it’s still a massive boost going into the European’s knowing that I’ve done something personal and now I can focus on the girls.”
Doyle is yet to turn professional but is one of the more experienced amateurs in the country had fought in various different countries all over the world.
But Doyle says that she has plans to switch from amateur soon and is has targets that she’d like to achieve as a professional and with Team UK.
“I’ve hit so many goals by fighting in America and things like that but I would like to turn pro eventually and for me, the goal has always been Invicta.
“To be on an all-female show would be amazing for me, that’s my top goal to be part of an Invicta card. As for the UK team, we’ve gone from 1 or 2 girls representing the country to 6th in the worlds and now we’re taking 10 to the Europeans. My goal would be to have 2 girls in every single category, that would be amazing for me.”