Joanne Calderwood is known around the world as the soft-spoken UFC fighter with the brutal elbows.
She is one of the best in her division, and currently Scotland’s most successful Mixed Martial Artist, having just beaten a fantastic opponent on one the UFC’s biggest cards this year in Abu Dhabi.
Calderwood is one of many UFC talents who is a crossover from another combat sport. So often is the case that all the accomplishments garnered over there will be simplified into a seemingly meaningless short statement in the corner of the screen during a fighter’s walkout.
“Former world champion in XYZ”.
Now it’s unfair to expect the UFC to delve deep into the former careers of every fighter who has accomplished something great before they got their start in MMA, but at the same time, some light should be shed on these former achievements.
It would be disappointing to remember fighters solely for their UFC run, with their careers before that overshadowed.
And that is why this article sets out to have a look at some of the highlights of Joanne Calderwood’s fantastic Muay Thai career which she had prior to breaking through as an MMA star.
Calderwood was a perfect build for Muay Thai, her long legs were quick and powerful, which gave Calderwood a front kick that was nigh-on impossible to get past.
That same front kick still appears in her MMA fights today despite the technique’s limitations in the sport.
She also had a frightening clinch game, where she was able to overpower her opponents with knees and elbows.
Her elbows, or ‘hellbows’ as some call them, were and are to this day frighteningly sharp. She can open up a forehead from close quarters arguably better than any of her peers.
Her journey into all of this began at the young age of thirteen, where Calderwood accompanied her younger brother along to a class because his friend that he was supposed to go with no-showed.
She was hooked straight away, dropping her training as a competitive swimmer and spending all of her free time training as hard as she could.
Calderwood started out in Muay Thai when it was essentially impossible to make a living off of the sport (It is still extremely difficult now). Early on in her competitive career, she was often training while already exhausted from working twelve-hour shifts.
This all changed when she committed herself to fight full time, moving over to the world-class Griphouse gym, where she worked the front desk to fund her training.
JoJo was an unquestionable talent from the get-go, winning her first fifteen professional fights straight with some notable wins over stiff competition such as a points victory over sixty fight veteran; Michelle Preston.
In 2009 she was also able to capture the IKF European Flyweight title in a points win over Spaniard; Maria Curriki. That same year she won the Scottish Thai boxing Association’s fighter of the year.
Calderwood first tasted defeat at the pinnacle of woman’s Muay Thai in Thailand, at the Queen’s Birthday celebration events for the WPMF world title, Where Melissa Ray beat her by split decision in a close fight.
To have your first stumble at the absolute top of a sport is exceptional, and Calderwood came back from that loss stronger, claiming the WKL European title over Venezuela’s Karla Benitez by way of the decision in Barcelona.
After that win, Calderwood was granted another world title shot, this time for the WKA world championship on the Shin Kick Promotions show in Woking England early in 2011.
She had her hands full against a five-time world champion, ‘Ruthless’ Alexis Rufus. Once again, Calderwood came up short, unable to claim a world title.
Calderwood was not disheartened, however, bouncing back and winning the WBC British title against Sally McCarthy in Poole.
Her performance was utter dominance, setting up big knees off of caught kicks, closing into cling range and battering her opponent with knees and elbows over the five rounds of the fight.
Following the one-sided affair, Calderwood got a third title shot, and third time must be lucky, as she was able to take home the ISKA world flyweight title by stopping her Swedish foe Jenny Krigsman in the fourth of five rounds.
After going 19-2 as a Thai boxer, and achieving national, European and world titles, Calderwood turned her attention to Mixed Martial Arts
Calderwood is currently in her prime and will achieve great things as a Mixed Martial Artist, but that should never take away from her career as a Thai boxer where after a great streak of wins, she battled through adversity and achieved the highly coveted status of world champion.