HXMMA 7 ON DAZN:
WOMEN’S MATCH-UPS IN FOCUS
Co-Main Event – Women’s Strawweight Title Match:
Samantha Jean-François (France) vs. Andressa Araujo Rocha (Brazil)
Flyweight Match: Weronika Eszer (Poland) vs. Shanelle Dyer (UK)
[London. 1 March 2023] HEXAGONE MMA 7 is to feature two compelling women’s bouts in Poitiers, France on 11 March, broadcast on BT Sport (in the UK/ Ireland) and DAZN (internationally).
In the co-main event, France’s Samantha Jean-François (6-6) will defend her strawweight title against Brazil’s Andressa Araujo (6- 1). Jean-François won the belt at HEXAGONE MMA 4 via first-round submission.
The second female match-up of the night graces the preliminary card and sees hot prospects Weronika Eszer (Poland) and Shanelle Dyer (UK) go head-to-head.
ABOUT THE FIGHTERS – BIOGRAPHIES:
1: Samantha Jean-François
2: Andressa Araujo
3: Shanelle Dyer
4: Weronika Eszer
1: SAMANTHA JEAN-FRANÇOIS: A PEACEFUL CHAMPION
Record: 6-6 (1-0 at HEXAGONE MMA)
35 years old
Trains at the Furacao club in Martigues
Native of Reunion Island
If we pinpoint it, the turning point in Samantha Jean-François’ life would certainly be the year she turned 25. Firstly, because it marked the end of a youth spent under the sun of Reunion Island, where the young woman was born and built.
“I have all my ties there, but at some point, I wanted to go somewhere else. It’s a beautiful island, but I’d seen it all, so I left,” she says, now 35 years old.
The other defining aspect of this pivotal year was her discovery of martial arts by chance, during an introductory course organised in a gym on Reunion Island, just before she took off.
“That day, many people told me that I had the fibre, that I had something special. They thought I was fluid, fast, and that I had a strong mind. Once she arrived in Metropolitan France, in the south of France, Samantha Jean-François started to work on becoming a fighter. First, she focused her training on kickboxing, and then she started to take jiu-jitsu more seriously.
“Remaining a champion is more difficult than becoming one.
“In 2023, I entered my ninth year of MMA. But really, I’ve only been feeling rounded as a fighter for a year. Before that, I was doing MMA, but I hadn’t yet discovered all the parameters of the discipline,” she admitted.
This rise in competency aligns with a particularly successful year for Jean-Francois. 2022 was punctuated by two first-round victories via submission, including in her last fight, for the HEXAGONE MMA world title.
“Winning this belt felt like revenge for me. In my career, I’ve had several offers for championship fights, but each time there was an obstacle. One time, it was because when I went for the blood tests, I discovered I was pregnant!”
But she knows and does not hide the fact that, “keeping a title is more difficult than getting it.” Defending her belt is a challenge that the Reunion native is eager and motivated to take on: “I feel like I’m at the beginning of my career!”
2: ANDRESSA ROCHA:
“I EXPERIENCED MY BREAK FROM MMA AS HEARTBREAK”
Record: 6-1 r (first fight at HEXAGONE MMA)
29 years old
Trains in Campo Grande, Brazil, with FMA Brasil
What could be more frustrating for a passionate fighter than living away from the cage? The tension, the smell of blood, the application of bandages … For seven long years, between 2014 and 2021, Andressa Rocha repressed her passion, waiting impatiently to reconnect with the sensations that make her feel alive:
“Martial arts is my whole life. I didn’t like the idea of stopping at all. I experienced my break from the sport as heartbreak,” she recalled. “But it was caused by force majeure.” A stint in the army, a police academy exam and then a job in her city of Campo Grande, in the south of Brazil.
Now, at 29 years old, things have changed. Andressa Rocha is settled into her routine, uniformed and alternating between days on guard duty at the local prison and missions to escort prisoners. Importantly, combat has found its place again in her daily life.
“I love my job, but what drives me is MMA. My goal in the future is to make a living from it. Martial arts have allowed me to gain confidence in my job”
Looking at her results, the Brazilian seems on the right path. She can count five finishes out of six victories during her career so far, which is rare in the smaller female weight categories. This impressive ratio can be explained by a well-constructed career. First trained in Muay Thai, Andressa Rocha quickly completed her arsenal of skills by learning jiu-jitsu, before finally launching herself into MMA – a methodical process. And while her versatility is one of her strengths, her mentality is certainly another one:
“The very tough police training taught me to push myself to my limits and get out of my comfort zone. It has helped me a lot with MMA. But on the flip side, martial arts has also given me confidence in my job. It goes both ways.”
3: LONDONER SHANELLE “THE NIGHTMARE” DYER IN PRO MMA DEBUT
Record: 0 – 0 pro | 8 – 3 am
22 years old
Trains at GB Top Team
22-year-old Londoner, Shanelle “The Nightmare” Dyer, is to make her professional MMA debut in Poitiers on 11th March.
With over 100 amateur fights to her name, she stands as one of the UK’s hottest upcoming female prospects in mixed martial arts with actor Tom Hardy among her supporters.
With her HEXAGONE MMA 7 bout broadcast also to an international audience on DAZN, Shanelle is set to face Poland’s Weronika Eszer at strawweight.
Raised in Shepherds Bush by a Nigerian mother and father from Monserrat, “The Nightmare” started training in Thai boxing, aged 9, at All Stars gym with her two brothers. Her father took them there to keep them off the streets and out of trouble. Shanelle has lost a few people that she grew up with to the streets.
She went on to win 27 titles, including junior world titles. Her first fight was in Turkey aged 12, and she became UK #1-ranked at the age of 20. In total she clocked up 100 amateur fights in Muay Thai before turning pro, to attain a professional record of 7- 3.
At 17, Shanelle began her transition to MMA as she could see no way to make a living in her formative discipline. First of all, she trained at Team Underground before moving over to GB Top Team under UFC veteran Brad Pickett to start her pro career at the age of 22.
Shanelle has acquired an amateur MMA record of 8 – 3 competing on credible events that include the EMMAA Four Nations Championships and Cage Warriors South-East Academy.
Meanwhile in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Shanelle (a blue belt) has also achieved numerous medals including gold.
Dyer gained national attention in the UK when she featured in a BBC documentary, “Inside the Cage: The Rise of Female Fighters”, in 2019.
Why the “Nightmare”?
“Nightmare” was the fight name of her “older brother figure” at Team Underground, Jahreau Shepherd. She lost him when he was tragically stabbed to death at a party in July 2020 by his younger brother, aged just 30 years old. His brother was subsequently diagnosed with mental illness and has since been institutionalised for life. Jahreau and her had shared the same fighter dream, and his mother blessed her with his fight name to go and achieve greatness under as part of his legacy.
4: WERONIKA ESZER: FACING THE DEMANDS OF THE PRO DIVISION
Record: 0-2 (first fight at HEXAGONE MMA)
24 years old
Trains in Poland, at Puncher Wroclaw
In MMA, the amateur and professional worlds are separated by a chasm. Weronika Eszer learned this the hard way. Despite an excellent record (13-2) on the Polish and European amateur circuits, the young woman hit a wall in her big-time pro debut.
“There are many differences. For example, going from one to three rounds! But I have learned from my mistakes, I have progressed and now I want to translate everything I’ve learned over to the pro division,” she says.
It must also be said that she did not choose an easy path. Taking a first fight in KSW, one of the best leagues on the continent, is not the most obvious springboard to victory.
“It’s in my DNA, I was made for this life.”
Because of that, Weronika Eszer has many weapons, and knows that she has everything it takes to perform at the highest level. A black belt in judo, a sport she has practiced since her childhood, the Pole has worked particularly hard on her jiu-jitsu since her transition to MMA.
“The ground game really is my strong point”, explains the 24-year-old fighter, who also defines herself as a “hyper-active sportswoman”, passionate about training. “I come from a family of athletes, I’ve been doing sports since I was born, I studied in the world of sports … It’s in my DNA, I’m made for this life.”
This is surely a good thing. Her career is reaching out to meet her.