‘Having everything stripped away made me love it again.’ Says top ranked Bellator featherweight Arlene ‘Angerfist’ Blencowe, talking about her road to recovery following surgery on her knee.
Blencowe last stepped into the Bellator cage at Bellator 294 in Hawaii in April, where she suffered a decision loss to Sarah McMann. Having time to distance herself from the loss, Blencowe was able to reflect on how much of a toll the sport of mixed martial arts was having on her and her family’s life.
‘This sport…It takes everything from you. You’ve got to be 100% in. It consumes everything. It takes over my life, it takes over my family’s life. Everything we do revolves around fighting. When the next fight camp is, preparing for that fight camp. What your plans are each year are based around your fights…It just completely engulfs you.’ Blencowe said.
Blencowe entered that fight coming off a decision loss to champion Cris Cyborg in April 2022, and was hungry to get a win under her belt and solidify herself as the only possible challenger to Cyborg’s title.
‘I had that fight with Cris Cyborg and had a good performance and gained a lot of confidence in that fight and was ready to jump back in the cage ASAP. I was straight back to the training room preparing.’ Said Blencowe
However, due to a myriad of circumstances, Blencowe was unable to secure another fight in 2022, and would not fight again until a full year after her title fight with Cyborg.
‘It was 12 months before I stepped back into the Bellator cage again and by the time I actually got that fight, the fight earlier this year, I had been switched on mentally and physically for a long, long time.’
This long period of being in fight shape with no opponent lead to exhaustion, which when paired with a difficulty ridden camp, nearly lead to the Aussie retiring from MMA following her loss to McMann.
‘I didn’t enjoy the fight. Then post-fight I was ready to walk away from it. I was taking the gloves off…Lucky for me I had surgery. So, sort of had a lot of time away from the training room and had all my physical abilities taken away from me, and as the weeks went on and my recovery was able to slowly be allowed to do bits and pieces. First of all, I was allowed to start swimming, slowly being allowed back to running, back to doing pad work. I’ve recently just started wrestling again. I get back on the mats to do jiu jitsu.’
Blencowe is currently training with UFC superstar Tai Tuivasa as he prepares for his fight at UFC 293 in Sydney.
‘These last couple of weeks being with Tai and the boys and doing grueling sessions, I’ve hated every second, but I’ve loved it too. I feel like the old me is back and I’m ready to do it and love it again.’
While there’s no imminent plans for retirement, Blencowe is aware that she is in the latter half of her career and is focused on putting everything into her fighting career before it’s time to walk away from the sport.
‘I know that I’m at the end of my career. I’m closer to the end than I am to the beginning. There’s no plans for retirement or anything anytime soon…our main priority is just to really make the most of these next few years and enjoy it.’
Although Blencowe didn’t leave Hawaii with the win she was looking for, she did get engaged to her longtime partner, which Blencowe is very happy with. There are no plans for a wedding in the immediate future, with those plans taking a back seat to her fighting career.
‘This is again when I say how much my fighting takes over everything. We originally were going to have the engagement party in September. I’m actually planning on starting a fight camp then to fight in December so we’ve kind of pushed that back to early next year then we were doing to do a quick wedding at the beginning of next year but we’ve kind of held that off now for a few more years.’
‘I would definitely like to have my name announced walking out with his surname, lose the ‘Blencowe’, I’m not sure how ‘Angerfist Shaw’ sounds but I’m sure I’ll get used to the ring of that.’
Although Blencowe dons the nickname ‘Angerfist’, she says the idea of ‘anger’ doesn’t fully describe her as a person.
‘I like to think I’m somewhat transparent. I like to show that I’m a family person. That I’m a mum, a partner, and just an everyday, normal woman…I do throw punches with intent, I’m in there to hurt my opponent. I’m in there to kill. But then as soon as the fights over its all hugs and cuddles and respect.’
As well as training with stars like Tai Tuivasa, Blencowe also visits number one pound-for-pound fighter Alex Volkanovski’s gym Freestyle MMA to train and has a trip to New Zealand’s City Kickboxing scheduled as well.
‘I try to get down to Freestyle as much as I can…I’ve been very lucky over the years with all of the gyms and teams I’ve trained with to be welcomed and to be added as part of the team…I’m actually headed to City Kickboxing next month for two weeks.’ She said.
Blencowe started her combat career as a boxer, winning multiple professional titles before making the switch to mixed martial arts. When she looks back at her sporting career, she’s shocked to see how far women’s combat sports have come in such a seemingly short amount of time.
‘I remember a few years ago in an article I was referred to as a veteran of the sport and I said to myself “Veteran? Oh my god, I’m still learning myself.” But obviously as the years go on, I am a veteran and when I look back, even when I look now at the evolution of women’s combat sports here in Australia. 2009 was the year women’s boxing was legalized in Australia and I was one of the first fighters.’
As for her next fight, Blencowe is currently aiming for a December return to the cage, and although she doesn’t know who she will face off against at this stage, she is keen get back in the cage and remind everyone of what she can do.
‘I actually reached out and spoke to [Bellator’s] match maker the other day…she didn’t have any information for me, I have no idea who I’ll be fighting, I’m not too sure if it’ll be one of the top ranked fighters, to be fair whatever name they’ve ever thrown at me I’ve gone “OK, I’ll fight.”…this next one is a big one for me, I’m coming off a two fight losing streak which is something I haven’t done in my Bellator career. Its not a place I want to be, I was really hoping to come back and make a real statement after my performance in the Cyborg fight. In the last five years I’d only lost world title fights…All I wanna do is bring back old Angerfist and that hunger and desire. I know that’s enough to get the job done come December.’