Two weeks ago, Australian strawweight Jacinta Austin earned a submission victory in Germany, where she submitted her opponent Sofiia Bagishvili in the first round. Austin picked up the win in her promotional debut for Oktagon MMA in front of an estimated 10,000 fans in Oberhausen’s Rudolf Weber-Arena. The performance earned her a shot at the vacant Oktagon strawweight title which she will fight for in September at Oktagon 46.
Although aware of Oktagon’s popularity in Europe, the Aussie said she didn’t realise the scale of the events Oktagon were running in Europe.
‘I didn’t realise until I got there how big the promotion was over there, I’d done my research over here but its not until you’re there, amongst everything, that you realise how big it is in Europe. So that was a nice, fun surprised.’ Austin said.
While Austin was not expecting to fight in front of 10,000 spectators, she said the added magnitude was something she was able to rise to when it came time to fight.
‘I thrive in it. As soon as we got to the venue, and you’re allowed to do your little walk around before the show starts, that’s when I realised how big the venue was and I thrived in it. I was like “this is perfect for me; this is what I feel like I’m supposed to do.” It just made me feel more inspired.’
Despite being nearly 15,000 kilometers from home, the Australians in the crowd at Oktagon 44 made themselves known, chanting ‘Aussie Aussie Aussie’ as Austin made her walk to the cage, something the fighter said was appreciated as she headed into the fight.
‘While I was waiting to walk out…there were some Aussies in the crowd, near the door cheering…I know people back home, people close to me are watching it, even though its like three AM or something, but it feels cool to have Aussies there in person watching as well.’
Her submission victory marks the second finish in Austin’s professional MMA career, her other finish also being a rear naked choke when she fought Nyrene Crowley at Eternal 68 on home soil. Her performance against Bagishvili allowed her to showcase both her striking and grappling abilities, which has helped grow her confidence as a fighter.
‘It makes me feel a lot more confident, the strategy with this fight, and it will be with a lot of fights, is that if you can hurt them enough on the feet to force them into wanting to grapple with you or force a bad shot, ideally my jiu jitsu will be there to capitalise on that.’ Said Austin.
While not fighting in MMA, Austin routinely competes in jiu jitsu tournaments around NSW. Austin credits these competitions for her ability to develop her jiu jitsu game inside the cage.
‘The jiu jitsu comps are a really good opportunity for me to practice finishing, and finishing within a certain amount of time as well. I go into the competition with not just the goal of winning, but winning within a certain time frame.’
Prior to her fight at Oktagon 44, Austin suffered her first professional MMA loss when she lost a split decision to Swedish fighter Josefine Knutsson at UAE Warriors 36.
‘The initial feeling in the cage when they announced the decision was very dramatic, it was that I was wrong about everything, I’m not going to make the UFC, I’m not going to make a career out of it. Kind of just like “its all over now.” That was my initial feeling and that lasted the entire night. You just kind of sit there staring at the ceiling thinking about that.’ Said Austin.
At the time, losing the fight was something that crushed Austin, however, it provided her the opportunity to build herself back up as a fighter and change how she mentally approached her training, something that Austin said will be a benefit to her as her career continues.
‘When I watched it back and spoke to my coaches, I realised it wasn’t really a step backwards it was kind of a step to the side. It wasn’t up or down. It was just sideways…the way I operated that fight camp could have been a lot better.’
‘My camp this time was just more fun. I just loved martial arts again, I loved training again. I took some of the pressure off myself. With the fight that I had lost in Abu Dhabi, I put so much pressure on myself to get the win that it was kind of burying me in training. It was overwhelming me so much to the point I wasn’t training very well and I wasn’t very present in sessions.’
‘Someone had said to me that “people aren’t going to pay attention to your loss, but they’re going to pay attention to what you do after that loss”, and that really stuck out with me.’
In the cage after her win at Oktagon 44, Austin faced off with Katharina Dalisda, the woman she will be facing in 13 weeks for the strawweight title. Despite not having a lot of time off between fights, Austin was more than happy to step in the cage again to fight for a pro title.
‘This is the kind of stuff you dream about when you first start, these are the opportunities you want. So when they start coming about, I feel completely ready for it.’
While in Europe, Austin and her coach Alex Carioti were invited by Austin’s former opponent Josefine Knutsson to train with her at All Star in Sweden.
‘We got invited to All Star to do some training with the girls there. So I went from my fight to the next day training in Sweden for other people’s fight camp, so the intensity was through the roof.’
Despite some back and forths the two shared before their fight, Austin said that being able to really speak to Knuttson in person was a positive experience.
’it’s really cool to actually realise your opponents are just the same as you, they’re just human, they’re just trying to do the best they can. Before that fight we have some beef back and forth, but when you catch up in real life, they’re such nice people and they’re just exactly like you.’
Now in the weeks before she heads back into fight camp, Austin says she is using the time to evolve and learn new technique and grow as a martial artist.
‘A lot more focus on learning than hard work. Rather than performing. So today after this we’re going to go do some wrestling, but we’re just going to work on technique…its just a whole lot more learning, it’s a lot less sparring for me and a lot more drills and technical work. I really enjoy it a lot, I enjoy slowing it down for a little bit. I love learning. For me the learning side is always more fun.’
Austin is set to face Dalisda at Oktagon 46 in Frankfurt, Germany on September 17th AEST.