A New Dawn for Joanne Calderwood at Tristar

Fightland Blog

By Peter Carroll

Photos by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Joanne Calderwood was one of the most well known fighters to claim a place on The Ultimate Fighter: A Champion Will Be Crowned Finale back in 2014. From the outset of the series, the Scot was marked out as one of the favorites to win the competition based on her undefeated mixed martial arts record she carried into the series.

Having begun her training in Muay Thai back in 2000, Calderwood marked herself out as a force to be reckoned with on the European scene. In 2009, ‘Jojo’ won her first European title with IKF, and she tagged on three more belts in the flyweight bracket with WKL, WBC and ISKA over the next three years.

Despite her great success in the art of eight limbs, the financial gains of competing in the sport could not compete with what was starting to become available in mixed martial arts. Claiming three wins in four months when she crossed over into MMA, the premier women’s fight organization in the world, Invicta Fighting Championships, came calling.

Matched with fellow unbeaten prospect Ashley Cummins for her debut, Calderwood justified her hype when she delivered a perfectly placed knee to the body of her opponent to end the bout in the first round. The stoppage won her a ‘Knockout of the Night’ award, and the Scottish starlet went on to claim four more wins under the banner in fourteen months before the invitation to compete on the TUF series was sent her way.

The contrast of Calderwood’s striking ability and her softly spoken Scottish lilt was a big hit with fans of the show. She passed the first test put in front of her with a decision win over Emily Kagan. However, after passing through the elimination round, Calderwood was knocked out of the running for the strawweight title when she succumbed to a second-round kimura from Rose Namajunas.

With the vast majority of the season’s cast going on to make up the first UFC strawweight division, Calderwood was nearly guaranteed another fight under the banner. Despite being singled out as a potential title contender in the bracket since she was confirmed for the season on the promotion’s reality platform, Calderwood has yet to really separate herself from the rest of the pack in the bracket.

Hot and Cold Calderwood

‘Jojo’ made her full UFC debut in December 2014 in Las Vegas against game South Korean Seo Hee Ham. Calderwood battered the aggressive ‘Hamderlei’ in the final round of the contest after establishing back control. Moments before she took the fight to the ground, Calderwood caught her counterpart with a front kick to the face that visibly stunned her. The finish may not have come, but Calderwood certainly proved herself worthy of the step up to the world’s biggest MMA stage with UFC.

A lot of people thought that Calderwood would easily take a victory against Maryna Moroz when the 5-0 Ukrainian was matched with the Scot in Krakow last April. Yet, in the first round of the bout, the debutant caught Calderwood with a slick armbar that forced her to tap. The disappointment was written all over her face as Moroz celebrated widely in front of the stunned gathering.

When Calderwood was matched against 4-1 debutant Cortney Casey in Glasgow last July, again, it was believed that her striking pedigree would easily guide her to victory. The big homecoming was nearly spoiled when Casey rocked ‘Jojo’ in the early exchanges. Such was the back and forth nature of the contest that it went on to win the ‘Fight of the Night’ honor from the event, but it certainly wasn’t the dominant display that was expected from Calderwood.


Having cited that her seven-year relationship with her head coach at Griphouse coming to an end had affected her in the past, Calderwood has joined a number of European talents head hunted by coach Eric O’Keefe at the world renowned Tristar Gym.

We have seen great improvements in other fighters like Tom Breese and Joseph Duffy who also made the trek out to Montreal, and Calderwood pointed to the professionalism of the outfit as one of the main reasons that she joined the team in an interview with MMAFighting.com.

“I just decided that I needed a more professional team around me,” Calderwood said. “I wasn't really getting the MMA (training). I needed my jiu-jitsu more MMA-based, my wrestling more MMA-based, and I was just kind of looking to go to Canada because it's a place I want to go.

“I’ve been watching Firas’ instructionals on YouTube, his YouTube channel, and I spoke to Joe Duffy at the Glasgow card and he said ‘why don't you come over and try it?’

“Obviously, Stevie Ray, one of my teammates, has been there and he liked it, so I was like, you know what, I’ve got nothing to lose. It just seemed like they had the dorms and stuff, so I was like, fuck it, I’m going to go and see what happens.”

A fan favorite, we will get to see how much ‘Jojo’ has improved this Saturday night when she takes on the toughest challenge of her career against Canadian Valerie Letourneau. Having looked tentative in the opening exchanges of her last few outings, Calderwood will have to be ready for the intensity and pace that her counterpart establishes from the very first bell. 


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