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Interview with

Holly "Wildcat" Ferneley
By Dan Stone and Dan Cucich


Holly "Wildcat" Ferneley is the current IKF World Bantamweight
Muay Thai Champion. This is a composite interview taken from two different interviews of this brilliant, frank, and outspoken kickboxing legend-who has one wicked sense of humor. Enjoy!

1. What made you take up fighting?

A: What made me take up fighting? I've just been a fighter since I was 10 years old. It Seemed like the best sport
to me. I like a challenge which lets you see parts of yourself that you otherwise wouldn't meet. I like to be tested.

2. So how long have you been training now?

A: This is my 9th year of fighting.

3. What is your training schedule like?

A Training schedule: Morning gym work, depending on style of fight and stage in preparation. Afternoon running, resting at night.

4. When was your first fight? And how old were you?

A: I punched a boy in the face when he said girls can't fight. I was 22 for my first full contact fight in 1994 at the Sydney town Hall.

5. What do you remember most about that fight?

A: My opponent was overconfident and had no neck. I was a slender young thing. The fight ended after 18 seconds when she turned her back and ran from me.

5a: And what would you do differently in that fight if you could do it over?

A: I wouldn't do much differently, my prep was thorough.

6. You've fought Oriental rules, international rules, and Muay Thai rules. which do you prefer?

A: I haven't had a kickboxing fight for 3 years. That would be my favourite style, but I'm pretty dangerous in that style. Muay Thai is fun too, grappling makes it hard to punch.

7. What is your favourite technique?

A: Favourite technique? The one that is landing for me today. It changes, sometimes the legs are open, sometimes front kicks work, sometimes boxing works better. It depends on who I'm fighting, really.

8. You have a very high knockout percentage. Do you really enjoy Ko'ing an opponent? How does it feel to see your opponent laying there at your feet? Does make you feel powerful? or A little badly for them? or what?

A: The First feeling is relief that the fight is over and I won. If they stay down too long it turns into a medical emergency and I'm very worried. I feel bad later because they may not fight again after a scary KO.
I just fight with faith that she is fit and strong and can look after
herself. That's why there is so much respect between fighters, just sometimes a KO happens. It could happen to anyone. Initially a Knockout  victory is exciting.
    When I fight far from home, which is about every time I fight cause it is against the law n my home state, I feel like the only way to win is to stop my opponent. I've had too many close fights not go my way, and a convincing win marred by a split decision

Having said that, I don't actually try to knock people out, its just always in the back of my mind. I just try to stay calm and focus on my attack. Sometimes I do this better than other times.
The next day I'm aware I've damaged another person and I feel a little bad, but not too bad. We are fighters in there, sharpening and developing our art. I could have been the more damaged one.

I've been putting together my KO tape and I'm starting to realize why no-one in Australia feels ready to fight me. I have been getting knockouts from the early stages. If anything, I'm safer to fight now that I've learnt how to stop people with body work. And I've stopped the "to the death" sparring. That doesn't seem to reassure them. Its like at school, I got so good at playing marbles, no-one would take me on. I really like fighting for it's own sake, its not about hurting people or proving myself better then someone. There is no ego, I just want to improve my knowledge and understanding. I know there are heaps of girls who can have a good fight with me in the U.S. I need to be in touch with some promoters to negotiate a match.

9. Tell us about your fight with your friend Laura Skinner?

A. Laura is a friend. I'm sure anyone that has come into contact with her has been touched by her focus in the ring and easy sportsmanship.

As for our fight, I fought Laura in 1996. After my first fight with Jale Osmon, which I lost. (she was there) and before my first Muay Thai fight in Japan against Naoko Kumagai.

"Kickboxing" is illegal for girls in N.S.W, (New South Wales) but "Kung Fu" was exempt from the legislation due to it being a "chinese cultural event" True. So I had a rare home fight. I'm used to travelling.

Her management insisted I weigh in a 54.5kg. I did. She was 56kg, the reason being was her period, and fluid retention, from the 1 hour flight from Melbourne. My trainer didn't try to weaken her with last minute weight loss. He didn't like to do that sort of thing. Even when I fought Sharon Anyos for the first time, the weight was 58kg. I came in at 56kg (over trained by him) and she came in at a porky 62kg. I'm sure I would have won that fight, her kickboxing is predictable. Guess he was just a good sport.

Shall I cut to the fight with Laura ? It was an epic war with me on top for most of the time. Can I just say here how much I like and respect Laura based on her energy and behavior during the fight? We were facing off with the ref before the fight and we laughed at her whopping great groin guard. Friendly. She evaded my efforts to inside leg kick her, but when the leg touched the ground I went for it again and got it hard. I felt a little anxiety coming from her. Tell you what it felt like to me, like all her opponents so far had been too soft to push her. So, my power was a little more than what she had dealt with before. She handled it well though, never lost her focus and never gave up scoring. A tendon injury in my foot gave way in the first round. Ever stood on a nail? That's how it felt. I lost the ability to leg check, so I spent the next few days trying to bend my leg. From knee to hip I was welted. Never been hurt so much from a fight.

The second round she threw six sly illegal knees to my thighs, I felt the danger of the technique but she was warned not to do it again. Shortly after that I landed a cracking right on her head somewhere. That pretty much knocked the fight out of her but man she hid it well. She had really good survival skills, wrapped me up. Kept me too busy to load up again. I couldn't plant my feet anyway.

Plan B. I Spent the last three rounds pretty much just pushing her around, into the ropes, corners. She taught me a few good tricks, use of the head, knees. Last time she kneed me (it was NOT a knee fight) I pushed her into the ropes and kneed her back as hard as I could. When the bell went we stopped mid punch and she said with a smile, "you won that fight". Probably the best attitude I have ever encountered in an opponent. Fought with courage.

I wanted to fight her again cause she's fun, I'm no super human, eh? anyone who's been fighting awhile can have a good fight with me. We all have two arms, two legs and a brain. I'm pretty tough because I was never protected, not only did my trainer throw me in the ring with anyone, he would spar me mercilessly every weekend. After fighting a 72kg male every week, the girls were fun.

10. I am going to mention a few names, and I want you to tell me the first thing that comes into your mind, when you think of these persons?

Julie Woods

Asheís just pulled out of our rematch. Iím disappointed cause I think she was unlucky last time we fought. She has a goog variety of attacks. She was a little stiff when we fought in 2000 and I stopped her in the first round with knees.

b. Lynette Els?

A: That was my World IKF Bantamweight Title fight .- Lyn Els from South Africa. Thunderlegs Promotions was planning a big one. America vs. Australia. The date was postponed and the Americans had to pull out due to other fight commitments. Then, With four weeks to go, new opponents were found in South Africa. Lyn Els for me. I knew she was older than me, had around 20 fights and two early losses. Closer to the fight date, I found out she had won her last 10 fights by KO. And I Saw her photo, she looked really mean. Coldest fight energy I've ever encountered. Beating her was like beating the bogeyman, for me. Nothing personal, I have no idea what she's like outside a fight. She's had a pretty flawless career. Perhaps she could have extended her style to include guarding her legs before she met me.

c. Naoko Kumagai ?

A: Naoko gave me my first grappling lesson when we fought in Japan. I spent most of the fight with my face under her armpit.
She is a brave and strong fighter. I was an awkward handful after only 7 fights, think I tore her outfit with a front kick.

d. Rebecca "The Wrecker" Russell

A: Between us, me and Laura Skinner, retired Rebecca. When we were babies, she was touted as the next big thing in Australian Kickboxing. Hah! she could box well but I had too much raw aggression and power. She represented everything I don't like about women fighting, a girly girl with make up, fighting in a skirt.
There's nothing wrong with dressing however the hell you like, but she wasn't doing that, she was being grown as a draw card based on her "feminine" attributes, not her value as a warrior. I knocked her out in the third round and Laura punished her from pillar to post for four endless rounds.

e. Amanda Buchanan

A: I'm thinking of asking her for some boxing sparring, if she is still into
it. She has superb balance. I've been disappointed that we've never had a rematch our first boxing fight.

10. is there any particular female fighter that you especially admire? If so, who and why?

A: I admire anyone who doesn't play safe.

11. Who would you like to fight next? And under what set of rules?

A: I want to Box for the Australian Featherweight title,

12. Who would you say was your toughest opponent to date?
What made her so tough?

A: Toughest opponent? My third fight, I don't remember her name. I didn't have the skill to finish her off and she wouldn't give up. I wont be too graphic but I hurt her lots and she didn't stop trying till the referee stopped it in the third round.

Also, Jale Osman was a big hitter who wouldn't give up, either. She fought me till she dropped. For me, a tough opponent is one with a strong will.

And Lynette Els for my first world title attemptÖ

Two months earlier I'd won the Commonwealth Title by putting Jale Osman to sleep for 3 minutes. That is a long time to be hanging round waiting for someone to wake up after you've just been trying to kill them. She was fine, though, just gave the sport up. Until I knocked her out, I'd say she was my hardest fight yet.

Jale's brother had a seat at the judges table for this fight. He was on my side. She hid her body at the weigh in, so the first sight I had of her stringy big muscles was when we faced off to fight. I had to look up, she was a head taller than me. I was having a rare home match. Kung Fu lost its exemption from seeking a permit after this "brutal" fight.

I was alone in the dressing room for much of the evening, my trainer really busy with 5 other fighters. I could feel part of me deciding whether to try to win or just survive the fight. I jammed my thumbnail under my nose for 10 mins at a time (it's a Chinese focusing technique) every time I felt my courage falter. Felt the familiar fading of everything except the fight coming up. She was in the ring already when I walked in. There were too many people with me, I'm used to being by myself and far from home. And I Could feel their expectations of a win like an extra weight in my heart. I remember looking at her muscles at the face off, thinking: "damm she's big" then, little laugh, "well this should be interesting, lets see what you make of this, wildcat."

Round one: She's punching without end. No opening, no pause, just a kick and 20 punches, paced just right to keep my guards up and head down. I push her head with my left, punch her with my right. Ah, ref warns me, chance to step back. Fat lot of good that did, same again.

I keep my guards high and start swinging leg kicks. One lands hard on her inside leg and her mouth guard drops out. I look at her - this is a 10 round fight, is she going to punch like that all night? Jay Osman is indicating franticly for me to use the big right. Too soon honey, but I'll throw one for you. That got her, there is a mouse (bruise) already, but she side kicks, lands forward and gives me a right of her own. I'm starting to understand where her KO record comes from: Fluster her opponent, then bomb.

I tie her up, hit her again, start kicking a bit at her legs and the bell goes. "Well?" He looks straight into my eyes "COME BACK" Oh, right, "What's going on in there?" I had been feeling the balance of win/survive again "Ok, her punches don't sting, and she doesn't seem to be leg checking." As I said it I knew it was true and the win side came out on top.

Round two. "FRONT KICK" yells my other trainer. Good idea. I push her a few steps back. Crowd goes nuts. She attacks and I kick her again. Crowd starts a chant with my name. The weight now behind me. She tries the side kick land forward technique again but I'm waiting for a chance to kick her legs and this one sends her staggering. I throw her down. Now her legs have had it. She doesn't leg check anything. Bit of a chink in her style, huh? I kick three more times, she tries the side kick again this time she lands hard on her back. Then she lies in wait with her big right, but she missed. Maybe she couldn't bend the leg already. I switched to my hands a while and then relaxed. Save some for later. You do something now. No? Ok. A little tap to the inside thigh and she drops again. Back to the white corner. Surely, that's it? Nup.

Bell went. "Yer doing well, keep it up" pats my leg and leaves. Textbook corner work. I'm thinking, this round I'll practice my boxing. Tap her legs when I want the fight to stop. As I stood up I thought I'd just do something unexpected to get some points. I never meant to knock her out with that kick to the head, but she stayed dropped for about a minute.

I asked her if she wanted to go for a beer after the fight, I heard her voice for the first and only time. "No."

13. Is there anyone you would really like to rematch?

A: Yeah, I'd like to rematch the Japanese girl I last fought in Perth, in 2002. Asako Yonezawa-Saioka. I took the fight on short notice and think I nearly won anyway. She has a world title I want.

14 Tameeka Ransome. What can you tell us about her?

A: I Just fought Tameeka under full Thai rules. ( September 3rd, 2003) She was really effective in the grapples but I managed to hurt her with my kicks and punches, and survived the grapples enough to get the decision. She could have varied her attack much more. By the end of the fight I could pick exactly what she was going to do and she paid with an embarrassing face plant when I pushed kicked her on the back.

15.. Are there any foreign countries where you would be especially interested in going to fight?

A: Japan please. Strong fighters and different culture. Anywhere else that will have me.

17. What do you think can be done to really get women's kickboxing and Muay Thai really popular and moving again?

A: Bet on it.

18. What do you think about three minute rounds for women as well as men?

A: I'm in favour of three minute rounds. Especially for Muay Thai. Two minutes' they grab you, you knee each other then the round is over. Feels more like a real test of will and preparation over three rounds.

19. Do you think women are physically capable fighting three minute rounds?

A: Yes, it shouldn't even be raised as a question.

20. Then, do you think that doing the same five three minute rounds as the men, would increase respect for Women fighters?

A: You treat people like they are strong and they will be.

21. do you think refs are too quick to stop a women's fight?

A: Sometimes. They Definitely were way back when I started. I hope its getting better everywhere, not just here in Australia. It's insulting, belittling and frustrating when a ref cant do a professional job. Erring on the side of caution is just as bad as letting a fight go too far.

22. Do you think men in general tend to treat women in a manner that is condescending ?

A: I have as little to do with men as possible. Where I come from itís illegal for women to fight cause it made the governMENt uncomfortable. Do you find that condescending? They still have no inclination to amend this 17year old law despite me asking them in every way, from polite inquiries to challenging the law in Federal Court.

As a woman I find that insulting, patronizing, belittling and it makes it hard for me to live happily in this society.

So I donít. Iím no man hater, why waste the energy? Iím as unenthusiastic about them as they are about me. I hate that so many women are consumed totally by looking after these big babies. Itís so hard to see a reality outside the conventional one, until you step there.

Being a fighter helps, thatís kinda outside understood society anyway.

Ok, enough already. You pushed the rant button.

23. What advice would you give to new fighters?

A: Don't overuse spinning the techniques and don't follow the shouted advice of your corner immediately, your opponent can hear them too.

24. why should promoters book women fighters? And YOU in particular??

A: I'm lovely to work with. Always grateful to be fighting. My fights are exciting to watch because I'm intuitive and usually really fit.
Girls have more to prove so we try harder. What would you rather see, two thrashing beginner blokes or some experienced conditioned athletes sharpening their art on each other?

25. what would you like to say to the fans?

A: I Hope you get as much meaning and enjoyment out of fighting as I do. It's about improving my skill and testing my style, not about beating someone else down. Thanks for your attention.

womenkickboxing.com would like to Thank Dan Stone who contributed significant portions of his conversations with Ms Ferneley to this interview.

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