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UFC Fighter and Geologist Julia Avila, The Raging Panda | Starting Strength Radio #27

Mark Rippetoe | October 25, 2019

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Mark Wulfe:
From The Aasgaard Company studios in beautiful Wichita Falls, Texas... From the finest mind in the modern fitness industry... The one true voice in the strength and conditioning profession... The most important podcast on the internet... Ladies and GentlemenQ Starting Strength Radio.

Mark Rippetoe:
Welcome back to Starting Strength Radio. Thank you again for being here on a Friday. We today are talking to our friend Julia Avila, who is an up and coming UFC fighter. And we're here to talk to her about all kinds of interesting things today. But first...

Mark Rippetoe:
Comment from the Haters!

Mark Rippetoe:
Now, these are all kind of going in the same direction today. Most of them don't like the way I look.

Julia Avila:
What are you talking about?

Mark Rippetoe:
"Yeah coming from a guy with a beach body. That belly is telling me he knows what he's on about. Why are all powerlifters fat? Is it a requirement? This rippetoe guy. Seems like their god and he's fat too."

Mark Rippetoe:
Isn't it wonderful that I don't get paid for the way I look?

Julia Avila:
Haters.

Mark Rippetoe:
Julia, do you think that's appropriate?

Julia Avila:
Oh, it's totally fine. I'm just, you know, looking at your form.

Mark Rippetoe:
OK. Well, if you're if you're fascinated with it, I suppose that...

Mark Rippetoe:
All right "Still pushing the one gram of body weight nonsense I see. What a joke. Let me guess. Starting Strength is going to start selling a protein powder soon."

Julia Avila:
We could just use this one mic.

Mark Rippetoe:
Weell, we could. Julia, you're really you're really making me uncomfortable. You think that you think that's appropriate?

Mark Rippetoe:
OK. "I normally I normally take my workout advice from someone who is in actual physical say shape. Just sayin'.

Mark Rippetoe:
We better wrap this up. And that's it for...

Mark Rippetoe:
Comments from the Haters!

Mark Rippetoe:
We're here with Julia Avila, Raging Panda. Is her... What do you call it?

Julia Avila:
It's my fight name.

Mark Rippetoe:
Your fight name is "Raging Panda." So what's the deal with pandas? You and Nick over here seem to think pandas... What is the pandas got something to do with Krav Maga?

Julia Avila:
No.

[off-camera]:
That's just that's why I use the panda, because it's the least tactical thing.

Julia Avila:
It's the most unassuming villain ever.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right.

Julia Avila:
I actually don't... I just really love pandas. There's no no deeper meaning or anything. Everyone wants to associate something.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. It's cool right.

Julia Avila:
Cool as a cucumber. Cool as a panda.

Mark Rippetoe:
Cool as a panda. We're talking about the greater panda, not the lesser panda, right? Right.

Julia Avila:
Great. Giant.

Mark Rippetoe:
Giant panda they call him.

Julia Avila:
I don't deal with those red pandas. They're jerks.

Mark Rippetoe:
No, they're kind of raccoon-looking little creatures.

Julia Avila:
They're jerks. Have you ever seen one in the zoo?

Mark Rippetoe:
Never have.

Julia Avila:
You shouldn't. They're horrible. They hide.

Mark Rippetoe:
Do they?

Julia Avila:
Mm hmm. Most of them.

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, that's why I haven't seen one in the zoo. They were hiding. Course I don't go to zoos much.

Mark Rippetoe:
Anyway. Julia, where are you from? Where were you born?

Julia Avila:
I was born in LA.

Mark Rippetoe:
Were you? Yeah. Because you have a little accent.

Julia Avila:
I ate lot of tacos in LA.

Mark Rippetoe:
Where did that come from?

Julia Avila:
No. Sorry.

Mark Rippetoe:
Are your parents from out of the country?

Julia Avila:
My parents are both from Mecias. Yes, I believe so. They're they're both immigrants from Mexico. So I'm first generation Mexican-American.

Mark Rippetoe:
You've got a tiny little bit of an accent going on. It's lovely.

Julia Avila:
You're the first person to say that. Thank you.

Mark Rippetoe:
Really?

Julia Avila:
Yeah!

Mark Rippetoe:
That it's lovely. Or that you have and accent?

Julia Avila:
That you notice it. My my cousins are...

Mark Rippetoe:
Can hear a little tiny bit.

Julia Avila:
Why don't you talk like us? I'm like, because I was born in LA.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. Hey, everybody in L.A. talks like... talks like they're from California.

Julia Avila:
Yeah. Yes. So Californian accent, I suppose. So, I actually I play sports. It's fun. It's something that makes sense to me. My career is a geologist. That's what I do.

Mark Rippetoe:
And we're going to talk about that later as well. You and I are trained in the same field.

Julia Avila:
So that's what I do. That's my profession. My passion is to beat the fuck out of people.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right.

Julia Avila:
And I ended up being pretty good at it.

Mark Rippetoe:
Yeah. Yeah, you are.

Julia Avila:
So... it's a it's my side hustle.

Mark Rippetoe:
So how long have you been fighting?

Julia Avila:
Off and on since 2012. So seven years.

Mark Rippetoe:
But seven years total experience in...

Julia Avila:
Off and on. I took about a three to four year break.

Mark Rippetoe:
...what gets called the martial arts, so to speak.

Julia Avila:
I took about a three to four year break. So.

Mark Rippetoe:
So you're total... you didn't start when you were five then, right?

Julia Avila:
No, no, no. I didn't start...

Mark Rippetoe:
What did you do before you got into this?

Julia Avila:
I started in high school really. And I only did school sports and anything school sponsored. My parents... I had no financial backing or support from family. So I still didn't even learn any actual of the rule sets of any of the sports that I varsitied in until afterwards.

Mark Rippetoe:
So what did you what did you play varsity sports in?

Julia Avila:
Volleyball, soccer, track and field.

Mark Rippetoe:
What was your track and field background?

Julia Avila:
Shot and weight... shot and discus. I'm sorry.

Mark Rippetoe:
So you were thrower and... and but but not a sprinter.

Julia Avila:
No, no. I tried triple jump. Because you know why not? And actually I did shot-put and weight for Notre Dame.

Mark Rippetoe:
Really? Scholarship?

Julia Avila:
Partial was academic. So I... Academic anywhere. It's millennium. Yeah.

Mark Rippetoe:
So your geology degree is from Notre Dame?

Julia Avila:
No, no. I left Notre Dame and I finished my collegiate career at UC Santa Cruz. Go Slugs!

Mark Rippetoe:
Banana slugs.

Mark Rippetoe:
How did you enjoy living in Santa Cruz?

Julia Avila:
It was wonderful.

Mark Rippetoe:
We were talking about zoos earlier. I mean, that place is so fucking weird.

Julia Avila:
It was crazy. And I was focused mostly on my education and at work so I didn't get to go out much. I worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. So I, uh. I played with fish. I worked as a fish hatchery manager.

Mark Rippetoe:
Oh really?

Julia Avila:
That's what I did, yeah.

Mark Rippetoe:
How long were you out there?

Julia Avila:
Three years. So I did graduate on time despite switching universities. And there is where I started to bring it all back.

Julia Avila:
I started running cardio kickboxing classes and like Zumba and body pump. I was a sucker for classes. And after college, I went home, started working on a rig, and I was talking to one of my buddies on the rig. And I go, wow, you know, I have this experience and they're like, "Why don't you see if you can take a punch?" Like you can throw one, obviously.

Julia Avila:
I was like, all right. So I walked into a gym and I tried out MMA. I had a first smoker like a month later. And then I had my first fight. My first actual fight was a professional fight. I had no idea until they closed the cage and they're like "By the way, its pro."

Julia Avila:
And the girl that I beat is now ranked number five in the UFC I think. Yeah. No idea it was a pro fight.

Mark Rippetoe:
You're catching up with her aren't you?

Julia Avila:
Yeah.

Mark Rippetoe:
So let's talk about the fighting stuff. You are... your background, your formal training is in BJJ and Muay Thai, right? And tell us about that.

Julia Avila:
So I do Brazilian jui jitsu. It's ground fighting for layman's terms. It's, you know, the the little man's sport. Right. It's all about leverage and learning how to position your body. I've been doing that for about the same amount of time.

Julia Avila:
Actually, I started with judo. And so I know how to throw people down. I know how to strangle them while they're down. And that's where the jui jitsu comes in. And I do that Muay Thai, and I know how to knock people out. So.

Julia Avila:
Yeah, I've been doing that all. When I went in and started fighting, I just went balls to the wall. All in. So I started everything all at the same time.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. So you're taking classes in BJJ and in the kicking sports. All at the same time.

Julia Avila:
Yeah. Let me tell you this story real quick. I remember - and this just hit me - when I was a kid, I want to say about 10-11, I recycled enough cans in California to buy my first punching bag. So I went.. it was like it took all summer and it was about 50 bucks. And I still have it to this day. It's a blue century bag. It's about this big thing. Yeah. So I guess I had I've always had an interest in it.

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, apparently you have. It just fascinates me that you've got a day job and you're training at the pro level for this sport. What does your day look like? How much sleep do you get?

Julia Avila:
Not enough. I definitely don't get enough.

Mark Rippetoe:
Probably not.

Julia Avila:
I've never really had enough sleep. I've always just been a go, go, go person. I've maintained a similar schedule since high school. My mom used to make fun of me. She said I was the one that opened up the school and closed it. I was there for zero period and actually before zero period too. So I was there around 5:30 and then leaving at ten o'clock every night because I had training.

Julia Avila:
So now as an adult, I've carried that through. I wake up around four o'clock every morning I start. I'm sorry. I wake up at 4:30 every morning, 4:30.

Mark Rippetoe:
Not 4.

Julia Avila:
Because that's too close to the witching hour, and I'm that Catholic, so. We just don't do that. So 5:00 a.m., I start lifting - three times a week on the days that I don't. I enjoy running so I'll just hop on my treadmill and put on a show, do that or I'll go to yoga. I workout from five to six. I work from 7 to 5. And in between there at lunch, I work out another hour. Get home at 5:15. I'm back at the gym at around 6:30 to 9.

Mark Rippetoe:
Or you're in... Do you have an office job now?

Julia Avila:
Yes, sir. Yeah, I work in an office. So thats...

Mark Rippetoe:
You live in Oklahoma City?

Julia Avila:
Yes. Right.

Mark Rippetoe:
So you just commute to the office and it's not bad since it's Oklahoma City. So you you're working seven to five with an hour lunch, train at lunch, and then after you get off work.

Julia Avila:
I'm at home for about forty five minutes and then we train at the gym and it's either jiu jitsu or MMA, which is mostly a striking focus. So it's a Muay Thai class.

Julia Avila:
And we don't train lightly. Our school is very, very tough. It's not. It's really not.

Mark Rippetoe:
It's not a recreational approach to the deal. Right.

Mark Rippetoe:
So would you care to tell us about your instructors? Who have brought you... who are the guys that are responsible for this?

Julia Avila:
Yeah. So the men and women responsible for my successes. I have Seth Norman, who is my head jiu jitsu and MMA coach. He has a ton of experience and is just one of those genetic freaks that... You know, he bumps into a barbell and it's just amazing. He and his wife are...

Mark Rippetoe:
Naturally strong.

Julia Avila:
Yes, naturally strong. Well, his wife is this beautiful blonde Barbie doll who's not as strong and not naturally gifted in that sense, in that regard, but she is very technical. So I get a lot from her.

Julia Avila:
My husband, Cody. Cody, is my strength coach.

Mark Rippetoe:
Cody's your strength coach.

Julia Avila:
And he actually introduced me to Starting Strength.

Mark Rippetoe:
And we're happy that he did that. You were at the seminar. When did you... been a long time.

Julia Avila:
It's almost a year. It was the December seminar in 2018, I believe. We were here in Wichita Falls.

[off-camera]:
It was. It was. Yeah, it was.

Mark Rippetoe:
It was December, December of '18.

Julia Avila:
It was just after a fight because I was skinny.

Mark Rippetoe:
What were you weighing at the time?

Julia Avila:
About one fifty, one fifty two. Yeah, 10 pounds less.

Mark Rippetoe:
Well I don't know that we would call you skinny, Julia.

Julia Avila:
I'm swole, not small.

Mark Rippetoe:
You're you're you're weighing what what you just told me a minute ago is that you're weighing one sixty one today. And you're gonna fight at 138.

Julia Avila:
Thirty five.

Mark Rippetoe:
135. And that just... I'd be really interested to see how you... how you manage to do that. Do they...does the UFC have a 24 hour weigh in?

Julia Avila:
Yes.

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, that's how they do it.

Julia Avila:
Thank goodness, because I would not be a bantam fighter.

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, no. And you're not a bantam fighter. And it's it's kind of dumb, really. Not for Julia it's not.

Julia Avila:
Works for me.

Mark Rippetoe:
I mean, if they were serious about the weight classes, they would handle it differently, wouldn't they? But that's common to power lifting, too. It's it's an interesting approach to take the weight class situation.

Julia Avila:
And well. Yeah. Yeah. And people... there is a smart way to cut.

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, yeah. And not die and stuff. But it's... That's another topic.

Julia Avila:
Takes a lot of discipline.

Mark Rippetoe:
For discussion maybe we'll talk about that. Well, it it does, it's dangerous, though.

Julia Avila:
Oh, yeah.

Mark Rippetoe:
It's very dangerous. And it it shouldn't be done, but it is. And you've got to play by the rules. And so that's what you're gonna do. So I understand.

Mark Rippetoe:
So for those of you that are as stupid about this sort of thing as I am and I I you know, I'm just I'm just the barbell guy. I don't know anything about the history of the UFC. And I don't know that much about MMA. And I don't know a lot really about... I mean, I've watched, obviously, you know, kind of a kind of a minor fan of this sort of thing. But I I've a lot I've watched a lot more boxing than I have UFC.

Mark Rippetoe:
I've watched boxing for 50 years. But the UFC is new to me. I don't I don't have cable and I haven't spent a lot of time watching it anywhere except on YouTube. So could you take us through what you know of the history of the sport and how it has apparently overtaken boxing? Would that be reasonable to say the UFC has overtaken boxing?

Julia Avila:
I don't know that it necessarily has. Boxing is still boxing has more money and...

Mark Rippetoe:
Boxing does have more money, there's no doubt about that. But I'm in terms of viewership. I think that MMA has reached a completely different market than than boxing has. Boxing is guys my age. And, you know, it's it's always been it's a it's your traditional fans sport for lots and lots of lots and lots of people. But MMA has opened up a completely different audience to hand-to-hand combat. And this all started back in the... I guess, the late 90s with the Gracies. Yeah, right. Isn't that how that... this whole UFC one. I remember watching UFC 1.

Julia Avila:
They used to pit specialists against one another.

Mark Rippetoe:
And and everybody figured out that the karate guys got their asses handed to them and the and the Taikwando guys got... they lasted about 10 seconds.

Julia Avila:
Correct me if I'm wrong but they had no weight classes, correct?

Mark Rippetoe:
I don't...I think true. I don't think they had weight classes.

Julia Avila:
No time limit.

[off-camera]:
No rounds.

Mark Rippetoe:
No rounds and no rules except for you couldn't kick somebody in the balls or something like that. There were a few things but that... But it was it was just it was almost the same level of no rules as sumo which has just a couple of rules. You know, nothing but the soles of your feet can touch the ground and no closed hand blows and that's basically all there is to sumo.

Mark Rippetoe:
So UFC was a very simple approach to this. And if I remember correctly, I think the thing rapidly headed in one direction and that was toward BJJ and the Gracies version of that and boxing. Isn't that how the thing... that's my recollection. What is what's your take on this?

Julia Avila:
Yeah. So it has evolved from that, but I think with the progression of mixed martial arts, they've really incorporated the mixed portion of it. And especially in the growth of men's mixed martial arts. So we went from specialists from the karates, from the jiu jitsu guys, from what do you know, players in judo players. We went from all of that to really encompassing this mixed portion of martial arts.

Mark Rippetoe:
Where everybody's got a little bit of all of it.

Julia Avila:
Correct. Correct. And now we have this beautiful evolution of of just carnage, right?

Mark Rippetoe:
Yeah. It's a and it's an interesting thing to watch.

Julia Avila:
Women's MMA hasn't necessarily gotten there yet. So we have people like Ronda Rousey, who is a judo specialist make it and become a champion. And we have people like Holly Holm, who is a specialist who has no groundwork, and she became a champion. We have these specialists that are still succeeding and not until recently have we seen this evolution of the mixed portion of martial arts in Women's MMA. And I feel like I am truly a mixed martial artist.

Julia Avila:
So with, you know, the evolution of the UFC and then going out worldwide, like I think women are slowly catching up to that mixed portion of mixed martial arts.

Mark Rippetoe:
What would you consider important about the mix? Is... if a person is extremely good in their own little specialty, why is that not enough in UFC?

Julia Avila:
Because it doesn't finish there. So if if we have it so take for instance, and I did mention Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm. We have a a ground fighter, essentially a ground fighter, a judoka with Rousey. And if she can get you to the ground, she can win. If she can put her hands on you, she can win. But if you have a kickboxing specialist whose legs are twenty seven feet long and she can push you away and then knock you out with one kick to the throat there is no way that you can win.

Julia Avila:
So. So if we get this kickboxer to the ground, she can't defend herself. So that's where the mixed part comes in.

Mark Rippetoe:
But if she can knock you out in eleven seconds, then you don't get her to the ground either.

Julia Avila:
If I know any basic kickboxing defenses...

Mark Rippetoe:
Then it's not going to happen.

Julia Avila:
Right.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. And that's kind of what we saw with Ronda. Yeah, right. Yeah.

Julia Avila:
So we need just a little bit of... that's why the mixed portion portion is so important. And like in my fights, if anyone has a chance, go subscribe YouTube or find me on Instagram. But I have clips of where I've been able to use the cage while in my benefit where I'm scraping the girl's face across the cage or I can use it. I can bounce her off. And when I kick her, I break her nose. I can also use the ground to my advantage. Like if I'm punching someone in the face, I can grind their face down and then attack an arm or I can just knock someone out.

Mark Rippetoe:
So UFC started... When was the first year of that? Ninety...

Julia Avila:
Ninety something.

Mark Rippetoe:
It was late 90s. I think I was.

Julia Avila:
I was but a wee one.

Mark Rippetoe:
It was probably ninety seven or eight. Don't we have... we have staff for this don't we?

Mark Rippetoe:
Ninety three was the first event. Ninety three. So we're coming up on thirty years. Twenty six years ago if I'm doing my arithmetic right. And how old are you?

Julia Avila:
I was five and ninety three.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. So you've... Did you ever watch when you were a kid? Were you even aware of it?

Julia Avila:
No, I was not aware of any real mixed martial arts. I hadn't watched any when I started fighting. Not until the past couple of years did I actually start watching MMA.

Mark Rippetoe:
When was your first UFC fight?

Julia Avila:
My first UFC fight was this past July, but my first MMA fight was in 2012. 2012.

Mark Rippetoe:
What are the... UFC that is that is the pre-eminent organization. What are the organizations that are kind of doing the same thing?

Julia Avila:
Yeah, there is...

Mark Rippetoe:
And have you had anything to do with then?

Julia Avila:
There are a couple international ones that are both for men and women. Bella Tora LFA One Championship. Fc FC is FC one. I'm sorry, there's Invicta. Invicta is an all women's fighting circuit and I have fought for Invicta twice. Yeah, yeah, twice. And they are actually in under the same umbrella of the UFC. So they're kind of a feeder.

A lot of great women have gone through there. Chris Cyborg, Rose No Euna's Amanda Nunez, who is the current champion for the feather title - featherweight and bantams. So yeah, a lot of a lot of really cool girls have gone through there. Yeah. And there's always smaller local promotions that put on shows.

Mark Rippetoe:
Where is the kind of the hotbed of all of this stuff? Is it the United States or are we kind of leading the world in the development of MMA?

Julia Avila:
Currently we are. Yes, there was a... overseas, and I want to say.... There was the... the ring. It's in a boxing ring, but it's still MMA.

[off-camera]:
Pride?

Julia Avila:
Pride. Is it Japan. OK, I'm sorry.

Mark Rippetoe:
I've heard of that.

Julia Avila:
Yeah. Pride. Right. Yeah. So currently right now the UFC is really the top tier.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right and five minute rounds are the norm.

Julia Avila:
Three five-minute rounds and for a championship or headliners it's five five-minute rounds. Or unless submission or...

Mark Rippetoe:
What is your record so far?

Julia Avila:
I am seven and 1 as a pro... 8 and 1! 8 and 1 as a pro.

Mark Rippetoe:
Yeah, I don't get that wrong.

Julia Avila:
Well, I don't know. I get hit in the head, head for fund.

Mark Rippetoe:
It's all a blur. The numbers kind of merge.

Julia Avila:
Two and 0 as an ammy.

[off-camera]:
What's pro vs amateur?

Julia Avila:
You get paid.

[off-camera]:
That's it?

Julia Avila:
Yeah. The only distinction. You can throw elbows as a pro, but the only difference between a pro and an amateur is that you get paid as a pro.

Mark Rippetoe:
So it's just a matter of you getting selected to fight another pro, right. And who makes that decision?

Julia Avila:
I have a manager that makes... that puts my name out there. If I can bring in tickets, they'll sign me.

Mark Rippetoe:
And then the officials at the organization decide who's gonna be on the card.

Julia Avila:
Yes. And they want to have the most exciting fighters out there. You know, if all I'm gonna do is lay on top of someone, not show any blood, like it's not that great.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. So if there's a there's a component of...

Julia Avila:
Marketability.

Mark Rippetoe:
Yeah, in terms of just the entertainment value of the of the engagement. Right. I wonder if that enters into boxing.

Julia Avila:
Mcgregor and Mayweather. It was all marketing. It was all names.

[off-camera]:
I paid for that one. A 100 bucks to watch it.

Julia Avila:
We watched it.

[off-camera]:
Knowing full well that marketing.

Mark Rippetoe:
We were talking earlier and you had an event coming up here pretty quick in Singapore that got cancelled. What was that? What was the situation?

Julia Avila:
Yeah. So I was supposed to fight next weekend on the twenty sixth.

Mark Rippetoe:
And we're filming this on Friday the... What is today?

Julia Avila:
The 18th?

Mark Rippetoe:
This is the 18th. It is.

Mark Rippetoe:
Oh God. Look Rogan's called again. I wish he'd... keeps bothering me about wanting me to be on his show and I've. I've told him... How many times have I told him no? At least 40 to 42 times...

Julia Avila:
Today.

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, he's called twice today, so. Well, anyway, we'll turn that over so I don't have to listen.

Mark Rippetoe:
So today's the 18th. We're filming this on the 18th. And you were supposed to be in Singapore next weekend.

Julia Avila:
Right? Yeah, for the...

Mark Rippetoe:
What happened?

Julia Avila:
My opponent got injured. She broke her kneecap, I believe. So. Something along those lines. So, you know, this is unfortunate. It would have been both of our sophomore fights in the UFC and it would've been a good fight. Hopefully I get to fight her in the future.

Mark Rippetoe:
Who is the girl?

Julia Avila:
Carol Rosa from Brazil. And she's just got belted. She's just got her black belt not too long ago. And she came off a win in the UFC China.

Mark Rippetoe:
So this was gonna be a step up from the last one? Or was it kind of parallel?

Julia Avila:
It's a lateral move. Yeah.

Mark Rippetoe:
So what happens now?

Julia Avila:
I wait, I train, I wait. I get stronger. I get better.

Mark Rippetoe:
Then your manager is out fishing for another one right now, right?

Julia Avila:
Yeah. The right one. The one that makes sense, right. Yeah.

Mark Rippetoe:
So you don't have to accept everything that's offered to you, right?

Julia Avila:
Correct. I don't...

Mark Rippetoe:
How many times have you turned people down?

Julia Avila:
I have not turned anyone down that I could rationally fight. I've had to turn people down because of medical reasons. I had stitches and they offered me a fight. I couldn't accept it because I wasn't medically cleared. I just came off a broken thumb.

Mark Rippetoe:
They won't let you fight with stitches? Or you won't let you fight?

Julia Avila:
No. No. I dont have medical clearance to fight with. With.

Mark Rippetoe:
They don't want you in the ring if you.

Julia Avila:
Right. And then I had to a I one because I had been released from surgery like maybe a month afterwards and so I still had to let my bone heal. Right. Yeah.

Mark Rippetoe:
So what are the injuries that you have received here? Mainly superficial stuff? I know you told me last time we talked that you'd broken a hand.

Julia Avila:
Yeah. So I broke my thumb. I shattered it at the joint - at the joint here. So I basically punched so hard that my thumb got cut. It was sticking out because the gloves are a little big, so it's sticking out. And I punched her so hard that it compressed and broke down here in three different pieces. I got stitches on my eyebrow. I have nice little...

Mark Rippetoe:
That's gonna happen to you.

Julia Avila:
Yeah. Oh, yeah. It's the second time, actually. The first one.

Mark Rippetoe:
You got a brow ridge that doesn't like being hit so.

Julia Avila:
So I just gotta move my head faster. And my finger popped out -dislocated and popped out during one of my fights. Yeah, I tried to put it back in, I didn't realize that it was... my bone was sticking out, so I tried to put it back in. I looked down and it was during the fight and I'm like, all right, my bones out. So I switched stances, put my right hand forward. I tried to keep fighting and the ref was like "NO"

Mark Rippetoe:
That's very resourceful.

Julia Avila:
I wanted to keep fighting.

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, sure, sure. You don't feel it during the during the fight, I'm sure, right?

Julia Avila:
I was fine. It's the bone. Looked like a chicken wing.

Mark Rippetoe:
Same color. Oh god almighty.

Mark Rippetoe:
So you train for fights a little bit differently than a lot of people do. And one of the primary reasons we wanted to talk to you is because you're one of the few people in the sport that seems to understand that stronger is better.

Now, it is a common problem among sport coaches all over sports that they are not interested in having their athletes train under the bar for, you know, they paid lip service to it. But there's most, most boards and some are worse than others. Boxing is probably the worst we've ever heard of. Those guys just don't understand that that you can get stronger and therefore hit somebody harder.

Mark Rippetoe:
If you're stronger, if you lift weights, it's you know, it's nineteen fifty three apparently where you're still telling people that'll slow you down and all this nonsense, all this mythology that's obviously wrong.

Mark Rippetoe:
You know better than that. And one of the comments that we've heard from the from the people you fought is that my God, she's strong. We're hearing that from their coaches. And what it's interesting to me that the mindset remains so thoroughly entrenched against a progressive strength training program in the combat sports. I don't understand why it's not obvious that...

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, all right. Why did they put weight classes in the UFC? Because the bigger guys are stronger than the little guys. What does that tell you? What does it tell you when steroids are used in a sport? It this... This is not complicated. Stronger is important. Yet the mindset, especially in MMA remains for most of the people to do it. Certainly most of the coaches that we don't need to lift weights. And what's what's your... what the fuck is going on with these people?

Julia Avila:
You know, it actually wasn't without a little bit of kicking and screaming on my part for me to actually believe it. So it is very difficult because it's so entrenched in our mindset that weight training will make you slower, will make you bigger, make it harder. It doesn't. It actually makes it easier. Cutting - because it is part of the culture still - because of the weight classes. Cutting weight is easier when you're more muscle.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. Because water pours out.

Julia Avila:
So it's I... It took my husband a couple of fights for me to really start believing in it. And we weight train and that's what we do. We get under the barbell.

Julia Avila:
But I've always loved weight training, but because I didn't have to focus on the number on the scale, I did it all the time. When I was younger and when I was playing a multitude of sports. But now when I have to focus, when it's an issue, when the number on the scale is an issue, I was a little hesitant at the beginning. Now I'm all about it. I'm fine. I know how to cut weight.

Mark Rippetoe:
You've been through the process several times.

Julia Avila:
I've been through the process.

Mark Rippetoe:
And you understand the advantages here.

Julia Avila:
And I am. I'm the pro. I'm like team captain at our gym. And so the fighters that we do produce, we run their strength training and they listen, they follow. And they've all had great results. They all follow barbell training. They all do the same cut. We don't use any PEDs and we're successful, right? We're really successful.

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, anytime steroids are involved in a sport. This is it. This is the same thing as saying strong is important. Steroids are a way of saying I'd rather just not do my deadlifts.

Julia Avila:
Oh, my God. People are, you know, fucking entitled. It pisses me off so much.

Mark Rippetoe:
I understand. You baseball players are famous for substituting steroids for barbells.

Mark Rippetoe:
If strong is important, why don't you lazy bastards just stop relying solely on your genetics and your steroids and get under the bar because it'll get under the bar and do the work. People don't know work ethic.

Mark Rippetoe:
People don't have a work ethic. A lot of gifted athletes, a lot of gifted athletes because of the way the whole thing is set up, have never had to get under the bar and get stronger than they are now. Because however strong they are, now has been enough and all of that potential has remained untapped.

Mark Rippetoe:
And it's it's interesting to me that they would they would rather just take the stuff than they would put in the work two or three times a week and add five pounds to their sets of five squats.

Mark Rippetoe:
Their set of 5 deadlifts, add two and a half pounds to their bench press, their overhead press. I don't understand what what what what has been said to you about this?

Julia Avila:
Oh, gosh. Let's start from the beginning. So I've in high school, I was offered steroids. They said I could be so much better.

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, of course.

Julia Avila:
Yeah. I never took any.

Mark Rippetoe:
I'ts high school and everybody was.

Julia Avila:
Never took any. I don't know if I'm a naturally gifted athlete.

Mark Rippetoe:
Have you ever heard your vertical jump measured?

Julia Avila:
Measured yeah?

Julia Avila:
What is it? 23? No more than that... six. Twenty six?

Mark Rippetoe:
Twenty six or seven. You're a naturally gifted athlete.

Julia Avila:
But I wouldn't. I never knew that growing up in the sports that I did.

Mark Rippetoe:
You wouldn't have known it growing up except by virtue of the fact that everybody wanted you on their team.

Julia Avila:
I just had a work ethic, right?

Mark Rippetoe:
The work ethic is important. Obviously, the work ethic is important. And you either have work ethic or you don't. This comes from your upbringing. It comes from your genetic psychological makeup. You either want it real bad or you don't.

Julia Avila:
Yeah your desire, your passion for it.

Mark Rippetoe:
What's your passion, you know? Will you do what's necessary?

Mark Rippetoe:
If you've got people telling you that that what you need to do is dance around on the floor with 10 pound dumbbells, then that might appeal to a person with a work ethic in the same way that getting under a heavy a progressively heavier barbell would appeal to somebody with a work ethic because it's presented to you as equivalent.

Mark Rippetoe:
Most of the people at the professional levels of your sport don't do heavy squats or deadlifts because they've been convinced that they don't need to or that they shouldn't.

Julia Avila:
They're convinced that the 10 pound...

Mark Rippetoe:
They're they're convinced that functional training is better than and it's easier. It is easier. It's a hell of a lot easier than getting under a bar and doing a set of five with a weight that you don't know you can do the fifth rep of. Because see, that is a... you know, nobody's ever worried about missing the 15th rop of a set of 10 pound dumbbell throws around in the floor. But your PR set of five squats, the last rep, you know, is just as much here [points to brain] as it is here [points to lower boddy].

Julia Avila:
Right.

Mark Rippetoe:
If you are taught...

Julia Avila:
Which translates for MMA

Mark Rippetoe:
For any sport. Yeah, it translates to performance.

Julia Avila:
Yes.

Mark Rippetoe:
Testing yourself, knowing that you don't really ever know what your limits are until you reach them, never telling yourself "I can't." But instead telling yourself "I must."

Mark Rippetoe:
That's one of the things that that this distraction, that functional training is presented to athletes all over the world hascost. You don't understand that your limitations are not always where you think they are. You've been given permission to not find out whether or not you can do this thing that's so hard you don't know whether you can do it or not.

Mark Rippetoe:
And the only way to find it out is to try. In the absence of heavy barbell training, how you can learn that, you know? Some people just have big giant cantaloupe-sized balls and will try anyway, but here is a way to teach that to people that aren't naturally that way. Yet we're being taught that it's not necessary and that other things are better.

Mark Rippetoe:
With this in mind, what what are the arguments you've heard presented against barbell training? Who's presented them to you? Who else has heard this? Who chose to believe it? And why did you not choose to believe it?

Julia Avila:
So in the beginning I did barbell training throughout high school. I did the Bigger, Faster, Stronger. I'm sure you're aware of it. And add we I remember going in there for zero period. That's when my mom said that I opened up the school. And so I've been in love with the barbell since then, since I was 12 years old. Twelve. Thirteen years old.

Julia Avila:
And afterwards, I bought my own bumper set, like after college and everything got my own bumper set and I was doing my own programming. And then when I got into mixed martial arts, I was told, no, no, no, you don't want to do that. It's going to make you heavy. It's gonna make you slow.

Mark Rippetoe:
Who told you that?

Julia Avila:
Everyone.

Mark Rippetoe:
All all the athletes? All the coaches?

Julia Avila:
All the athletes, coaches, all the observers. They told me to run. And so I ran. I actually...

Mark Rippetoe:
Because that's what you do in the ring. Right. That's what you do.

Julia Avila:
Not me specifically.

Mark Rippetoe:
That's what you... That's what. Yeah...

Julia Avila:
I chase.

Mark Rippetoe:
...from you.

Julia Avila:
No, so that's what I did. I've I've run marathons and ultramarathons and I've done endurance races and I do them well. But I always kept barbell training. And it was mostly because I enjoy it. I love it. I love the the strain, the knowing that I can push that weight, knowing that I can get under the bar. I'm just really good at lifting heavy shit.

Mark Rippetoe:
Good, good. And that that is helpful, isn't it?

Julia Avila:
I kept it.

Mark Rippetoe:
When did it occur to you that this whole thing in the ring was not just about the technique, that it was about the the amount of force with which you can interact with an opponent?

Julia Avila:
When men started telling me "I have to use muscle against you" which was the very beginning because I am a strong girl.

Mark Rippetoe:
Which is a which is a way of saying strong is good.

Julia Avila:
Yeah, right.

Mark Rippetoe:
You're stronger than our other female sparring partner.

Julia Avila:
Yep. I'm stronger than most of the men sparring partners. So I I I always kept barbell training.

Mark Rippetoe:
And yet these guys are still the same people that are telling you not to squat and deadlift.

Julia Avila:
I've never been one to follow the rules. So I just kept doing what I do.

Mark Rippetoe:
Why can they not see what the hell they're saying and the contradiction? They're making the obvious observation that you're stronger.

Julia Avila:
You're strong.

Mark Rippetoe:
But don't do the things that are obviously making you strong because that's cheating.

Julia Avila:
"It wasn't important." What's important was how fast my mile was.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. Right. You see how frustrated over here on this side of the table I get with this kind of stupid shit. It's just amazing to me...

Julia Avila:
Well, yeah.

Mark Rippetoe:
...that people don't understand. It's right there. Right there. Well you have to be able to see it. It's laying right there. And yet I mean every piece of evidence points in this direction. Weight classes. Right. Steroids. Right. The outlier that will actually train and kicks everybody's ass. Right. It's all laying right there. But still, these stubborn bastards... I wonder if it's professional jealousy. They don't know how to teach you how to squat. And so you don't need to learn. What do you get the feeling that perhaps part of it is that?

Julia Avila:
They're just not educated in it. People do what they want to do. People do what they want to do...

[off-camera]:
So she got a strong and nobody can learn from it.

Julia Avila:
Yeah.

Mark Rippetoe:
And nobody can learn it from her.

[off-camera]:
They can't learn it. This everybody yell and scream about this shit for the rest of your life and nobody will listen.

Mark Rippetoe:
No, you're right now because. Because the people who are genetically gifted end up being the best in the world. And if the best in the world don't lift weights, why does anybody else need lift weights? And that's the logic. That's the that's the argument. It's not logic. But that is the argument. And it's it's just weird. It's weird, you know.

Mark Rippetoe:
And this is this is why I've always said that we are narrowcasting, we're narrowcasting. We are telling everybody that will listen to us that they need to get stronger. But only a few people like you can absorb the logic of this, because this is not a because the argument that the greatest football player, the greatest soccer players in the world don't lift weight. So why should anybody else lift weights? That's a very compelling argument. It's it's cause-and-effect versus correlation.

Mark Rippetoe:
You have a science background. You understand the problems with that. But lots of people don't. And it's it's hard to argue against the fact that the the the the champion in everybody's weight class all throughout MMA doesn't do heavy squats and deadlifts. So why if you want to be champion, would you do something they didn't have to do?

Mark Rippetoe:
And they just don't understand the argument.

Julia Avila:
Which is fine. I mean, it's fine for me.

Mark Rippetoe:
It's fine for you.

Julia Avila:
I'm going to be at a better position.

Mark Rippetoe:
You're going to take advantage of that and because of that lack of analysis, right.

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, I want to talk about geology.

Julia Avila:
Oh, gosh.

Mark Rippetoe:
Because I know this is and aside. We just lost most everybody talking about geology.

Mark Rippetoe:
Julia, I still dig it.

Julia Avila:
Oh, do you?

Mark Rippetoe:
I graduated in eighty three and I still when I'm driving down the road...

Julia Avila:
Looking at formations...

Mark Rippetoe:
I look at road cuts and formations and, you know,.

Julia Avila:
You've been to Vegas, yeah?

Mark Rippetoe:
Yeah.

Julia Avila:
You check out the basins there and everything. I freak out every time. Every time I'm like Cody, look!

Mark Rippetoe:
I've been all over Wyoming and Montana and all the western United States where there's not a bunch of vegetation cluttering up the cluttering up the the the geologic sequence. And you can see all this stuff on the side of the road. And it just still fascinates me.

Mark Rippetoe:
And I don't know, I've I've I've enjoyed it since I was young and I still do. What's your is your degree? Petroleum geology?

Julia Avila:
No, environmental geology. So just general geology with an emphasis in substrata. So sedimentary in stratigraphy.

Mark Rippetoe:
So where do you work? What's your day job and what do you do?

Julia Avila:
I work at Chesapeake Energy. Oil and gas company.

Mark Rippetoe:
Big independent.

Julia Avila:
Yes. So I work for them. I am a geological technician. So I work more on the background. So I process the data. I don't interpret the data. I've worked on an oil rig. I've geosteered wells.

Mark Rippetoe:
Are you in the field ever at your day job anymore?

Julia Avila:
Not anymore. No, I'm.... I used to be on a rig for two years, working twelve hour shifts and being a mud logger, well-site geologist. The kitchen samples. Getting cleaning, sniffing rocks.

Mark Rippetoe:
Yeah. Mm hmm. Well. It is how is Chesapeake doing a lot of fracking? What are they more conventional stuff?

Julia Avila:
No, we're unconventional for sure. Yeah, we drill all over the place.

Mark Rippetoe:
It seems to me as though the the role of exploration geology has been diminished recently with the development of radial drilling.

Julia Avila:
And there's no money. There's no money to explore.

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, we already know where everything is. If you've got a black shale formation, we don't need exploration geology anymore. We know where the Barnett Shale is, for example. We know the extent of it. It's been mapped for decades.

Julia Avila:
But there's always pockets, right, because there's always the structural like anomalies. So I'd say the Merrimack right now is right in our backyard and we didn't know about it.

Mark Rippetoe:
Nobody thought about it.

Julia Avila:
Yeah, you can. I can throw a stone and hit that rig. And like I mean, that just came out of nowhere. Someone's like a stick there to check this out. That's right. Yeah. So there's always these anomalies, you know, we don't know it. Like geology is a soft science, right. It's all arm waves and whiskey.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right, compared to the engineering, yes it is.

Julia Avila:
Yes, comparatively. Because we don't know Earth's legit history.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right.

Julia Avila:
We know it's round though.

Mark Rippetoe:
There are too many variables. It is a multivariate system. It's like physiology, right. In that there are things we don't know. We don't know. Right. Right. And we there are so many variables that we don't even have control over all the ones we know were there. Plus the fact that there are pockets that haven't been run across yet.

Julia Avila:
So I think there's still some validity and like true exploration, there's still some out there.

Mark Rippetoe:
That was the romance, you know, back in the 80 years ago, these guys running around doing surface geomorph and and and looking at formations subsurface based on clues they'd run across on the surface. Doing geology from an airplane. This guy's flying around and look at thing. Oh, that looks like the structure. Let's let's let's go down there and look at the ground.

Mark Rippetoe:
That was those were the heydays, man.

Julia Avila:
That romanticized version.

Mark Rippetoe:
That's the romance. That's the romance. Well, enough of that. We're borning people with our little bullshit.

Julia Avila:
They interviewed... So while I was in Vegas there was twp earthquakes.

Mark Rippetoe:
Really?

Julia Avila:
Yeah. Yeah. Out of nowhere. Right. Oh, boy. I was so happy.

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, the basin and range is an active place.

Julia Avila:
It was, you know, dormant blind thrust fault. I believe it was.

Mark Rippetoe:
How dormant?

Julia Avila:
There hadn't been an earthquat...

Mark Rippetoe:
Dormant is relative.

Julia Avila:
Well, yeah. I mean, there hadn't been an earthquake there for like 30 years or something like that. That it came from.

Mark Rippetoe:
That's not real dormant.

Julia Avila:
Within our time.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right.

Julia Avila:
Yeah. But it was super cool. And my husband ran around going "We're going to die!" And I was like, no, no, we're fine. Calm down.

Mark Rippetoe:
We're not gonna die just now. At least we're not in Los Angeles. I get nervous out there.

Julia Avila:
I lived through the Northridge earthquake. A fan fell on me.

Mark Rippetoe:
Oh, really? Yeah. Well, at least the freeway didn't fall on you. The overpass didn't fall on you.

Julia Avila:
It was what? Ninety two or something like that.

Mark Rippetoe:
Oh, that was. That's the one where. Oh, God. I remember that. That's those poor bastards got collapsed on top of.

Julia Avila:
Fan.

Mark Rippetoe:
Yeah. Ugly situation. Yeah. You're... California makes me nervous. It's one of the reasons I don't like to be there.

Julia Avila:
Do I make you nervous? I'm Californian, so...

Mark Rippetoe:
No, you're you're just fine because you moved. So you don't live there anymore. So you're just fine.

Mark Rippetoe:
Julie, tell us what it's like coming back to work in the office after you've just gotten your brains beaten out over the weekend? What do you do? They allow you like a day off or what? How well did how well do they understand what you do and are they accommodating? And and so there's that aspect of it, but how do you focus on what the hell you're supposed to be doing when you've just gotten through with a fight?

Julia Avila:
My co-workers and my company is completely understanding of my my passion, which is fighting. And I don't... I only take on what I can responsibly handle. So until that becomes an issue, I will continue to be both a geologist and a fighter.

Julia Avila:
So that being said, I've, you know, coming back after our fight, I usually tend to be OK if I have an injury. I work around it because that's what you do. You just adapt. And if there is one time I did have a concussion. So for about a week, I was like, "Who am I? I know I should"

Mark Rippetoe:
And ibuprofen doesn't help with that, does it?

Julia Avila:
My workers were completely okay with it, you know, and they helped me out. And there were things that I was able to do throughout that time while I recovered. But, you know, cut week tends to be a little difficult. I'm very angry and hungry and thirsty. And I once threw a water bottle. I was angry. I just tend to be very honest...

Mark Rippetoe:
Well at least they didn't fire you for that.

Julia Avila:
Oh, no, no. It's it's all around my friends. I know how to take care of myself. I know how to conduct myself in certain situations. I read the audience and when I'm allowed to, I act out because I need to let it out after a fight if I have a bruise or stitches people know that it's from fighting and they're OK with it. They ask how the other girl is.

Mark Rippetoe:
What does she look like?

Julia Avila:
Yeah. They're like, oh, you look this bad? ooh. Well, and actually after this last fight, I went and I did one of the classes that's offered at the gym that's on campus. And I was outrunning everyone. They're like, "Hey, you guys need to catch up this this one just had a fight. Go catch her.".

Julia Avila:
It's fun. You know, everyone's super, super supportive. And I have a lot of my co-workers go to my events, you know, and I can... There was one time - it's there's video of it - where it was a five round fight. It was a championship fight. And it was against Niko Montano. And someone goes, "Go, Chesepeake!" And I start laughing, my eye is swollen shut. And I just start laughing. Blood everywhere.

Julia Avila:
It's it's great. You know, it's a great work life balance. And I get it all the time, like. "But you're still pretty. Why do you want to fight?" You know, like, "I never would have expected you to be a fighter." Do I need to be ugly? Is that a requirement?

Mark Rippetoe:
Do I need to do what you expect me to do?

Julia Avila:
Haven't done it yet.

Mark Rippetoe:
Maybe not.

Julia Avila:
Yeah. I'm not going to start listening now.

Mark Rippetoe:
Julia, thank you for being with us today. We wish you the best of luck. And although I don't think you need it. I think you'll take care of that yourself.

Julia Avila:
Luck's for the week.

Mark Rippetoe:
In fact.

Mark Rippetoe:
Thank you for joining us today on Starting Strength Radio. We'll see you next time.

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Julia Avila and Rip discuss MMA, the impact of strength on performance in the UFC, and geology.

  • 00:00 Intro
  • 00:46 Comments from the Haters!
  • 02:47 Raging Panda
  • 05:05 Can you take a punch?
  • 08:27 Balls to the wall
  • 12:35 Coaches
  • 15:43 MMA - Mixed - development
  • 25:55 Record, injuries
  • 31:31 Strength for combat sports
  • 41:55 Barbells vs Running
  • 48:07 Geology
  • 54:34 Back to work after a fight

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