Let’s talk female empowerment: An interview with Bec Rawlings, bareknuckle boxing champion

April 30, 2019 Providence Health Team

They call her the Queen of Bareknuckle Boxing, Australian flyweight mixed martial artist, Bec “Rowdy” Rawlings. Here at To Your Health, we’re continuing our focus on Female Empowerment, and who better to talk to about adversity, we thought, than a true-blooded fighter.

At the beginning of her career, fighting then in the Australian MMA circuit, Rawlings became instantly recognizable, and popular, for her explosive, full-on, all-out fighting style, as well as her uniquely “Rowdy” personality. Since then Rawlings has gone on to fight in the Invicta Fighting Championships, and in the Ultimate Fighter Championship. When later she was released from her UFC contract, in 2018, Rawlings hung up her gloves. And by that we don’t mean she left the squared circle. She only hung up her gloves to keep on fighting in the Bareknuckle FC, becoming the instant breakout star, then the world champion of bare-knuckle boxing.

Not all of Rawlings battles have been fought in the ring, with her bare fists. As a survivor of domestic violence, Rawlings has been using her platform to fight the stigma surrounding domestic violence and violence against women, so that other people, facing what Rawlings faced herself, may find the courage to speak out and speak up. Read Bec Rawlings’s own moving and unflinching account of escaping an abusive relationship, and how MMA helped her to find her courage, on her Facebook page.

We had a chance to catch up with Bec Rawlings to talk about the adversities she’s faced, both in her personal life, and in the ring. Read our interview below.

Why is progress in your field limited for women? 

It was originally a male-dominated industry, but women are gaining more traction now within combat sports.

How have your accomplishments forged a path and place for women in the field and beyond?  

I helped break down the barrier and stigma that women can’t fight and that we are too fragile to compete in combat sports. I also shared with Fighters Against Child Abuse Australia a horrible and embarrassing truth about my personal life: how I walked away from an abusive relationship while raising my two sons. I hope sharing my story helps others and creates awareness that even people like myself can still fall victim to domestic violence.

What have you sacrificed – personally and/or professionally – at each stage of your career and what lessons did this provide?

I’ve sacrificed a lot for my career, from my children’s birthdays, to Christmas, family events, even funerals of loved ones. I’ve learned that some things can be sacrificed for the greater good, but if it affects your mental health and happiness, then it’s not worth it.

It probably seems like a little bit of a contradiction that the past three years have been the best and at the same time, the worst time of my life. I’ve heard before that it’s the journey that shapes someone and not necessarily the destination. I wouldn’t give up where I am in life at the moment for anything but sometimes I wish that the journey I took to get here was a little different.

Tell us about a time that you had to face adversity to follow your dreams/calling?

I faced a lot of adversities, and I think most athletes have. Injuries are a huge thing we have to deal with, and learn how to accept, and to grow from.  

In my personal life, when the abuse in my past relationship would get more extreme, this is when I got serious about training. I used my training as my escape; I could finally be me and forget about everything at home. When I had my debut fight and was training twice a day, breastfeeding and having absolutely ZERO help. Looking back, this camp was by far the hardest that I have ever had. I had to fight to escape him to prove I can do something with my life, to prove I was worth something!

What woman inspires you and why?

Pink, the singer, really inspires me, for being nothing but her absolute self. Self love is a huge thing to me.

How can women be more powerful?

We can know our worth, and we can fight for it. Because of my experiences, I have to learn how to love and learn how to be loved again. I don’t know if I’ll ever be the same, but I will be okay, I’ll fight another day.

Share a real life hack” that helps you maximize your time and balance personal and professional life.

All I know is, coffee is a must!

How have all the different experiences that you have had affected your mental health and how do you take care of yourself?

I remind myself each day to be kind to myself. The biggest turning point for me with my mental health was learning to love myself, and reminding myself that I’m worthy of good things, good people, and success.

We spoke to our own Robin Henderson, PsyD, Chief Executive, Behavioral Health for Providence Oregon, who weighed in with a clinical perspective.

“We all have our own adversities to battle with,” Dr. Henderson says. “Now, most of us aren’t facing those battles bare-knuckled in the ring, but we all face our own battles, and we face them in our own ways. Life is a great experiment in learning how to cope with adversity. First we learn to fear adversity, because, let’s not beat around the bush, adversity can be a source of real pain and trauma. But later, when we persevere, as Bec says, we can grow from it. What is crucially important, as Bec says herself, is to be kind to ourselves, especially in adverse times – to learn to love ourselves, and to believe that we are both equal to the challenges that adversity brings, and worthy of the good things and the good people when we overcome it.”

Learn more about Providence St. Joseph Health’s history of empowering women, and about the work we’re doing to empower women today, by visiting this article from president and CEO of PSJH Rod Hochman, MD.

Also in this series:

The National Domestic Violence Hotline has advocates available 24/7 to talk confidentially with anyone in the United States who is experiencing domestic violence, seeking resources or information, or questioning unhealthy aspects of their relationship. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

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