• arekidsforme

Podcast Episode #5 - Catherine Costigan

In this episode, I speak to Catherine Costigan, the 'Alpha Female' professional MMA fighter from Limerick. Catherine speaks with great passion about her sport both as a fighter and a coach. We talk about the competing demands of being a professional athlete and a parent. Catherine does not currently plan on having children and is very dedicated to the many children and adults she works with in her gym. She has a very positive mindset, believes in challenging herself and is not afraid to be different. Even if you are not an MMA fan, I think you will find this conversation really inspiring!


You can follow Catherine at https://www.facebook.com/Catherine-Costigan-Alpha-Female-Fitness-183760674985799 and  https://twitter.com/alphafemalewar 




Episode Transcript


Mgt O Connor

Welcome to the 'Are Kids For Me' podcast. This podcast is for you if you have ever asked, or are currently asking yourself this question. it's a big question which can be hard to answer for lots of reasons and I am hoping to provide you with some information that can help. In each episode I will speak to people with personal and/or professional experience in this area. My own name is Margaret O'Connor, I am a counsellor and psychotherapist who offers specialist counseling on this topic. I conducted my Master's research on how women in Ireland make the decision to become mothers or not. And I really really love talking about this topic. I hope you find it useful.


Today I am delighted to speak to Catherine Costigan, aka the 'Alpha Female'. Catherine is a Professional MMA fighter. She's a coach and owns and runs her own very successful MMA gym in Limerick. She has been both Irish and European kickboxing champion. We had a really interesting and wide ranging discussion about how she discovered kickboxing and MMA from a young age. Having children is not currently a part of her plans. As you will hear, she's hugely dedicated towards sport and her work with children and adults in her gym. While MMA might not be for everyone, I hope you can relate to Catherine's passion for what she does, both for herself and others. She has a really positive, proactive mindset about her goals in life and her decision making process. She definitely doesn't believe in regrets. I found it a fascinating conversation and I hope you do too.


Okay, and so, again, I just want to thank you, Catherine so much for coming to talk to me and taking time out of your busy schedule. We've loads that I want to get through! Just trying to fit in all the interesting things about you. So I suppose we were kind of saying, and I was saying that I'm interested in the fact that you got involved in kickboxing and martial arts from quite a young age. So you were about 14 when you did your first class I think? So, would you mind.. I was also really interested to hear that you said you weren't a sporty person. So as a very non sporty person (laughter), I was really interested to hear how you ended up being a professional athlete. Would you talk us through that journey I suppose? God I hate that word, I can't believe I just said that! Okay, through your development through the sport.. And maybe how it kind of intertwined with whether it was your realisation..


Catherine Costigan

Around kids and stuff.


Mgt O Connor

Yeah, yeah. That's a big question!


Catherine Costigan

I mean, when I was a kid, I had a big brother. He was good at kind of everything. You know, he was rough and tumble and I would be outside playing with him, rough and tumble, I was telling the kids yesterday.. thinking I was cool for the boys because there were no other girls really, around my area that we hung around with. My mom would have been quite protective of me as well because when I was about seven, I had started having a few seizures, very little but they thought I had epilepsy. So I think back then, the medical research and stuff wasn't 100% there. So they put me on medication for nearly 7 years, which I don't actually feel looking back now like I needed it. But then you can never tell, maybe I did and it stopped it. I had a sleep epilepsy, that's the form that I had, and myself and my mum would go to the hospital every month to get my blood checked and medication checked. I hated taking the medication, I wasn't good at that sometimes..but I grew out of it, luckily enough I was one of the lucky ones that didn't suffer with it. That for me, held me back from certain sports that I wasn't allowed anywhere into. But also I was very much independent, on my own because I had a brother or kind of, I didn't hang around girls much but I also wasn't thinking or believing that I was very good at sports because when I'd do the sports day, or whatever I'd never placed the medals, I'd never do any.. but I don't think I knew how to push myself at the time, I was very young and I even see it in the kids that come into my club, how much they can push themselves. It depends on who the coaches are, now when you're in the school just doing a PE class, it's not a specific coach developed to build certain skills. And I never had the desire really to be in a team and it's just I suppose the way I was because I had one brother, I guess not having sisters or anything maybe I didn't have that feeling of a group, in a sense. And then when I was 14, obviously I was given the all clear, and I used to watch Bruce Lee films and Jean Claude Van Damme films with my dad, he loves martial arts and the brilliance of it, and he absolutely adores Bruce Lee so he used to watch it a lot when I was a kid, and the idea of being able to be the bigger person was always good. I was always very small and tiny, and even when I was 14 and I joined my first class, Dermot McGrath, my coach was even.. he had never trained a woman, it was his first time ever training a girl, he was even afraid to let me hit the pads with my bare knuckles. So he had me palm strike them. But that clicked, from that night it clicked, I went with a friend. And she said, no, it's not for me. It was me and the boys, I suppose for about 10 years, at least, girls would come, but they never stayed. They never liked it. It was just one thing that clicked with me. It gave me independence as well, I was doing it on my own. I had to work things out on my own, which I would be kind of that way myself, if there's a problem, I'll do everything I can to do it. Not just like, I'll get help from other people, but if I can fix it and get on top of it, that's the kind of person I am. I suppose I got that from my mom, as my mom would be a very hard worker, very hard work ethic, individual work, drive, get things done, don't be sitting down waiting for people to do it, go get it done yourself. So my parents are very in that way..if you want to do something, you have a goal, you can definitely do it. You can achieve anything. They're very good like that with me, very positive. So it's kind of the way I got into this, you know,


Mgt O Connor

And I suppose to go from something that you kind of tried out and then liked, and then like, how did it move along to oh actually like I'm quite good at this or it could go further than just a hobby?


Catherine Costigan

Yeah, but back in that time, like girls, there wasn't much competition to compete in, just a few local tournaments, whatever, but there was no MMA, there was nothing and till about 17/18, I was doing it to the point of my blue belt, but then I gave it up because I went to college and stuff like that for a while, and I kind of regretted it, I felt in me, I definitely had the ability to reach all the way to black belt. And if I even achieved that, that's a great achievement in life. And we always try to push the kids whether they become fighters or not, the adults the same, achieve your grades, get something for yourself to be proud of for yourself because people forget so much about themselves and getting goodness and feeling good about themselves and doing good things. When we were kids we always had tests and challenges in school and Leaving Cert and Junior Certs to pass, and you felt great after you did good in them or whatever, you know. I mean, it gives you a boost and I feel as we become adults, we we push away those challenges we don't take them in, we just sit in the norm, which is get the job done, the nine to five or whatever. I go to the job every day, blah, blah, blah, I go home, I do my routine and that's the same every day with no little bit of extra fear added in, or a little bit of worry or excitement night before you know..tomorrow now we have to go do this. So with martial arts I feel for me, as a person, it challenged me all the time. And I felt that, not achieving it, I kind of let myself down. So I ran into my coach in town one day, and he said, and I could see the disappointment in him as well, so it's the connection with the coach that pushes, pushes you, you have a special connection with them, that you can't explain it. And I was like, I'm gonna go back and I did and I never stopped from that day forward. I went back. And Dermot was kind of on the verge of seeing how big MMA was going to be even though this was 1993, people thought we were absolutely mad and nuts. And he encouraged me to start when I was 18 or sorry about 20 I suppose..my first lady's kickboxing class. I didn't think I'd be any good. I didn't think any girls would show up. But I trusted him as my coach who said look, I see something in you. And I had a part time job since I was 16 working in Tescos, and I was well able to communicate with people. I think I had a good way with them, with customers so that and that built as well in me certain abilities. I was a bit more mature for my age, I was probably way more mature for my age. I wasn't one of the girls's going to the discos, drinking.. I wasn't that at all. It didn't interest me at all. It's sort of.. it's just a waste of time. So with the martial arts as well, that made me very strong, even in school when I was being a bit bullied for if I didn't have the right clothes... To be honest, honestly, my mom had a job and that was it. We didn't have the best of the best but I didn't care, but that made me rock solid..martial arts like, when they'd make fun of me or whatever.. I wouldn't care. You know, and, and I think with the black belts, it's a great goal to get to whether you become a fighter or not, so I got that and started the ladies kickboxing. On the first night, nearly 40 women showed up. So it showed how much women actually wanted to get into the but were a bit scared with MMA and a male instructor and seeing a woman, high achieving doing good stuff..and from there on, I just kept going but then we started drifting into the MMA and Dermot said I think you should start learning MMA. And I tapped a guy out twice, but I didn't like it at the start, I was a bit resistant because I was more of a stand up fighter. And then I tapped a guy twice my size out one night in the class, and then I said Okay, there is definitely something to this. And for women for a purpose of self defense, this is a very good thing to do one way or the other, you know, because the world is not getting any nicer. And it's terrible to say that women have to have self defense. But if I did have a daughter, I would say to her, you do not ever have to fight or anything, but I'd just like you to know the things of what happens if you get pushed against the wall, you get pushed down the floor. And that's the main thing we do with the kids. It's not really turning them into fighters. It's about turning them into intellectual, smart human beings who never get into that situation. But if they do, can handle themselves. Like I never want my kids to be involved in anything. I don't think any of my kids have ever..One or two students have been attacked and they've handled themselves well. And to the point that they actually haven't hurt the person just restrained them you know.


Mgt O Connor

Okay wow. And I suppose..just from listening to you, I mean, this seems to take up a huge amount of your time.. you're training, you're working in the gym, you're, you know, this is full on, and has been, by the sounds of it for a long time (laughter). So it takes up a huge amount of dedication for you. Was there kind of a turning point where you kind of had to decide, oh, yeah, I am going to give this much time to this?


Catherine Costigan

Yeah, absolutely. When I was about, I suppose 23/24, I was saying to Dermot.. look, if I'm teaching MMA, that's fine. But I have to at least once, have a fight to experience because I believe as a coach, your experiences really benefit your students. The more that you experience, the more that you can relate to what they're feeling going into a tough situation. You can be more helpful to them. So I was like, it would be a bit silly not to have one. So I did say to Dermot, look, I'll have one fight. We couldn't even get girls my weight. It's impossible. Atom weight, it's very hard. So I turned professional straightaway, there's no amateur level. But I had done a lot of kickboxing fights before that. So I was very.. I kind of I danced down to the cage, I honest to God, looking back now, and I watched the fight, the fight won fight of the night. It was the first women's fight in Galway. And everybody stood up afterwards. And we had no changing room, I was, I was warming up in the dark. And it was so cool. All the men fighters were there. And the biggest, that's one of my biggest moments ever. I always say to people what are you proud of? I just wanted..not that women belong in the sport. And it's not about that to me, I don't ever think that, I want to show that I'm at a professional level that I can go on any high level show and deliver performance, to show the fans great technique, just not slap bang, whatever, because I see that too many times, people get rushed to the big time too soon. So the boys after the fight, all the fighters as I walked back, stood up and gave me a standing ovation. And I thought that was very big acceptance for me. That fueled my passion to get better at it and get more moments like that because it is like a drug. Victory is beautiful, victory is where you get something good.. when you lose..it's horrible, but you've got to get over it and get on with it. And I've learned a lot through that too because I've had losses. So for me it is a full time job. I run the business, I'm the accountant, cleaner you know and I book all the kids, the personals, I'm on the phone talking to people getting more people in because obviously we've to keep the business going. During lock down I was busier than ever, I think believe it or not, even though people thought you'd be stuck for things to do, I wasn't, I really wasn't. And I don't sit in one spot for very long. I'm not that kind of person. I like to be active because being active, keeps my brain active and it doesn't keep me wondering of am I missing something in my life. I'm filling my life with things every day. I have a goal list, a list of jobs that I've to do and I tick them all off. I was manager for years in high level business. And I got that whole thing of go, go, go go, you have to go.. I worked 12 hour days. I was like one of the youngest managers at 21. I was made, and I had a staff of forty people, and you know, to get that, it came from the martial arts and that idea of goal setting, achieving.. so having kids within that mix. It's not fair to them.


Mgt O Connor

Ok..yeah, if we rewind a little bit, was that because.. obviously so you were really involved, you were heavily kind of in the sport from a young age on, I suppose.. Did you ever think about having kids? Was it ever.. was it something you thought..


Catherine Costigan

Yeah, of course. Yeah. No, because I mean, I did get, I did get married. I did marry Dermot. And and obviously, we had a great time for certain amount, but then we just fell out of love. A lot of people were at the time (gasp).. what happened, what's the big story? No story, we just fell out of love. We just found that we weren't happy with each other anymore. And that was.. it was wrong to stay together when you're not..Because I'm denying him something, you know, and he's denying me. So it's just stupid, like people can get very petty. Like we're best friends. Now we don't have our squabbles still because we run a full time business together. It still..it's still some days, you'd be like, no, and I'm sure he is too. He's my coach as well. So we go beyond the pettiness, we work forward, because we've got to major business to run, so we ain't got time to be petty. And we also got my fighting career. And if we're not on the same pages, it's going to damage the business, it's going to affect me. And every time I win, it is good for the business. Every time I'm in a promotion, that's high level, you know, parents, if your parents, they want to send you to the best gym, they want the one that's winning the gold medal, they're going to send you that one to learn. You know, so for me, my parents used to wonder, why do you fight, they didn't get it, you know, they didn't understand the process, it does actually help businesses as well, you know, and it's not my big head, my ego to get recognized, I get recognized now in Aldi, you know and they would be laughing. And it's normally like, I want to send my kid to you or it's getting recognized with the mask on and they'll say you're the fighter. How did you even know with a mask on, you recognize me? Um, that's cool too. And that's all lovely. But you have to work damn hard at that. And that's where I feel..yeah, I did feel like I might have the kids when I was married, get it mortgage etc. But if I had my way around, I would have toured the world more. And that's what the fighting gave me as well. It was a gift. I went to Berlin, I met really cool people. Amsterdam, I went all.. and I met very open minded people.. that weren't like get the mortgage, have the kids, do exactly what the other person down the road is doing, that your parents would approve of..do you know.. I know my parents would love to see me have kids. I know that for definite.. you know to fit that block but I just can't fit it. And definitely fighters.. are very.. their thinking is very different. A lot of fighters have children, they're are women in the UFC that have kids. Michelle Waters and all them, but it's still tough work. I remember a lady that I trained, Rosie Sexton. who is a major high achiever, I mean, amazing. Went to the best schools in England and everything, she became amazing fighter. Now she's running for the Green Party, the head of it, as a politician, you know and she has a son. She had him in the middle of her whole career, and it was still difficult because I remember her saying to me, when she got signed to the UFC, they were like, we don't care if you have your child to pick up from school, you need to be at a media press conference later on. They did not care. They don't care, they need you there. So for me that kind of story.. kind of if I had a kid and I was at some Invicta in America or something like that, who the hell is going to mind my child, you know, unless I have a husband or a partner too, I'm dropping it off with my parents. I don't think that's fair to my parents, either. They've done enough in life they need to enjoy their downtime to you know. Yeah I just never.. it was never that I would or I wouldn't, it's not a thing that I've said no to completely either if it would happen, but it's not anything I'll have regrets about whatsoever.


Mgt O Connor

Yeah ok, I was, I was curious because this question comes up a lot and you don't strike me as somebody who would have regrets. So just listening to other interviews with you, and just even kind of how you speak, I think you make quite specific decisions or you even kind of you look forward, I think that's even the phrase you use a lot, you look forward rather than back..


Catherine Costigan

Fighting, fighting is on the pulse, you make one wrong decision, you lose the fight. Everything is about decisions, that you might just think in the cage, we are just throwing punches but everything is tactical, if you're a good fighter everything comes down to every little minute decision.. so for me, through life, that's the way..like if I go to somewhere and I have to make quick decisions, I base it on what's the best blah blah, add it up my head and then right, we will do that.


Mgt O Connor

Okay. And you kind of, you believe in your ability to do that, you're not second guessing yourself. Like it sounds like in anything like, you you stick with it and like whatever happens, happens, you.. you follow through..


Catherine Costigan

Yeah whatever happens, if I make a mistake.. I don't.. I would maybe years ago have sat on it and got all this or that..mulling it over. Now I don't mull over things very little. And I think the years of my mom going to pancreatic cancer, for the two years, I think that even shook me up more to say live your life. When you're sitting in the chemo with..when people moan about not having this or they don't have that, I was like, go to the chemo ward in the regional hospital, sit there for an hour, among all these people, and there's hundreds, like you can't even get parking spaces, you know, I used to drop mom and go and try to get a parking space somewhere, it used to be so packed, you'd be in queues. And you'd have young kids, teens. It wasn't just all old people and you're like, oh my god, I have nothing to complain about. But it also was a warning to me - have no regrets on your deathbed. Do everything you want to do in life for yourself.. that, I might sound selfish. Just I see it with a lot of parents who are dropping their three kids to me and they are so tired. They're wrecked. They don't like the way they look and the women.. now this might be just a few of them, not everybody, don't like the way they look anymore. They're mentally depressed at home, they're just doing that routine every day. What is that going to be when the kids grow up? It's a bit not.. it's not to late, but it's hard to get out of the zone that you've been in for so so long and I hate to see women like that because I'm like, it's not fair to them as well.. why having a kid means you have to completely give up anything that is good for you know anything for you.. I see even Vogue Williams, I was listening to radio, she got attacked this week again for kids and I was with Vogue, we did a TV programme. Absolutely beautiful woman. I thought she might be a bit like, you know this, but she got straight into the MMA training and she was all for it, she's very good. I see why she's so successful. And she has her kids, but she still, she has to run a business. She has to you know, the fitness industry. She uses the marketing, all that, she's a go getter, and it's brilliant. And she hasn't given up on herself. So yeah, you can have the kids, but don't feel guilty because you take the time for yourself, and you'll be better for your kids, mentally you'll be happier. It's going to benefit your kids more. I think anyway.


Mgt O Connor

Sometimes there can be an attitude, you know, just kind of the sacrificial attitude that you give up everything for your children. Yeah, not saying that you neglect them but trying to get a balance is you ..


Catherine Costigan

Exactly you don't neglect them. But why people like down the street will attack you because you're not there full time with your son. Every day minding them and every step. I see all the posts on Facebook. Here's my son. Here's my kids. Here's my son. What about a post about you. Here's what I did this week. My challenges or level, I passed this. I got this job. I just need to.. I think that Facebook is full of all the stuff, but not enough for women, empowering them to not be afraid to stand out and be different. It's getting better, obviously. Yeah, there's loads of good inspirational women. It is getting better. But there's still that push to have the kids, settle down, get the mortgage blah blah blah.


Mgt O Connor

Has it ever caused any tension like even because you're obviously very close with your mother, or like friends or anything, have people ever kind of reacted... I suppose I have two questions. I'm wondering if people have different assumptions because of what you do. Do people ever make kind of assumptions oh because of what you do and how dedicated you are that you wouldn't have children? Or does anyone kind of think, oh, you know, you'd want to settle down now and you do the right stuff? In inverted commas!


Catherine Costigan

If I think people.. if they do make opinions of me, they don't share them with me. They're probably afraid they would get knocked out (laughter), which I'd never do. I think they know I don't care because they could say it to my face and I'd be like, yeah, that's your that's your opinion, and you're absolutely entitled to it. That's one thing I never knock. If you have an opinion about me, whether you like it or don't.. I don't care. That's fine. You had courage to say what you felt and that's good because people are cowards. People hide and they won't say things to your face. I think that's quite wrong. If you have a problem with a person say it to them, work it out, get over it, build a bridge, and you'll feel happier. If they do make opinions of me. I don't really care. I don't see the thing is, I don't have these people in my inner circle. They're nothing that their opinion would affect or hurt or damage me. And even in my circle with my family and stuff, and my brother and things that I still, like, it's up to them. I don't care. And Mom, no one ever.. or dad. I mean, I'm sure they're a little bit, but they love the bones of me, and I think Mom going through the cancer kind of changed her view a little bit.. like I had lovely long hair, and I cut it when I was 25. But oh my god, she never..she still doesn't like it. And when lock down came, my hair was getting really long. I think herself and dad were like, yes, finally she's going to grow her hair..brilliant, and I went off and got it cut again, and they were you know, but they're getting better at it, but they don't. They don't 100% like it but again, it doesn't upset my day. I can see past all that and love my mother for everything she's done her whole life for me, and sacrifice to give that..and that's the other thing, I suppose my mom, she had a brilliant job in Shannon Airport. Absolutely brilliant. When she became pregnant with my brother, she had to stop. That was the rules back then..


Mgt O Connor

Yeah,


Catherine Costigan

Yeah. So she lost an amazing job, that she would have had very good pay and pension from in the end. And she went to a pub instead, working there for 20 years because it was right across the road from us, but the pay was okay. But there was no benefits. And now my mom at the end of her life, really..it's not like..but, it's tough you know. She's living on her pension. So is my dad.. if she hadn't been forced, because she had a child to do that..where would my mother be now, you know, she would have had a different outcome and more holidays, more fun for herself, more time. So her career, which she was damn good at.. she gave up to have a kid, and I just I see her now and I feel like that's unfair to her. Now maybe if the rules had been different, she might have had that career. But you know that back in the day, these stupid rules made up, you know you have to give up your job and that was like tough. So that makes me think as well. You know what, I'm not gonna have a kid that's gonna make me stop what I love doing. I also have 125 kids who I train every day, that I know everything about and people don't.. might not get this but they are my family. They're my children. I love them to bits. I love every kid, there's not one kid in there that I would say no, every kid, even if they come in a bit undisciplined, unruly, when I change them, and I fix them around, bring him to the Catherine Costigan way, and it changes them. Parents say their so much better, their confidence, everything. That is a major bonus for me. And now I know I'm doing good as a coach, and I know those kids inside out. I know when they're having a bad day. I know when they don't want to talk to their parents about things, but they can talk to me and I can relate back to them.. maybe they're being bullied or whatever. And I can be the coach to them that I should have had maybe when I was a kid in school, the PE teachers that you looked up to, that said you were good at something, because kids hearing it just from the parent doesn't always ring true because they'll just tell you oh, you're brilliant. When you hear it from an outside person that's training you, it makes you believe it. You know, there's so many kids. You know, I have so many kids and so many different ways of thinking, every kid is different, and you have to approach the way you teach them, and that's my challenge, too. But honestly, I have all those kids. I have kids now that are 18, that are guards, in the fire service, and that went on to the Marine Corps in America, and he had major dyslexia. He had such difficulties. He came to us. He had big difficulties, and now he's like one of the top guys, you know, so for me, that was like, I had my son, that was my son. He went through everything, you know?


Mgt O Connor

Absolutely. No, I really wanted to talk to you about that because obviously like you are with children like everyday, and you know, and it does sound like you're really involved, not just like there's millions of kids coming in and coming out. You..there seems to be really like...


Catherine Costigan

I follow everything up to the tee. If I think they're having a bad day, I will message a parent to see what's going on do you think. I kept in contact with parents in lockdown when some of the kids were having mental issues, and I'd send them videos going yeah well done, great job.. and they'd be like Catherine, that just made their day, that just made.. he's just after putting on his uniform and he's out training and punching the bag. Going mental, you know. So I think that's a very important connection. I think that's why we're so successful as an academy as well. Very little kids drop out of our club. That's why we have nearly a year now for the waiting list.


Mgt O Connor

Wow, okay.


Catherine Costigan

People give out to me. They're like, did you forget about me on the waitlist, and I'm like, I swear to God, the kids aren't giving up. I said, I can't make a place where it isn't. And also our school is very limited spots. We don't want loads of kids in the class. I want to get to every child that's on that mat individually. And give them my time, you know. We could have 30 on the mats, and make loads of money and go on tons of holidays..if we were COVID free, absolutely be rich to my eyeballs, but my kids would suffer in the end. And that's the motto of our club, is to make every kid, every kid, no one gets left behind. Every kid is special in that club, and deserves our attention. So that's where we're different.


Mgt O Connor

That's fantastic,because I suppose, you know, sometimes I think people can have a very narrow view of what family is or what mothering is, so like, you don't have children of your own, but the amount of children that you have worked with, I'd say if you could calculate it over time, you must be talking about like, over 1000 kids probably..


Catherine Costigan

It's a lot of kids over the years. Yeah, absolutely. And as I said, earlier, we get stopped in Penneys, and a mam will go do you remember me Catherine and I'll be like, jeepers, what age are you now, when did I teach you? You taught me when I was 12, I'm now 20, and then I'll get a little look and his little ninja face will flash and I'll go, ah yes I know you know. And they'll say oh yeah it was the best thing I ever did. Like, seriously, best thing ever, thank you so much. Everybody's always so nice. Even the woman that was next to my mother in the hospital. She goes I know your daughter, your daughter taught my son, he said she's an amazing teacher, and now he's going off to the guards she said and he wouldn't have got it without her.


Mgt O Connor

Just on that, this was another question maybe that people tend to ask people who don't have children, this kind of idea of legacy and you know, what if.. if you're not having children. And I mean, again, even just talking there like, you have a legacy of all those kids going on to achieve, and even if they don't go on to achieve great things, they've achieved a lot with you in the gym anyway. Do you think about that, kind of around legacy or what will happen when you're older?


Catherine Costigan

I always wanted to win a World Title just myself, and I was very close to it with Cage Wars, but it went out of business, the promotion went bust, just my luck. I would always have loved to have won a World Title, because I don't think any athlete who tells you they're not in it to win it, then you shouldn't be there. You don't belong there. You know, I always wanted that, but I have face the fact now that I'm 40, and getting fights at my weight category is almost impossible because atom weight isn't in the UFC, and I don't know why, every other women's category is, but it still isn't there. It's like a disease or something. So me getting girls to fight is hard. I've also had a lot of serious injuries over the years, not serious that ever stopped me. They powered me forward more. But they took years off my career where I should have been active. So if I had my time back, that's definitely something I'd look at, when your proper training, smarter training, especially when you're with men, and you're like a quarter of their size, but legacy wise, I think it's just the legacy that I will leave.. It's the impact I've made on people through life and the decisions and the ability I've given them to make the right decisions in their lives, and not to be afraid of what the other person thinks, because they're just not going to fit the mould. I think they're the people that will fill my legacy. I know yeah, I mean, I don't know, I'm very happy with my cat. I actually have enough with my cat, because my cat is leukemia. So she wakes me and she was semi feral when I got her, she arrived on my doorstep. And I was like, okay, who are you? (laughter) So she came back a month later and then she started to get suddenly very sick. And then I found out from the vets that she has leukemia.. they told me you might have two days with her or two weeks, and I was gutted, and I actually cried..it was the only time I ever cried, and everything my mother went through with cancer and I hadn't cried at all. I'd say the vet was just looking at me thinking god! And my mother even said, you ended up getting a mother with cancer and a cat with cancer. How did you manage that Catherine?Because she was semi feral, she constantly wants to go outside, and the vet said she would get used to it. And I built a catio for her. I've done everything for. I get her blood checked. I have her on the best food, everything. Now, she's thriving. She's nearly two and a half years in remission. Oh, she's doing brilliant. You wouldn't even know she's a cat with leukemia. But every night she wakes me to try and get out. It's been very tough. That's kind of given me that's what it would be with a kid..and sleep deprivation is a big problem for athletes. So if I want to achieve the highest level, I can be falling asleep in the cage. Yeah, I can't be, I have to be sharp for the kids. So sometimes I look past my needs or what, you know, and I think about my business, everything.. If I got a kid and again I don't want the kid to suffer not having their mom around either because she's busy in Vegas fighting or something, you know, it's not fair to the child either. They need attention too, I see how much attention they need. It's full time. So for me..


Mgt O Connor

Yeah I know, so I have, I have two cats as well, and one of them decides to wake up at half four in the morning regardless of what else you have going on, looking for attention so yes, once is more than enough in the night I think (laughter)


Catherine Costigan

I think if anybody wants to have a kid, go get a kitten. Go get a cat, that'd be your first introduction to the possibilities, be up for doing the feeds with a kitten and yeah, definitely.


Mgt O Connor

When they puke up hairballs and climb your curtains, they're still adorable. But you know (laughter)


Catherine Costigan

Yeah, when the cat scratches your couches to shreds even though you've got some cool cardboard things for them. Nope. I'm gonna go off the couch instead (laughter)


Mgt O Connor

So yeah, it's different. At least you can put them outside. I do say that,you know if they're annoying you, you can put them outside for a while (laughter)


Catherine Costigan

That's the only thing with a cat like, you can lock the door and walk to the shops for a few hours and not worry too much, it'll be fine. If you did that to a child, you would be arrested you know.


Mgt O Connor

It's heavily frowned upon (laughter). And I suppose you know again just one thing that kind of really strikes me, is that you're not afraid to be different, so to not follow the..it sounds like you maybe never have been, which I just admire so much because..


Catherine Costigan

I think I was no, I definitely was, I think when I was in my 20's, I was the manager, I was the mortgage, I was married. No I was..but then the more fighting I did and when it went turned full time fighting and I met other fighters with very open views..


Mgt O Connor

Does it ever get hard though? Because sometimes it, I suppose can feel harder or maybe it feels like it takes more effort to be different. Do you ever feel kind of lonely and kind of the general path of life you have picked, or do you have people who.. you could, have like minded people like?


Catherine Costigan

I do get my times and loneliness but I find I do work with a sports psychologist. I did from my first loss with Invicta. I said..it again, I don't look at.. okay, I had a herniated disc in my back that time, I didn't know that. I honestly didn't, and Conor McGregor's fight was such a big moment, my debut and there was no way, but I couldn't walk or drive. I could barely train. I was going through my separation with Dermot, and we had to fly for medicals early, and I had to go to Vegas for two weeks on my own, which was a nightmare. I was hiding the injury when I was in training, so no one would tell Amber that I had it. And all the interviews, all the media, breaking up with Dermot at the same time. Now, he was still in my corner but it was still all nuts. It was just nuts, and even the president of Invicta said I should have told him I was injured. I said I genuinely didn't know, because the scan didn't pick it up until after the fight, that I had very bad damage. Even the surgeon said to me how you even got to that fight. He said, how you even showed up that night, I just don't know. And after that, I said okay that was the injury. That's a problem too. But there's another issue. And now I've had my first loss so what am I going to do. So instead of repeating the same thing, I hired a very good sports psychologist and I worked with him a lot. I mean, we would discuss things and he's like, put everything on the table, don't hold back, anything Catherine, because if you're holding anything back, I won't be able to help you in the fight. So working with a sports psychologist helps me deal with certain things.. if I'm lonely. I don't spend too much time on it. And again, again, Rob has kind of a mathematical system of looking at what can I do about the moments? How can I fix it, or not fix it, but not stay on the moment the whole time, we have to move on. We have to put it away in the correct manner, mentally put it away, though, that is not rearing its head every couple of months. So I think if I had my opinion, every person should work with a psychologist. Even though you might think you might have nothing wrong. I was undefeated. I was number 11 in the world. I was tipped to be the next big thing. UFC.. definite McGregor. .Oh yeah. And then suddenly it all crashed down. And what did I do like the next day and even that, like the next day after the fight, I had fighters that used to fight me all come out and challenge me, they were putting up pictures of me getting beaten. I mean, that was pretty horrible and I was lovely to them after their defeats, I was very respectful and they were all coming out but that shows their signs, there's no quality in them. The last thing you ever do with a fighter is beat them when they're down. Do you know what I mean, they've gone through enough. I lost in front of the whole world. You know, the whole of Ireland was watching that night. That was a shattering moment for me. And I still showed up to that fight. So I'm not afraid to be different. I'm not afraid to admit that I do get lonely but I am understanding of it. I mentally understand how I feel and I can fix it. People don't have the tools to fix themselves.


Mgt O Connor

Something.. as I said I am an amateur fan of watching UFC, and what I love, or what I admire so much I suppose is that people are so in tune. You have to be so in tune with your body and your mind, like you have be so aware of what's happening, like happening, what could happen, like every single moment is so important and I just, I can't kind of can't quite comprehend what that might feel like because I definitely don't do that in my life (laughter). What is it? What does that feel like if you know what I mean?


Catherine Costigan

Honestly..you know if you've ever done jumped out of a plane or done bungee jumping or gone for tests that your adrenaline, where really your heart's pumping out of your mouth, literally kind of thing. You know, if you've done anything that's just even going on a roller coaster, and it goes up, and goes down really fast. That's the kind of feeling you get when you fight, and making the weight is the tough part, and then going in meant to be staring down the girl, don't show any fear. Don't give anything away. You don't give anything away in the fight. You're total poker face and then going in and doing the fight and hitting that person and knowing they're gonna hit you as hard as they possibly can to win as well. That's another mental battle, like someone has genuinely signed a contract to hurt you.


Mgt O Connor

Yeah..


Catherine Costigan

I know.. hurt you as fast as they can, like I don't believe in like when I say hurt, it is just a competition we're trying to win, it's not to hurt someone that they're in a wheelchair for the rest of their life. It is not about that and in any way, if I can ever finish that fight fast. And you know not have the person inflict so much pain, of course I will. That would be an option. That's a smart option anyway for both people to fight. And after I retire, where do I get my next fix? A lot of fighters when they retire, what happens? So would I retire and have children? Would that be the adrenaline fuel pumped? Oh no, I need to get the nappy on in 10 seconds or else? (laughter) I don't think so for me. I think going forward to becoming a coach, and maybe coaching, like the kids I know one of them will go and become an MMA fighter, I just feel it in my bones. And maybe it'll be a girl. And I'd love to coach a girl. I'm also on the IMMAF women's MMA commission now that we're trying to start to get women more involved in MMA all over the world. We've got an organization in every country with three girls, one would be a fighter, another referee, cutwoman, all these opinions, so we're doing surveys at the moment with all the women all over the world involved in MMA, to see where the key problems are to evolve this and see where we can make better structures for women to entice them more to come to the club, to the gym, not be scared and stuff like that. And I do want to see some day a girl that I'll coach, I'll be able to be outside the cage coaching, because again, that's another challenge for me mentally because I'll have to get that right, I'll have to be the best coach for them in that moment and that time, so that would probably be my next thing, and running the business. I hate seeing fighters that have no backup plans. And they get majorly depressed because they can't reach the height that they used to feel. I'll never reach that no matter what, unless you're competing, you're not going to get that again. But you can come close enough to it that will make your life happy.


Mgt O Connor

And just to go back to something you mentioned, because again, I can never quite get over this like, do you train yourself out of like being scared of being hit? Because like from you know from a brain point of view, like your brain is supposed to like keep you safe and it's supposed to tell you not to go in.. like you're doing like..it's kind of illogical, you're putting yourself as you said in a situation where like somebody else is trying to hurt you so like, can you train yourself out of..because I'm just thinking like if somebody hit me I would just like fall down and cry. So do you like, do train yourself out of that? Is it just something that comes with time and being hit enough? (laughter)


Catherine Costigan

I think some people can have it naturally inside them. You know, I grew up with a brother. So I was a tomboy, I was you know, I played around with the boys. I was wrestling, rolling in the garden, I was kicking soccer balls. I was very much a tomboy. I definitely didn't want to wear the dress and stuff, and now I will happily wear a dress for you, or anything like that, I can be a woman. But yes, getting hit. I guess it's just.. you do condition yourself to it. You do do illogical things through your life, all the time believe it or not, you set yourself up for certain things and then go why actually did I do that? But I went down I just did that anyway, it makes no sense. There are certain things in that way, it mightn't be getting hit in the face, but there's things and choices you make that are a little bit more interesting as to why you did it, and made you feel a bit more on the edge. Hitting and fighting isn't for everybody. That's why there is a small percentage that do it, isn't for everybody. But if you came to my club, I wouldn't let you get hit full force straightaway. We condition it bit by bit. That's the way my club is. I've seen clubs, I've heard horror stories. And I'm like, oh my god, you can't do it that way. You have to get the person comfortable with getting hit. You have to accept that you're going to get hit, but you have to, the other thing as well I do build on one thing, defense. If you do at my club, I'll teach you how to defend yourself first before even attacking.. because if you can stop the punch, if you can make someone miss your head, you're a very smart fighter already, extremely smart because that's the hardest thing to do to make someone miss you. So in my club, we heavily heavily work on defensive stuff.


Catherine Costigan

So yeah, look if you ever want to learn, you know where I am.


Mgt O Connor

Every new year, for about the last five years, that has been my new year's resolution to take up some kind of self defense. And I looked at your gym, but I was terrified, to be honest. (laughter) But that's me. I'm not an adrenaline person. I don't go on rollercoasters, I don't do any scary things. That's just me. (laughter)


Catherine Costigan

The main thing is that you're happy in your life then. If you don't desire that, then why should you go do it just because somebody says you should go do that. You don't. You do whatever you feel, as long as every morning and you're happy. You know my manager used to always give out to me and say I was too happy. You're too bloody happy Catherine, why are you always so happy.I was like, there's no point being grumpy. And then your coworkers are bitching and moaning and I could see that as well, how they were miserable. You know, the butchers would be next door and bitching and moaning. It's not the way, you only get a certain amount of time in your life. So, tomorrow we don't know what could happen. Covid, look what it's done to us all, what it has robbed from people. We've just had so many things we've loved, and probably taken for granted, taken away from us. And maybe we didn't even realise. People are having a hard time with that now.


Mgt O Connor

And isn't it funny that he was questioning you for being happy. Like everyone should be happy, shouldn't that be the default.


Catherine Costigan

But yeah, he couldn't get that concept. He didn't understand, he wasn't able to let it be in him. He was the manager of a big shop and he had loads of stress. That's another thing as well with my physio we researched it..because I have to drop my heart rate to a certain rate, I have the ability to control my breathing and change my heart rate, to bring it down in between rounds, because you've got a minute between each round to recover. So you've to learn to breath properly and control your diaphragm. That alters your heart rate, your heart rate variability. I've done a lot of research with my physio. I say I, he did it really. My physio is a free diver, and he's one of the best. He's went to Israel, and got the highest five level qualifications. But when he started studying all about this, he saw the relationship between breathing and your Vaga nerve. That's what controls your happiness. So, if that nerve is happy, you're gonna perform much better. You're healthier, with way less stress. I do believe, even when my mother asked the doctor, why do I have cancer. Is it the food, is it too much meat I'm eating, and he said we really genuinely don't know. Every case is different. I don't know for sure. But I know from watching..at one point I was heading close to burnout, it was after Vegas and everything. And he hooked me up to this test, to test my breathing, and he said all that brown there on the graph is stress. That's how much stress you have. Look at the green, that's your nervous system. That's really low right now. He said, I want you to start thinking about happy moments. And I started thinking in my brain about fun. I love the beach, being on the beach, the waves. So I started thinking about all that. And the brown started to decrease from my body and the green started to increase. And he said, Catherine, you have to learn to have fun, to take a break from everything. Relax. Don't worry about things you can't fix. You just have to let that all go, otherwise you'll just be completely burned out and you'll be out of training for at least a year for your body to recover. That is a major thing with athletes. So I think with all the different cancers, all the stress people handle every day about are they making the right decisions, generates stress in the body, so quickly, and causes diseases in your body, and I believe that, looking at the research I've seen. So I think kids stress you out an awful lot too. They really do. So I'd like to keep my body healthy, that's another point, I just see it with people. I see how stressed they are. And they're getting sick and getting sick, getting flu, getting this getting that, they go into the shop, getting something to fix it but something is wrong in here (points to body). And you need to fix that.


Mgt O Connor

Absolutely. And what I'm trying to get at in the podcast, I suppose I'm always saying I'm not trying to convert people or convince people to be childfree. It's about finding what works for you, what makes you happy, what matches your priorities, what you want to do in life. And some people are able to combine all of that with having children. And some people choose not to. It's whatever works for you. Everybody wants to be happy. We mightn't just always know what it is that will make you happy I suppose. It sounds like you have definitely found a recipe that works for you. And it's really really inspiring to hear that and it's lovely to talk to you about it.


Catherine Costigan

People say I'm so inspiring, and I don't know, I'm just doing my day to day stuff. I don't see myself as inspiring at all. I just see myself wanting to push myself, to challenge myself always because it'd be a boring life if I didn't. And I just try to see how mentally I can make myself better, to mentally be good as a coach, to keep the business successful, but it's not about money I never wanted money. I have no desire for expensive clothes, bags or anything. I'd rather give my money to things that are needed. I do believe in kindness and paying it forward. And I instill that to the kids as well. So, because the world isn't getting any nicer. And I do believe if every child did martial arts, or MMA, or any martial arts really, but I do believe that MMA really pushes people to be stronger, and make the right decisions and stand out, and to be accepted to be different, we'd have a much better world.


Mgt O Connor

Okay, well you're definitely doing your bit as part of that to help. So its been a huge pleasure to talk to you, thanks so much.


Thanks very much to my guests for taking part and to you for listening. Id love to hear your feedback and any suggestions for other topics you would like to see covered in this series. I would also love to build a community of like minded people. So please follow the 'Are Kids For Me' pages on Facebook and Instagram, if you want to find out more on this topic. I look forward to hearing from you. Watch out soon for the new episode.


Transcribed by https://otter.ai


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Margaret O'Connor MIACP      ©2018 by Are Kids For Me. 

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