Brieta ’Tank Girl' Carpenter
Brieta “Tank Girl” Carpenter once wanted to become an astronaut, then an anesthesiologist, then a scientist. Eventually, however, she realized college wasn't for her, so Carpenter turned her attention to the world of mixed martial arts where she found success—she currently boasts an undefeated record. On Saturday, August 24, Carpenter will vie for the Ultimate Reno Combat's women's bantamweight title (visit www.ultimaterenocombat.com for details). She also hopes to go pro within the next year and make cage fighting a career. Between her current day job as a barista at a Midtown cafe, training five nights a week and attending team fights, Carpenter's had to sideline her other hobbies: playing guitar and acting. The 19-year-old fighter recently took a break to chat with SN&R about pain, the rules of hitting and why she wouldn't advise other young women to follow in her fighting footsteps.
How did you transition from taekwondo practitioner to a mixed martial arts fighter?
When I was younger, I didn't like fighting at all. When I got older, I really started to love sparring, [but] taekwondo schools, in general, just don't train hard enough. I wanted instructors yelling at me. I wanted to hit people for real. I wanted to be a real fighter, not just a points-sparring fighter.
What’s a points- sparring fighter?
You wear a bunch of [protective gear], and you're not supposed to hit each other very hard. If you kick them in the chest, that's a point, hit them in the head, that's two points. You can't punch to the head. There [are] a lot of rules.
Aren’t there rules in MMA?
In MMA, you can do basically whatever you want, with the exception of some safety rules. So, you can take a person down and wrestle them, or you can stay on your feet and hit them with all the different parts of your body. I like to be on my feet, as opposed to being on the ground, rolling around.
You can do anything and you’re not wearing protective gear—what about injuries?
There's so much adrenaline. Like when I got this cut [on my forehead], I didn't even know it was there. I just saw blood dripping, and I thought it was my nose. The only pain I fear in a fight is pain that would make me end up losing, pain that I can't fight through. Or getting knocked out. If I walk out of that cage black and blue and limping, that's a victory to me. … There [are a lot] of injuries. After I cage fight, I kind of feel like dying. My last match was only 30 seconds long, and I got hurt worse than in my first fight, which [lasted] almost three minutes. I don't know how to describe it. They call it an adrenaline dump. Your body just feels sick. I like it, though. [In] my title fight, I'm fighting this pretty tough girl … and I'm hoping, for the sake of experience, that it's a tough fight. I want to leave that cage hurt, knowing that I had a good fight and learned something from it and put everything out there, instead of just knocking her out.
What was your first fight like?
A huge, huge part of the fight is a mental battle. I remember in my first fight, I was prepared, but I'd never been in that situation before, so my mind was going nuts. I was having conversations with myself: “Ah, this is stupid.” “I'm tired.” “You know, I gotta keep fighting.” “What are you doing?” “Why am I here?”
I figure I'll have a few more amateur fights, however long it takes for me to feel ready, then I'll go pro.
Advice for young women interested in MMA?
Don't do it. You don't know what you're getting yourself into. What I suggest, do kickboxing or wrestling. That way, you have a background in something applicable [in other areas of professional fighting]. Don't let the boys push you around too much. Don't take any sexism crap from your instructor. Believe in yourself.
Have you always believed in yourself?
It's kind of something I've forced myself to do. I've always relied on what other people have told me or the outcomes of my fights to judge how good I am. … You have to be confident, otherwise you'll believe that you can't do it, and you'll go out there, and the other person will show you that you can't do it. So, if you go out there believing in yourself and being confident, you'll put up a better fight.
You have the right attitude, but I don’t know about all that getting hit.
The first time I got hit, I liked it. I didn't want to tell anybody. It was like an adrenaline rush—[but] I'm not saying that I love getting hit in the face.