I parked right next to Dragon House in San Francisco. Their Martial Arts school have transparent windows. As I walk by I can see people working out. Right when I walk in, Quee Nie is already warming up, looking focused. Ready to train.
Jaimelene Nievera, 32 MMA fighter representing Dragon House. She’s been seven years into the sport. Being in the sport wasn’t always easy, loving the sport wasn’t enough but she fought her challenges physically, mentally, and knock them out.
She would watch boxing with her dad all the time. She started picturing herself trying out boxing. She looked for boxing places around her area but couldn’t find any. The best thing she found was kickboxing.
Nievera’s father, knowing she wanted to do kickboxing, gave her a punching bag. She put it in her garage and started training. Was told “You’ve got something,” two weeks into training, she was asked if she wanted to join a tournament.
She accepted, but she got sick before the tournament with bronchitis, and still nailed that fight winning second place with just two weeks of training. After that she started fighting, kick boxing first.
The gym where she trained kickboxing, Sifu called her coach to ask if she wanted to fight in their cards for MMA. A listing of matches taking place for a title match sport event, and she said “Yea, let’s do it.”
She thought she could do it but MMA showed her it would be difficult. Being a kick-boxer fighter, having a different stance than MMA, others would figure her out, and put her down and hold her down. That’s how she would lose her fights.
It forced her to learn her ground, meaning she had to learn Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, Western Boxing, and etc, what mixed martial arts consist of. This challenge motivated her to become a threat in both sports; Kickboxing, and MMA.
Sifu is the person who guided her through her journey in MMA till now. “Manager, promoter, coach, counselor, father figure.” She said.
“I know he takes care of me, and looks out for my best interest, so I stick with him” she said.
“I like the fact that it’s a modern-day gladiator thing, it’s just you and some other person. And it’s kill or to be killed” she said. She likes that it’s not a sport that anybody can do.
Since she was a kid, she didn’t like to be average, “I just like to remain in challenge, see what my competition is, and see if I could overcome that” she said.
“I like the individualism of the sport. It’s just me and another person, it’s a big adrenaline rush” she said. “I like the grind of it, it’s so much work, a lot of sacrifices but I love it” she said.
She could be very tired but she said that there’s something about putting in the hard work, then fighting and winning that it’s satisfying.
Preparing herself for a fight takes a lot, but even if she doesn’t have a fight, she will still train. Her diet is very clean; low sodium and protein shakes. She runs or sprints every day seven miles in the hills. And lately she started incorporating weights.
Incorporating weight lifting has changed her game in a completely new level. “ I watch a lot of You Tube, I know the basics because I used to be told I need to weight lift.” She said.
“Some of the guys from here are trainers from other gyms, so they show me the correct form” she said. “I don’t do anything fancy, just things that will help me on MMA. I do shoulder presses, I want my shoulders to get strong, only because if I’m on the bottom, I need to be able to push someone off me,” she said. “But there’s always You Tube,” she said.
She also prepares herself mentally, and focuses on her weight. “Your performance will reflect on your diet,” she said. “if you’re eating like shit, you’re going to feel like shit, when you’re training,” she said.
Diet, running, weightlifting, training twice a day, every day is her routine, even on her rest day she must do something. She mentioned athletes must have a rest day because it’s a big amount of pressure that they put on their bodies.
“I have to run, for some reason, I cannot do anything. I feel like I’m wasting time, wasting a day, it’s a habit.” She said. “Even before I started MMA, I started running because I have asthma, and the only way to get rid of my inhaler was to run, I was depending on it. I didn’t like it,” she said.
“My dad would ride his bike push and say let’s go around this way, and let’s go this way, then pretend he didn’t know where we were at, so he would make me run further. He helped me, “she said.
She says that running helps her stay focus not just before a fight, but always. “It makes me think about, why am I doing it, who am I doing this for, and what do I want out of this,” she said. “I have to envision myself making every one proud, I run seven miles so I have plenty time to think,” she said.
She also uses motivational speaking as a technique to focus on her workout. She listens to Les Brown. “ if you put motivational speakers for athletes on You Tube, a lot of those videos that show are on my playlist. I listen to a lot of it, it helps not only because it’s motivational but because someone is talking to you, so you zone out, and you forget what you’re doing,” she said.
“Try it” she told me. And when it comes to her music playlist she listens to reggae and Future. “This is something I’ve always wanted, you have to think of the end results. You must keep going,” she said.
“It takes a lot of sacrifice, a lot of dedication. Before I turned Pro, I would lose all the time. I almost lost all my fights in my amateur career,” she said. “I would think what the fuck, I don’t get this, I’m doing everything according to the protocol, I’m eating right, I stay dedicated,” she said.
During these rough times, she used to work on Fremont, CA full time. Before she would go to work, she would wake up at five in the morning, she would run five miles, work her eight-hour shift, right after she would drive to San Francisco, and train till nine thirty at night. Then drive back home. She did this routine for three years.
“Why am I still doing this, I’m losing all my fights, my mom would ask me the same” she said.
“I knew I had something in me, I knew I don’t suck. Why am I losing fights? I just kept going, it had a lot of sacrifices. I missed weddings, birthdays, baby showers because I had to practice,” she said.
“Losing all those fights, after a while I just snapped out of it, and started winning my fights. Then I turned Pro, “she said. “The moment when I first won a fight, I said I’m never fucking letting this feeling go because I know what is like to win, and what is like to lose over and over. I never want to get back to the place,” she said.
Now that she’s a pro fighter, she improves her training because she doesn’t want to lose. Even though she’s lost a few times she says, it’s not her addiction to win. She admits when she loses but she knows that life goes on, and she trains harder, learning from every fight.
“I’m not going to go out like a bitch and quit because I lost. I’m going to keep going because I know I’m going somewhere,” she said.
She said she never joined the sport with the intention of becoming the world champion. “I just like to fight, at the beginning of my career I knew I wasn’t here because of the money, I just love to fight,” she said.
Nievera also said that if she had to choose another sport, she would do Tennis because it’s a one on one game, same challenge as fighting reminding her it’s a gladiator modern-day sport as well.
“I’m a team player, don’t get me wrong but I would get frustrated like why didn’t you get the ball,” she said. “If I mess up, it’s only me. I wouldn’t blame somebody else,” she said laughing.
“Wherever the sport takes me, that’s where I’ll go, I feel like I’ve accomplished something already but I still got more to offer,” she said.
In a future Nievera would like to open a school. She says she’s too in love with the sport that she can’t get away from it. She can see herself, training her kids, and training people. She said her goal in life, and motivation is to make her parents, and team proud.
“I know my parents low-key are proud of me, they don’t like to see me hurt, and my team I protect them like my blood. Yeah, I fight for me because I love the sport but I also want to make my loved ones proud,” she said.
“If I’m inspiring people that’s fucking awesome, I just want to say don’t ever feel discourage, or that you can’t handle it because this is the price for everything. If you want something, and deep down you know you’re made for it, you’re going to get it,” she said.
“Work is work that’s what I learned from the sport. Even if it’s a shitty day, you keep going, push yourself, I talk to myself and motivate myself” she said.
“No matter how many times you lose, but if you stick with it, you’re going to get something. Just stick with it, and you’ll see something. When you start seeing results, it becomes a fucking obsession,” she said.
Nievera also said that having her coach, and team pushing her, makes it easier to go harder on her training however she said “When you do things under the radar when no one is watching. When your coach isn’t telling you what to do, and you just do that on your own, that’s when you know you are self-driven and self-motivated.”