Anyone who watched the second season of the Oxygen network’s Fight Girls reality-TV series no doubt remembers Felice Herrig. Now 28 years old, she was 23 when it was filmed and had a mere five years of martial arts under her belt. Nevertheless, she fared well training under Master Toddy and actually defeated her opponent, a Thai champion. When Black Belt caught up with Herrig for this profile, she’d just become the “female starter” on the St. Louis Enforcers team in Chuck Norris’ World Combat League. Soon afterward, she made the jump from muay Thai to MMA, where she’s garnered a pro record of 8-4.
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Athletic background: “I was a gymnast and a track-and-field athlete. Then I broke my arm twice in gymnastics. I’m all about power and aggressiveness. My dad has been into martial arts since he was 17, so I grew up watching him do it. When I was 18, I went to the gym, Zee’s Martial Arts in Lake Zurich, Illinois, and started. From day one, I was like, ‘I’m going to be a fighter.’ I had my first fight a couple of months later.”
First fight: “I held my own. I fought the whole fight, and it went to a decision. So it wasn’t like I got punked. I lost my first two fights, and then I won 19 after that.”
Knockouts: Never been KO’d and never received a standing count. “I’ve got a tough jaw. I’m not saying that it couldn’t happen, but …”
Rank: None. “I didn’t come from a karate background, so I never got a rank. But I have earned four belts in kickboxing — 2005 IKF national champion, 2006 IKF North American champion, 2006 WAKO national champion and 2007 WAKO national champion.”
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Styles: First came kickboxing. “Then about three years later, I started boxing. One year after that, I got into the muay Thai on Fight Girls.”
Path to Fight Girls: “The producers were calling a bunch of martial arts schools in the area, and they called my coach and said, ‘We’re having tryouts for Fight Girls — do you have any girls?’ I sent in a videotape of myself training and fighting, along with a résumé, a 10-page questionnaire and pictures. It was a long process. They’d call me back and ask for more pictures and more tapes. Finally, they picked me.”
Best memory from the series: “The whole experience was unforgettable. The best part was that I made lasting friends. Since the show, I’ve kept in contact with a lot of the girls, and I get together with them quite often.”
Worst memory: “The worst thing was being on someone else’s schedule. As a disciplined athlete, I like to keep a strict eating and training regimen. It was hard to do that with the whole reality-TV thing.”
Opinion of Thailand, where she traveled for the Fight Girls finale: “I loved Thailand. It’s beautiful. They’re so nice there.”
Opinion of Thailand’s female fighters: “I didn’t feel that they were as good as they were built up to be. They are pretty stuck in their ways of doing only muay Thai. Don’t get me wrong: I love muay Thai, but I love being able to incorporate different fighting styles into my style. I have the boxing, kickboxing and muay Thai. Diversity is a huge advantage.”
Teaching schedule: “I would love to teach, but unfortunately my time doesn’t allow it right now. One day, I will teach and create a mini me!”
Training regimen: Heavy bag up to six days a week, weight training three days a week, cardio three days a week. “Basically, I start off on the jump-rope, then do shadowboxing, rounds on the heavy bag and mitt training. At the end of the workout, I do sprints on the treadmill. I train for two to three hours, five or six days a week all year-round. I also eat healthy, every two or three hours — clean food, lean protein, all natural stuff.”
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Training focus: Technique. “Instead of just going out there and throwing 20 punches, I want to throw 20 punches correctly. Keeping my hands up is probably the main thing. When I was an amateur, I wore headgear and never cared about getting hit. Now that I’m pro and there’s no headgear and I’ve been fighting girls a lot bigger than me, I’ve really got to keep my hands up. I’m also trying to make my punches more powerful by putting my legs into each one.”
Current instructor: “I’ve been training at Clay Guida’s gym, the Midwest Training Center. I finally feel like I’ve found the perfect fit. I have the best boxing coach in the whole world. His name is Shannon States. I’m constantly learning something new from him.”
Favorite martial artist: “I hate that this is so cliché, but I really have to give it up to Bruce Lee. It’s hard to top him. And it’s not just because of his skill as a martial artist; he took the arts so much deeper than that. He was big into philosophy, and he knew the body and mind so well.”
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Favorite kickboxer: “I’ll go with a female on this one. I really like Kathy Long. A lot of people say I remind them of her. It’s nice being compared to someone who’s done so much for the sport — especially because it’s really hard for the females in kickboxing to get the recognition they deserve.”
Favorite mixed martial artist: “I absolutely love Georges St-Pierre. He’s so diverse. He’s everything a fighter should be. He is well-rounded with his stand-up game and his ground game. He’s in great physical condition and is exciting to watch. He always goes in there and puts his heart on the line. Not to mention he’s hot. But that’s just a bonus.”
Prospects for fighting in an MMA match: “Of course, but not until I’m ready. I had my first kickboxing fight before I was ready, and I lost. I’m a fighter, and I’m willing to step out of my comfort zone and fight any fighting style. I want to be a well-rounded fighter who’s good at everything. MMA is just the next step in my career.”
Preferred kickboxing techniques: “I throw my front-leg front kick like a jab. It’s one of my favorites. It keeps my opponent away and is very strong. I perfected my left hook when I broke my right arm — I’m not one to sit around and do nothing, so when I was in a cast, I worked this technique a lot. And the side kick. Not a lot of people throw the side kick anymore, but thrown properly, it’s devastating.”
Best self-defense techniques for women who have to fight a man: “That’s easy. When it comes to self-defense, there are no rules. If your life is in danger, you have to be ruthless. Go for the groin, eyes and throat. Wow … that makes me sound mean.”
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Recommendations for building endurance for fighting: Continuous exercise. “I do 20 rounds minimum and don’t stop punching and kicking. Even when I’m tired, I keep my hands going. When fighters step into the ring, they fight in rounds, so it’s very important to train round after round. I go from one exercise to the next and keep my heart rate up. I’ll shadowbox for a good 20 minutes and immediately go into jump-roping for 20 minutes, followed by floor exercises and bag work. But I never stop.”
Advice for up-and-coming fighters: “Make sure your heart is always in it. Heart will win the fight every time. When I started fighting, I had no technique whatsoever, and I’m sure a lot of people wondered what the heck I was doing in the ring. But I had heart, and I never quit. And my heart won most of my fights. I think that’s the biggest piece of advice I can give because the heart is the strongest muscle.”
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