Fredia “The Cheetah” Gibbs was the first Black female combat-sports world champion to become a pay-per-view sensation.
Google her name, and you’ll see that she shook up the world before there was even a genre called MMA. She prevailed in competitions in a variety of martial arts. Between 1994 and 1999, she was a three-time world kickboxing champion. Between 1986 and 1988, she was a three-time world taekwondo champion. Between 1995 and 2001, Gibbs — fighting as “Lady Jack Johnson” — was a professional boxer. She was also a Kodak All-American in track and field and played pro basketball in Germany.
And her popularity is still growing thanks to a nine-minute video titled The Most Dangerous Woman — The Fredia Gibbs Story on YouTube. It’s gone viral, amassing more than 1.8 million views and thousands of comments.
The greatest fight of Gibbs’ life was never televised, however. It occurred when she was forced to use her martial arts skills to fend off — more accurately, beat up — a serial rapist/killer who was attempting to abduct her. Gibbs and one other woman are the only known survivors of his crime spree, which spanned more than 100 attacks.
With a past like that, it’s no surprise that Gibbs’ life story is in development for the silver screen. She’s serving as executive producer and helping write the story. She also will assist with the casting — her goal is to select actors as well as real martial artists.In recognition of her many accomplishments, a 6-foot-tall bronze statue is being created in her likeness, making Gibbs perhaps the first female martial artist to be honored so. The project is being spearheaded by historian Phil Damiani and commissioned by famed artist/sculptor Jennifer Frudakis-
Petry. It’s scheduled to be unveiled in late 2021 in Pennsylvania.
Having been bullied in school, you tell a story that resonates with kids and adults. With so many young people killing themselves over bullying, your video is saving lives. How does that make you feel?I am very thankful. Even to this day, there are people who have tried or considered committing suicide — I speak to these people. I tell them that I had considered it, too. When some see my video, they realize that they can overcome these obstacles.
What would you say to young women who are victims of body shaming or bullying?
I would share the exact same words that were shared with me. [My grandmother’s] words were like magic: “God blessed you with that body. You have something special to do with that body — that’s why you were blessed with it. Focus on your dream because whatever it is, you can make it happen. You’ve got a whole lot of greatness in you. Keep your eyes on the prize.”[And my mother said], “Don’t waste your good energy trying to take revenge on someone who did something to you. Let God handle them because God’s revenge is far greater than anything you could ever put on them. In the event you do take matters into your own hands, you are going to mess up God’s plans. Take that anger and turn it into something positive.”
Based on the learning curve you experienced, what advice would you give to girls who play sports in school?
Stay focused on your dreams. Be determined. Stay on your journey and surround yourself with winners, people who have the same type of vision and mindset, people who are going to challenge you and help you take yourself to the next level. You’re going to have to make sacrifices. Don’t rush getting pregnant in your 20s; wait until you hit your 30s.
Sports are big business these days. What business advice would you give athletes who are rising in the industry?
I’m glad you asked me. To every athlete: You are the boss. You are the one who makes the final decision. Don’t let anyone come into your camp and tell you how to run it. You sign the checks. They follow your rules, and if they can’t, then they’ve got to go.
The final decisions are yours. You pay the employees, and you do the hiring and the firing. You need a great team around you: a good PR person, a Hollywood agent, great corner people, people who really have your best interest at heart.
What are you doing these days? You’ve acquired so many skills from your healthy lifestyle and sports career.
I am part of a national organization called Be Brave. It provides free self-defense [lessons] for people on the streets and in the community to learn how to protect themselves.
With the pandemic slowly fading away, I am judging kickboxing and muay Thai shows and making appearances. I love being in the presence of up-and-coming stars and inspiring them.
I also work out every day and like to go hiking and work on my life-story projects.
The Fredia Gibbs Story: Meet the Most Dangerous Woman in the World is available on Amazon. Follow her on Instagram at @iamfrediacheetahgibbs and on Facebook at facebook.com/FrediaGibbs.