Nine year old Gianna “BamBam” Cilenti is preparing early for her future career as a MMA fighter.
The New York native trains grappling and kickboxing at Nanuet Tiger Schulman School and BJJ at Renzo Gracie’s Academy in new Jersey. Gianna also studied traditional karate at Thomas Clifford Martial Arts.
Cilenti has won several NAGA and grappling titles, having yet to taste defeat. She also has a 4-2 record in amateur kickboxing.
Wombat Sports: What got you interested in combat sports?
Gianna Cilenti: When I was 6 years old, I went to my friend’s karate birthday party and loved it! At that time I was in gymnastics and I cried every day because I wanted my mom to bring me back to the karate place. There is nothing else I wanted to do.
Wombat: What do you enjoy about it?
Cilenti: I love everything about it, I especially love competing. It keeps me fit and it is so much fun. I like challenging myself every time I get on the mat and every time I am scheduled for a fight. I try to compete once a month.
W.S.: How has your friends and classmates reacted to it?
G.C.: My friends are really into what I do and a lot of them will come watch me fight. Having my friends interested in what I do helps me challenge myself more because I want them to keep them interested and show them that not everything is easy and if you challenge yourself you can do anything.
W.S.: How about your family?
G.C.: My family are my biggest supporters and I wouldn’t be able to do this without my mom, dad and sister. When I compete I can always hear my family and friends cheering me on and it makes me work harder. There are times I am tired and my family encourages me to go train and work hard. I love when they encourage me because I perform my best. My family even turned our family room into a training place for me. My Deshi Jackie gave me mats and now I get to train whenever I want.
W.S.: Who do you look up to in fighting?
G.C.: The people I look up to most are my parents and my sister they are the best role models. Ronda Rousey is my idol. There are a lot of fighters and trainers I look up to; Kyoshi Clifford, Professors Massaro, Joshu Trizano, Maureen Shea, Jennie Nedell, Joshu Kendall, Chris Weidman, Eddie “Truck” Gordon and “Iron” Mike Fischetti.
W.S.: How do you feel about the future of females fighting?
G.C.: I hope that more girls get into fighting. Not every sport has to be for boys because girls are tough to. Ronda Rousey made it possible for me to have a chance to be in the UFC and I hope that when I become a world champion other little girls will want to fight and become a champ. At each competition I notice more and more girls competing. It’s great because at most Events the girls have their own division. I hope the girls division keeps growing.
W.S.: What comes naturally to you in fighting? What have you found difficulty?
G.C.: Everything about combat sports comes naturally. I feel like I belong on the mat, the mat is part of me. My life will always be about training hard and fighting. I couldn’t imagine not participating in combat sports, it’s in my blood.
The hardest part for me is when I am competing and I get tired, I feel like I might not win, then I hear my sister rooting me on and I push hard.
W.S.: What are your aspirations in fighting?
G.C.: I want to be and will be a world champion. I want to get in the cage for the UFC and win that Belt. I want to win a Gold Medal in the Olympics and represent my Country. I know I can do it. I have so many people supporting me. I want other girls to look up to me someday and not be afraid of combat sports. I will be the Princess of the Cage.
W.S.: Anything you want to add/thank?
G.C.: I want to thank my mom for always taking me to training, taking me to fights and being my training partner when I want to practice my arm bar. My Dad who lets me choke him out. My sister for always being there for me. I also want to thank all my trainers and fighter friends who take time to train me, encourage me and support me. I have a great team.