UFC's Joanne 'JoJo' Calderwood on love, Thanksgiving & world titles

Joanne Calderwood
Joanne Calderwood after being defeated by Cynthia Calvillo in Glasgow back in 2017

"I've found the things I've been looking for. Everything in my life feels perfect."

Scottish Ultimate Fighting Championship flyweight Joanne 'JoJo' Calderwood has never hidden from her demons as she's battled to rise to the top in a dog-eat-dog sport.

From depression to issues with alcohol, life has not always been easy for the Ayrshire native in one of the world's most unforgiving arenas.

Now, though, the 32-year-old from Irvine is embracing life under the bright lights of Las Vegas.

With a fight against Brazil's 'Violence Queen' Ariane Lipski in the colder climes of Brooklyn on Sunday (01:00 GMT), Calderwood talks to BBC Scotland about embarking on a new relationship, Christmas celebrations in the United States and her hopes of becoming the next flyweight world champion.

'I'm not looking back now'

Calderwood made the bold move to Sin City last year, determined to shake off the past and issues with depression and alcohol.

Now, with coach John Wood her partner in and out of the octagon, the fighter has found contentment, love and a new-found determination after one of the darkest periods of her life.

"Vegas has just clicked with me," she said. "I love the hot weather and I've just found a home there.

"I had made a lot of changes and felt better off as a person. Once you start loving yourself, things just fall into place - I'm not looking back now, I'm going with the flow and everything in my life feels perfect.

"There's going to be ups and downs - but it feels right and at the end of the day I'm happy, living in the moment."

The mixed martial arts fighter also experienced her first American 'holiday' season stateside, which she joked "takes some getting used to".

"America does everything bigger and better," she said, after being welcomed by Wood's family for Thanksgiving celebrations. "Halloween, Christmas - it was all over the top."

But when it comes to business Calderwood is adamant she does not receive any preferential treatment and that one of Wood's most attractive qualities is his professionalism.

"He can separate the two and I wouldn't want him to treat me differently to anyone else," she said of her team at the world-class Performance Institute where she trains as part of Syndicate MMA.

"And sometimes it's good when you go home because your mind doesn't stop thinking about this sport so if I've a question I can ask him."

'This is where I'm supposed to be'

So much was at stake in Calderwood's last fight, her win by submission against Kalindra Faria in Nebraska in August giving her more time to compete at the very top of her sport.

The Scot maintains she now treats every match-up like it could be her last and has put her "soul" into preparing for Saturday, with the results all looking positive.

"I'm in the place I should be and nothing is going to stop me now," she added.

As UFC Fight Night 143 in the New York City borough approaches, Calderwood is outwardly confident. With only three defeats in 12 and unbeaten at her newer flyweight (125lb) she is sure she can overcome debutant Lipski.

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Calderwood became her 'own worst enemy' with depression

While both excel in striking, she believes her game "is more complete and more creative" when comparing their Muay Thai skills.

"I like to mix things up - she's more of a boxer and a kicker, where I like to elbow and knee," she explained.

"Every fighter would be lying if they said they didn't get nervous," conceded the softly spoken Scot.

But with her weight, fitness and state of mind all in order she states it is time to show her "true potential".

"I've done this for 20 years, it's all I know," she added. "I have dedicated and nearly ruined my life for this sport so I feel like this is all I've to do and I'm good at it. This is where I'm supposed to be.

"When I win on Saturday it's on to the next fight - I want to be a UFC champion. Yeah, I've gone off track a little bit, but that's okay because I didn't give up and I'm back on track now."

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