Some of the few things Roxanne Modafferi wanted to do in life were fight under the UFC banner and watch anime.
At the start of her career, the former simply was not possible, given the lack of women’s divisions on the big stage, so like the hero in any good anime would do, Modafferi kept her head down and put in the work.
“I started watching anime when I was in high school. I’ve always been inspired by the heroes. They don’t always win, but they always put their heart and soul into training and into doing what’s right,” Modafferi said. “Like in Dragon Ball Z, the characters just train and try to get stronger, that’s their big theme. In One Piece, Luffy always tries to do what’s right. It might be stupidly simple, but it’s what’s right. I love that, it’s always inspired me.”
So as the sport evolved, so did “The Happy Warrior” — all while keeping the most important thing about her intact: her authenticity.
“I really wanted to show my personality and be unique; I think it’s really important for fighters and also for other human beings to be unique, and not be afraid,” Modafferi said. “I was embarrassed as a kid that I liked different things, but my mom always told me to be unique, because it was better. So I’ve really embraced that.”
Showing her personality has manifested best through wearing the wig of some of her favorite anime characters during her UFC weigh-ins — decisions of which were made by either which show she was engulfed in at the time, or by a symbolic significance she shared with the character heading into each of her respective fights.
“My first one was Invicta (FC), where I faced off against Tara LaRosa with a Jedi robe and a lightsaber. It was a full, complete suit, and I cut extra weight to be able to wear those outfits."
“I started to dress up for my weigh-ins because I thought it was really cool how Japanese fighters had really cool walk outs; they wore full anime cosplay, pro wrestling stuff on their way to the ring,” Modafferi said. “I was way too nervous to do that on fight day, so I thought, why don’t I just do it for weigh-ins?
“I tried to choose my hair and prop kind of according to how I was feeling, but also what I was watching at the time, so a lot of it is Dragon Ball,” Modafferi said of the iconic, foundational anime series that has spanned generations, featuring characters who undergo personal evolution and growth, as displayed by the color of their hair.
“I tried to show my evolution with the hair. So the first Dragon Ball cosplay was in the house of The Ultimate Fighter 26. I wore my black wig, which was just normal Goku. Then when I fought Barb (Honchak), I wore the yellow hair, which is like being one level up. I felt leveled up from my last fight, and the Super Sayian hair represented that.”
“I leveled up again, so I wore the blue against Sijara (Eubanks),” the 39-year-old said. “Although I lost that fight, one of my favorite photos of me ever taken is from this fight. Everyone was cheering loudly and I walked out onto the stage and someone in the crowd yelled ‘blue, blue blue!’ and I had my arms flexed and I pointed at them, and I thought it looked so cool.”
Following a win over Honchak that marked her first UFC victory, Modafferi had surpassed her limits, leveling up once more to Super Saiyan blue.
Because of her loss to Eubanks at UFC 230, Modafferi decided to give the Super Saiyan blue hair a shot again.
“When I fought Antonina (Shevchenko), I wore the blue wig again. I wanted to prove that I had actually leveled up and I wanted to get that win with the blue hair, and I did.”
After returning home from Saint Petersburg, Russia with a win over Shevchenko, Modafferi felt she had surpassed the Super Saiyan blue power level and ascended to the highest power level Dragon Ball had to offer.
“After blue is ultra-instinct silver. So I had a silver wig, which I had to style myself, which was quite the challenge, when I fought Jennifer Maia,” Modafferi said of her matchup against the Brazilian at UFC Fight Night in June of 2019. “Again, the fight didn’t go my way, so I thought I’d wear the silver hair another time when I’ve reached that level.”
Reaching the end of the power level spectrum that had existed in the series at the time, Modafferi had to step out of her comfort zone and into “the dark side,” according to her coach AJ Matthews ahead of her fight against Maycee Barber.
“So I wore the Goku hair, but actually wore it backwards so it could be Vegeta. And the “M” is supposed to be for Majin, which is when Vegeta is possessed by an evil demon,” Modafferi explained.
“I had this whole skit planned where I had a sticker, and I would come out on the stage normal and then crunch down and act as if I was being possessed, and then I would come up and the sticker would be on my head and then my coach added the hair. I messed it up a bit because I dropped the sticker, but that one was fun.”
Going over to the dark side worked for Modafferi in her bout against Barber, but it wasn’t a place in which she wanted to stay.
“After my great Majin experience, I wanted to go back and try again with the silver hair, but I’d apparently still not achieved ultra-instinct because that one (against Lauren Murphy) didn’t go as planned either.”
Having truly exhausted the power levels of Dragon Ball, the flyweight decided to step into the mind of the main characters of other popular shows, which saw Modafferi donning the legendary hat of Monkey D. Luffy from One Piece and iconic Naruto look on the scales.
As the 18-year veteran of mixed martial arts prepares to make her final stand on the scales ahead of her ultimate walk to the Octagon this Saturday at UFC 271: Adesanya vs Whittaker 2, one last symbolic statement is left to be made.
“For my final weigh-in, I actually went to social media for advice for what I should be,” adding that one of her fans on Facebook inspired her decision for the final look.
While we won’t spoil the final form she’ll take this weekend, we can assure you it holds a symbolic meaning worthy of the legacy and impact Modafferi has had on mixed martial arts, as she passes the torch to the next generation of fighters.
UFC 271: Adesanya vs Whittaker 2 took place on Saturday, February 12, 2022, live from the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses — and relive all of the action on UFC Fight Pass.