“Fighting is what makes me feel alive”, explains Lucie Bertaud

European boxing champion, journalist, sports coach or finalist of Koh-Lanta: The secret weapons… At 37, Lucie Bertaud has already condensed several lives into one. But the native of Thouars (Two Sevres) is above all today an MMA professionalwho is preparing a crucial meeting for the rest of her career, on May 6 at Bercy against the Polish Katarzyna Sadura.

Five months after her very hard loss to Venezuelan Karla Benitez, the tireless jack-of-all-trades knows that she is playing big on this Bellator fight, the second MMA organization behind the UFC, with which she arrives in end of contract.

Five months after your last fight and one month before the next, where are you?

The next fight aims to exorcise my inner demons insofar as I lived very, very badly the last. The after-Koh Lanta was very difficult. All the excitement generated put a lot of pressure on me. And then there was that eye injury against Benitez, not very pretty. It was quite violent, and morally hard to digest. I had to call on a mental trainer, then a physical trainer, to remedy everything that had failed me during the last fight. I want to show myself who I am, remember what I’m worth. I’m coming to the end of my contract. This fight is therefore decisive for the future.

That is to say ?

If I win, there will be a contract renegotiation with great goals behind. If I lose, it could mean the end of my career. Without wanting to put too much pressure on me, the fight can have an influence on the rest of my life.

What still drives you to fight at 37?

When you reach a certain level of experience, you no longer ask yourself the question. It has become our identity. The fight is what makes me feel alive. I like this dimension where we are afraid, where we have doubts. We are faced with difficulties. And I make it a point of honor in my life to always overcome difficulties. And casually, I got to a level where it’s starting to pay off. I didn’t choose to live on that alone because it would be too risky. If tomorrow I have an injuryfor example to the cruciate ligaments, how do I do?

I continue to work on the side to ensure safety. But I chose to invest in real estate all my combat bonuses, won or lost, to ensure a quiet end of life. As I am independent, I do not make a film about my retirement. I want that at the end of my career, I will have incredible memories, but also a heritage.

During the fight against the Venezuelan Karla Benitez, October 30, 2021 at the Zénith de Paris.
During the fight against the Venezuelan Karla Benitez, October 30, 2021 at the Zénith de Paris. – John Spencer / Sipa

Between the different combat sports, journalism, writing a book (“MMA, the American dream”), conferences or “Koh-Lanta”, which activity do you prefer?

In fact, what occupies me the most today are my activities as a journalist-commentator, on the L’Equipe channel, on RMC Sport as well as on the African channel WATAA. I also do a bit of coaching and I have my professional sports activity. What I also like, even if I don’t live from it yet, is to develop my sports travel blog. I went from sporty to adventurous and now I try to build an identity that corresponds to these two facets.

And in the future, what will you focus on?

Sports journalism is what I like to do the most and what I will develop a little more. But I also want to start a business, to invest in stone… I don’t close myself to anything. I put my eggs in different baskets, like that, I get by economically and in addition, I vary the pleasures. Again, if I hurt myself, how do I live? I can’t not work. And, at the same time, I don’t want to put up with my life. I have to do a job that I love, think about post-career.

There, a week before a fight, I will continue to comment on events when I’m supposed to be at the peak of my diet. I’ll be skin and bones, I’ll be really tired. I have to be 57 kg for the fight. At the end of January, I was at 68, now I’m at 64, a week before the weigh-in I’ll be at 61. 11 kg lost in three months, that’s a lot.

Before the fight against Benitez, you mentioned in The Team the possibility of “creating a possible opening with the UFC”. What about now?

The UFC has pretty strict selection criteria. Unfortunately, there are boxes I don’t check off, including age and authoritative win streak (his MMA record so far is three wins and three losses). My last defeat clearly sealed my fate with this organization. But I’m very happy with Bellator. When I signed my current contract, it was my reward for the hard years of work that I have known.

Lucie Berthaud (left) during her success over her compatriot Maguy Berchel during an MMA fight on October 10, 2020 in Paris.
Lucie Berthaud (left) during her success over her compatriot Maguy Berchel during an MMA fight on October 10, 2020 in Paris. – Franck Fife / AFP

Your passage to “Koh-Lanta” took you out of the sphere of combat sport to pass into another dimension. Looking back, does this experience still stick with you?

I experienced a tidal wave during the show (airing in the spring of 2021), and I’m not exaggerating. Now it’s easier to manage. Only the people who really support me remain. People always recognize me in the street, people stop me from time to time. But it’s still super friendly. I think I made an impression through my journey in the adventure but also because I am an MMA fighter and there weren’t a lot of them. I only have the good left, whereas at the moment, there are good and bad sides.

Want to talk about the reactions on social media?

Yeah, I’m sensitive to that stuff, I don’t feel like a bad person. So when we write so many bad things, I do not understand. It wouldn’t occur to me to do that, I don’t understand how people do it.

Coming back to MMA, do you feel that the outlook on the discipline has changed?

It has become the trendy sport. Young people only have the word “octagon” in their mouths. Sometimes I meet people from the generation above mine who tell me that their son no longer swears by MMA. The French public has a little trouble opening up, but it’s generational. Time takes time.

How do you situate yourself as a woman in overwhelmingly male circles?

It never gave me any problems. But it is true that the MMA public is very demanding. When you are a woman, you have to be good in the cages, in the comments… As much in boxing I had proven myself by being in the Olympic squad, by being European champion etc.. In MMAI have done things but it is perhaps not respectable enough in the eyes of the specialist public.

But I’m still 37, and for that alone I deserve respect. The way of life we ​​have, that is to say, working like everyone else, and on top of that doing two training sessions a day, being on a diet, sacrificing your social and family life and having the courage to climb in a cage… Frankly, excuse me the expression, but it is necessary to have some in the underpants. You have to respect the fighters.

You were the first female boxer to join Insep, the first woman to compete in an MMA fight at Bercy… Are you looking to write history?

I love being where you least expect me, in marginal, offbeat areas. The rarer it is, the better I like it and the more potential there is, especially economically. It’s true in everything I do. In sports journalism, there are very few women, especially in combat sports. We are two, three, no more. And in MMA, we must be 10 international competitors in France.

Do you want to convince young girls to follow in your footsteps?

I don’t do things to inspire anyone but because I love what I do. Even if people often come to see me, they show me a lot of affection or empathy. I am asked for advice, for example about school violence. If I started combat sports, it’s because I was bullied at school.

I sometimes hear testimonies from mothers who tell me that they don’t know what to do because their daughters are attacked at school, that they constantly cry when they come home. I give them some advice. What combat sports have taught me is that you have to face your fears rather than running away from them. It’s the only way to overcome them. Children need to have a conquering attitude and this will be repeated in everyday life, once adults. This was my case.

One last question, away from the octagon. If you are asked to redo “Koh-Lanta”, what would be your answer?

There are two of us in the “fighters” box: Naoil (winner of Koh-Lanta: The island of heroes in 2020) and me. They didn’t ask me but if they offered it to me, of course I would accept. One Koh Lantait cannot be refused.

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