“There is a fire down inside of us all. Only those with courage to find it know how to use it. The barbell isn’t going to lift itself.”
Battling in the Octagon isn’t enough for professional MMA fighter “Little” Patricia Vidonic. That’s why she signed up for the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games Open.
“I am an athlete and a competitor,” Vidonic said. “I also really love CrossFit, so why not? If I'm going to do it, I might as well go big and see where I stand.”
The contender from Billings, Mont., hopes the work she puts in at Alternative Athletics CrossFit has not only prepared her for what happens in the cage, but also for what happens during the worldwide CrossFit competition.
“I have the will, drive and courage to be the best,” Vidonic said.
Vidonic met Cindy, her first CrossFit workout, just two-and-half years ago. The rendezvous took place at Alternative Athletics CrossFit, the same gym that was the birthplace of Vidonic’s fighting career several years earlier. Vidonic tangled with the well-known CrossFit benchmark for just over 20 rounds.
“I did strict pull-ups and stepped up and down off of my box (to reach the bar),” she recalled. “I had twisted my ankle the day before, but I didn’t let that stop me.”
What started as a simple way to complement her work on the mats has expanded into much more.
“The workouts looked like a lot of fun,” she said. “Once I started doing them, I found out I’m pretty good, too.”
Vidonic hopes to be a serious challenger in this year’s Open.
“I love the (workouts), I love to inspire others and I enjoy being a positive role model for anyone,” she said. “I am very competitive and would like to see how far I can make it.”
Small But Mighty
Vidonic, 35, is no stranger to competitive athletics.
She played softball and competed on the Olympic weightlifting team when she attended South Medford High School years ago, but most of her athletic experience has been centered on fighting.
She began her MMA career in the 105- to 115-lb. weight class as an amateur in 2009. The 5-foot-2 straw weight turned pro in July 2010 and has racked up a 9-7 record, with four of those wins via submission. She’s known for her small stature, but it’s not to be confused with weakness. She’s tough and has intimidating ground-fighting abilities.
Vidonic credits her coaches for her success in the cage.
“As with any sport, good coaching matched with natural abilities makes for an amazing combo,” she said. “My MMA coach made my nothing into something, and I am forever grateful for the skills that I attained.”
Vidonic carries a great deal of inspiration into the box and the cage.
Her bicep bears tribute to her mother in the form of a pink ribbon tattoo. Almost 20 years ago, her mother passed away tragically to breast cancer when the fighter was only 15 years old.
“She was so strong willed, a born leader, kindhearted, and just a beautiful person inside and out,” Vidonic said of her mother. “I aspire to be the amazing woman she knew I could be, and then some.”
Vidonic’s husband and son encourage her athletic pursuits and are a significant source of motivation. Her son pushes her in the gym, she said.
“He comes to the gym and does workouts with me sometimes,” she said. “He gets competitive with me and it’s fun. He sure is something to be proud of.”
Harnessing Her Fire
Moving into this year’s Games season, Vidonic is driven to find success. She has pinned her weaknesses in preparation for the competition.
“The only way to improve is to swallow your pride and go for it,” she said.
In Vidonic’s case, this effort has translated into hours of practice with a speed rope, attempting to master double-unders.
“Tiger stripe, after bruise, I implement them into workouts, day in and day out, sometimes twice a day,” she said.
As with MMA, “this is a sport where being well rounded is ideal,” she added.
Vidonic said her greatest strength is her “huge gas tank,” the result of intense elevation mask training in Montana, which has proven to be an asset in both the box and the cage.
She has also made a significant effort to maintain a clean diet, a change she said has tremendously affected her life.
“I will never go back to my old ways of eating,” she said. “This feels way too good!”
She hopes her diet, along with plenty of rest and a positive attitude, will lead to success during the Open and beyond.
“There is a fire down inside of us all,” she said. “Only those with courage to find it know how to use it. The barbell isn’t going to lift itself.”