'Exploitation as far as being a bad ass?' Meet Jolene Hexx - the world's most controversial MMA champion
“I’m just the champ. As far as my character and my role. I just come in and kick ass and take names and take my belt and go home and have a good time,” says Jolene 'The Valkyrie' Hexx, with a carefree but confident shrug you’d expect from a champion.
The dimpled, softly-spoken Hexx doesn’t fit the archetypal look of a scowling female pugilist with a flat-nose and thick, sweat-soaked braids.
Despite her unassuming exterior, Hexx is the current champion of The Lingerie Fighting Championship (LFC), a Las Vegas-based mixed martial arts promotion that pits models in skimpy outfits against one another in cage fights.
It has been described as "the most controversial fight league in the world," but Hexx is more relaxed in her assessment: “Dude it’s girls fighting in sexy lingerie. I don’t know what else to say. You need to watch this."
Whatever the opinion on scantily-clad girls flipping, choking and body slamming each other wearing a little more than a snarl, one thing can be universally agreed: LFC is one of the combat sports world’s more eye-catching organizations.
Created in Las Vegas in 2014, LFC is the world's only league for cage-fighting models and its concept seems to tread an unusual line between sports entertainment and exhibitionism.
It is the brainchild of CEO Shaun Donnelly, who thought it would be interesting to have a "women’s MMA league where the fighters looked like ring girls."
“I wanted it to still be competitive but not dangerous. I don't know about you but when I see two beautiful women in lingerie my first thought isn't ‘I wish they'd punch each other!’” Donnelly tells RT Sport.
In that organization, Hexx has a record of 20 wins against 6 defeats and one draw, and has fought off all credible competition that could mount a challenge to her.
Hexx's origins in the fight game are peculiar. She learned to hold her own fighting among her 14 brothers in a polygamist sect just outside of Utah's famously Mormon-majority Salt Lake City, where her parents were missionaries, before moving to Las Vegas in her early 20s.
“It was kind of funny going from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas, because Utah is like very small town and Mormon-based. So going from there to ‘Sin City’ blew my mind. I was trying to get into acting and modeling but when I got to Vegas and found fighting," Hexx explains.
“I didn’t even know fighting professionally was a possibility for me. I ended up starting training [Israeli special forces self-defence] Krav Maga. I never imagined learning self-defense would lead to being able to make money and win belts and it’s really cool how when you learn something those doors open up."
Another door led to the seamy and sometimes unsavory world of fetish play. Owing to her ‘strong girl’ features, Hexx was offered a role as a dominatrix, a job in which she also gets paid to choke out, contort and body slam people, all the while in her underwear. It presented the perfect opportunity to sharpen some combat skills off the mat.
“I started finding these fetish niches that would let me beat people up. It was basically like more training so I was like ‘that’s perfect!’ You can pay me to beat people up that’s awesome,” Hexx explains.
“I do a lot of beat-downs and scissoring, which is where you like pop guys’ heads off with just the strength of your thighs. And I can’t tell you how many guys I’ve accidentally knocked out doing that."
Training to decapitate men with her legs paid off when Hexx soon after joined lingerie fighting and began to polish her unorthodox thigh skills in the cage so much so that it became her signature move.
“If I can get a girl in between my legs, you know that’s my favorite. They’re so easy to get on,” Hexx says enthusiastically.
Despite its novelty value, the LFC features full contact fights which regularly see girls being flipped, thrown and submitted. Its lack of rules has drawn criticism from the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which oversees the majority of their shows in Vegas, particularly relating to the omission of weight classes.
In one case, Jessie ‘El Toro’ Santos picked up opponent Shay ‘The Fox’ Mazzato and slammed her head against the cage multiple times on her way to a lopsided win. The move would be perfectly legal in professional MMA, were it not for the fact Santos weighed 33 lbs (15 kg) more than Mazzato.
Amid its chaos, LFC does have rules including prohibiting stand-up strikes to the face, which prevents most of the LFC models from turning up to photo shoots with black eyes and split lips, which Jenny 'Bloody' Valentine found out to her detriment when she was handed a lifetime ban after KO-ing an opponent with such a punch.
However, other shots are less severely reprehended.
“I did have one fight. I think it was the Halloween fight, the year she was a maid. I went to throw a kick and she turned into it and I kicked her right in the crotch," Hexx recounts of a fight with Andreea ‘The Storm’ Vladoi.
"I think I broke my foot. And she wasn't even fazed. I was like ‘are you OK, I just kicked you right in the vagina?’ She didn’t even notice. My foot was messed up for like a week. I was like ‘how is your V?’ It’s so indestructible you didn’t even feel me break my foot on it.”
The league's fighters are awash with former adult actresses, including hardcore porn starlet Jeneiveve ‘The Sorceress’ Hexxx, and erotic model Bella Ink, along with dancers and glamour girls, which has led to criticism from social justice warriors.
Feminists have labeled the promotion a "sad rage pool" created by "het-male centrism" that promotes the 'sexual exploitation' of women. Unsurprisingly, Hexx takes a different view on the matter.
“Exploitation? As far as like femininity and being a badass?" she says. "LFC supports a wonderful group of strong women who keep getting stronger and keep getting sexier."
Despite the negative press, the interest in the league is undeniable; LFC's YouTube channel consists of dozens of viral videos, including a 'Sizzle Reel' of the sauciest snippets from shows which has racked up 23 million views, and Hexx's own highlight reel which has been watched a whopping 4.6 million times.
Hexx believes in a future that uses that viral fame for a more legitimate future. She envisions that with a little elbow grease, some more elbow strikes and a lot of lingerie, the promotion could provide a credible route for young females looking to enter pro MMA.
"I can definitely see LFC become one of the stepping stones in the entire fighting industry," she says.
"At this point it’s just investors and proper marketing but we have got an insane amount of fans and supporters — you can see on YouTube the amount of views that we have. We’ve gone viral many times. So at this point I think it’s just a matter of time and investors.
“I think LFC it’s almost what WWE did to the pro wrestling world — LFC is kind of doing to the MMA world. We get in there and we’re a bunch of badass chicks but we’re funky and we’re hot and we can have fun and we can fight too. So as far as turning into a spectacle — that's what we do best.”
By the nature of the promotion, LFC will always be considered by its detractors as a freak show concoction of cage fights and fetishism. It has been demonized as a cult combat sport genre pandering to a caricature of the most potent male desires — namely watching beautiful women in skimpy outfits fight.
At the other end of the spectrum, supporters have accepted LFC as quirky, even bold and progressive, and at the very least, a harmless spectacle which can be consumed just as any other vice Las Vegas has to offer.
Next up for Hexx is a "takeover of Russia" which includes trips to Moscow and St. Petersburg. Away from the sleaze and the sordid headlines, the mission statement from Hexx on her planned world tour is simple: "It’s good for the world. The world needs to get involved and watch more LFC.”Also on rt.com Lingerie Fighting Championship: The world’s most controversial MMA league (VIDEO)