07 Sep Inspiring Profiles: Helen “Hellraiser” Harper, MMA Fighter
Helen “Hellraiser” Harper is an English Mixed Martial Artist who lives in Phuket, Thailand.
She recently won her second pro fight, and now has a record of 2 wins 0 Losses as a professional fighting for Phuket Top Team , one of Asia’s premier MMA gyms.
I met Helen while I was training at Phuket Top Team myself, although not at the intensity and level of the professional fighters based there. As a relative newcomer to the professional game, she is also a primary school teacher in Phuket, fitting her training around school classes and trips.
She started Boxing when she was 23, and a year later began grappling at a local gym in Surrey. Helen immediately fell in love with it, and it lead to a stint training out in Phuket at Tiger Muay Thai. This trip would prove a major turning point, as when she returned to her job in Sheffield, she realised that her head and heart were still in Thailand.
Helen decided to move out to Phuket full time in September 2012, and fought in a couple of amateur fights for Tiger Muay Thai, where the nickname Helen “Hellraiser” Harper stuck. Eventually becoming frustrated with her lack of progress at Tiger, she moved over to Phuket Top Team, run by Australian Boyd Clarke.
She cites the main reason for this drastic change in lifestyle was to “Prove to myself, and to other people, that it was possible. Many people told me I would fail and be back in England within a month, so that just made me more determined to succeed.”
It was through Phuket Top Team that she had her first pro fight, in Malaysia, defeating her opponent by submission. You can see the video here:
A frustrating few months followed, with Helen keen to get her second fight lined up. Finally, matched against a fighter from the Phillipines, she notched her second win in the first round, despite her opponent missing weight for 4 Kg. In the video below, you can see the size difference Helen overcame to get the victory.
In the near future, Helen would like to make the jump to full time training, not having to rely on a day job as a teacher. Sponsorship is a key contributing factor, and Helen acknowledges that she relies heavily on her current sponsors to help her live this lifestyle. “ Phuket Top Team have been amazing, being a sponsored fighter there, and training with such world class fighters is an incredible experience, and I am so grateful to Boyd for making that happen. When I am in the UK, I train at EKBJJ , and again, I wouldn’t have got where I am without them. Vicious Circle clothing have been amazing as well – they produce my walkout shirts which look amazing. Pony Club grappling gear have also helped me out a lot.” As she continues to gain exposure and hopefully wins, more sponsorship is key to helping her to make the jump to the next level.
The next year promises to be an adventurous one, with Helen planning to fight as often as possible, with a loose plan of basing herself in Phuket, but looking to train all over the world, with the UK and Singapore as possible destinations. Eventually she would like to compete in premier Women’s MMA organisation Invicta and reach the upper levels of the world rankings in her weight class, but for now is concentrating on getting her next fight scheduled.
Sometimes living like this can have it’s downsides; “Unfortunately Phuket is used as an escape for many people, and many of those are here on a very part time basis. It is hard to get to know people because they only tend to stay for a matter of weeks or months – by the time you get to know people it is time for them to leave.”
“But ultimately, I live in paradise, I train at one of the best gyms in the world with some of the best training partners in the world. These guys are at the top of their game and they are happy to help me and everyone else at the gym with their extensive knowledge. I get to train with people like Andrew and Anthony Leone, JJ Ambrose and Rob Lisita, who are amazing fighters and great guys. Recently, Angela Magana came through for a fight camp. She is so experienced and well rounded, it was a steep learning curve training with her every day, but it was a great experience, and I learnt a huge amount from her. Every day revolves around fighting for me, it is what I get up for every day. That is why I am here, and the downsides are things I am happy to sacrifice.”
It is chasing that passion that is her advice to everyone out there who wants to do something different: “Follow your heart. Within reason don’t worry about money – as long as you have enough to survive, you should be able to find happiness through other things. It might not be training and fighting for you, it might be painting or writing. What ever it is that makes your heart beat that little bit faster, follow it and chase it down. Move city if you need to, or even country if you have to, just follow that passion because no matter how much money you have today, it could all be gone tomorrow.”
You can connect with Helen in the following ways:
Twitter – @hhhellraiser
Blog – Helen Harper