Jessica-Rose Clark was following the news reports about Andrea Lee’s husband allegedly attacking Lee last month. Donny Aaron, who has been married to Lee for about five years, had an arrest warrant issued Aug. 20 in Shreveport, La., on counts of domestic battery and false imprisonment.
Clark, Lee’s peer in the UFC women’s flyweight division, has experienced domestic violence herself and is a vocal advocate for victims. When she read what allegedly happened, Clark said she sent Lee a direct message on Twitter, offering a helping hand.
“I don’t know her personally,” Clark told MMA Fighting. “We’ve always just interacted online. But I messaged her on Twitter straight away and said, ‘Hey man, I’ve got a spare room. I’ll pay for you and your daughter to come out to [Las] Vegas if you just need to get away.’ And I sent her my number.”
Lee never got back to Clark, which Clark had absolutely no problem with. Just a couple of weeks later, Lee’s name surfaced on Clark’s radar again — as a potential opponent. Both have agreed to a bout and Clark will fight Lee at UFC on FOX 31 on Dec. 15 in Milwaukee, the UFC has announced.
“She read [the message], but she never responded,” Clark said. “That was cool. I honestly didn’t expect a response. I’ve been in similar situations. It was just strange how I tried to offer her a bit of sanctuary and then two weeks later we’re booked to fight and she’s the reason I’m making my next paycheck.”
When the UFC posted about the Clark vs. Lee fight on Twitter, the reaction for some was that it was odd, considering Clark’s public past involving domestic violence and what Lee is currently going through. Clark said she thinks Lee is doing the right thing in accepting a fight quickly, to focus on MMA.
“She’s a fighter, same as I am,” Clark said. “That’s what she loves to do and that’s her happy place and that’s her sanctuary. I think it’s a lot more dangerous for her to be sitting on the sidelines, kind of sitting around thinking about it. At least right now she has something to work towards. She knows she has a paycheck coming to her. She has something to focus on instead of sitting at home just kind of processing everything that happened. I was very grateful that after I went through what I went through, I got to fight really quickly. It gave me something else to focus on, so I wasn’t just kind of wallowing in my situation, if that makes sense.
“I do think it’s smart of her to take the fight,” Clark added. “And I don’t feel bad about it at all. I’m giving her an opportunity to do something she that loves after she’s had something so horrible happen to her.”
Clark told The Telegraph in her native Australia two years ago that her then-boyfriend, MMA fighter Julian Wallace, kicked her in the head, hit her in the face, kneed her in the ribs and threw her on the ground and choked her during an argument. Wallace pleaded guilty in an Australian court to the charges in 2016.
Aaron is being accused of choking Lee and attempting to put a cigarette out on her arm and body in an Aug. 5 alleged attack, per witness Andy Nguyen, an MMA fighter and roommate of Lee and Aaron. The Shreveport Police Department has issued a warrant for Aaron’s arrest, but Aaron has not been found, nor has he turned himself in.
Clark, 30, said she does not know exactly what Lee is going through, because every situation is different. She said she would like to speak with Lee about it, if Lee wanted to do that, but not until after the bout.
“If she wanted to, I would be open to it,” Clark said. “But I hope the focus isn’t too much on it, because then it kind of takes away from what we’re about to do as well. And not in a positive way. There’s a time and place where we can take advantage of the situation and try to bring more awareness to what actually happens behind closed door. But the lead-up to this fight, I don’t think that’s the time for it.”
If she had to give Lee unsolicited advice, Clark said the best thing she can do right now is to discuss what happened with a professional.
“Honestly, it would be to go to therapy,” Clark said. “Talk to someone. I spent a long time not wanting to talk about it and just sitting alone with my thoughts. And that is super toxic. I would say talk to someone.”
Clark said a fight with Lee has been on her radar for a while, dating back to when both of them were competing for Invicta FC. In fact, Invicta wanted to put that fight together, but Clark didn’t want to do it, because she was only making $2,000 to show and another $2,000 if she won. Clark felt like a matchup of her against Lee should be a much more high-profile, lucrative bout.
“I’ve been wanting to fight her for a long time, but when she first got mentioned as a legitimate opponent, I said to [my coach] John [Wood], ‘Honestly, this fight needs to happen when we’re both getting paid a lot more,’” Clark said. “It’s going to be a good fight, it’s definitely worth the money and it’s one that people want to see. And it’s one that’s going to be lost on a smaller show. “
Clark (9-5, 1 NC) said she is still kicking herself for a close unanimous decision loss to Jessica Eye at UFC Singapore in June. That defeat snapped a three-fight winning streak and somewhat stopped Clark’s momentum in the women’s flyweight division. But “Jessy Jess,” who remains a top-10 125-pounder, said she knows exactly what she did wrong and plans on correcting those mistakes in December.
In the meantime, Clark will continue training and coaching at Syndicate MMA in Las Vegas. She said it’s important for her to be an advocate for domestic violence victims. Clark visited The Shade Tree, a women’s shelter in Las Vegas, during International Fight Week in July as part of a UFC program. Clark said she discussed her own story with the women there and she’s been talking to UFC officials about making regular visits — and perhaps teaching self-defense — there in the future.
“It’s definitely something I want to be involved in a lot more,” Clark said. “I feel like part of the reason that I’m at where I’m at now is to make it so that more people could hear my voice and I can make a bigger difference. I kind of feel like as my platform is growing and as my reach is growing, if I’m not using it to do good, what do I have it for? Like I’d be wasting a valuable gift. I have a gift right now and that’s the ability to reach a lot of people. I want to use it to try and create some positivity and some good in this world.”