Interview with Jinh Yu Frey

Jinh Yu Frey is a professional mixed martial arts fighter who currently fights for Invicta Fighting Championships in the Atomweight (105 lbs) weight class.

Sherdog.com’s #2 ranked Atomweight has fought professionally since 2013 and has a record of 5-2 (3-2 in Invicta FC) and is also the current SCS Atomweight Champion.

It was her second professional fight at SCS 18 in 2013 that caused a viral video craze with her impressive highlight reel knockout victory (video here). In fact, Jinh had punched her opponent so hard that she broke her hand!

Her last fight was at Invicta FC 19 in September 2016 was for the Invicta FC Atomweight Championship. It ended slightly controversially with what many considered a premature ending due to doctor stoppage which caused Jinh to suffer the title fight loss. Although disappointed with the result, she is still considered one of the top contenders and should hopefully get a rematch in the near future.

We had the chance to catch up with Jinh to discuss her MMA career and personal background and are pleased to present this interview.

Please note that HalfKorean.com comments/questions are in BOLD.

Background: The Basics on Jinh Yu Frey

Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Arkansas and we moved around a bit but I’ve lived my entire life in Texas. I’m from Amarillo, Texas which is up in the panhandle and then a couple years ago I moved down to the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

How did your parents meet?
I’m actually not super sure how they met. My mother is mentally ill now and there is a lot of my childhood that is a big question mark because she is not able to reliably tell me. My father passed away when I was pretty young. I actually didn’t know that he passed away until I received his death certificate in the mail when I was around 20 years old. I didn’t realize he had passed away six or seven years prior. My mom is not really a reliable historian, if that makes sense.

Are you close with your father’s (Korean) side of the family?
I don’t really know any of the Korean side of my family except for my younger brothers. It is kind of a weird story. A couple years ago, I was in Peru and the internet access out there was obviously not that great. Every once in awhile I would check email and that sort of thing. I had a Facebook message from some guy that said he thinks he is my brother. I told my husband, “Look at this weirdo! Who is this?” I was like whatever and just logged off and didn’t think about it and went on with my trip. I came home about a week later and my older brother called me and asked me if I had received a message from some guy and I told him I did. He said he had talked to him and he knew a lot of things that unless he was telling the truth he wouldn’t know them. So we ended up touching base with him and come to find out, my father had remarried after my parents split and married a Korean woman. I guess in passing, their mother happened to mention that our father was previously married and had children. So they wanted to find us. They are in their early 20s and it was their first time hearing of us. They started searching Facebook and the internet and they happened to come across our name and reached out. Coincidentally, one of the brothers was stationed in Fort Hood, which is about two hours south of here. We ended up meeting in Waco, which was about the halfway point for all of us. It was cool. On the weekends, he would come visit us and we hung out with him. The other brother was in Afghanistan at the time and after his tour he came back to California but he stopped for a night in Dallas so we met up with him. So I got to meet my younger half brothers. It was kind of cool and strange experience.

Do you have any siblings?
I have one full older brother, the two younger half brothers and one younger half sister.

Do you speak/understand Korean?
No, not really. I’m probably the whitest Korean person you know.

What is your favorite Korean food?
There is a spot pretty close to me that is a Korean BBQ buffet place. I swear when I go that I gain five to six pounds.

Have you tried and/or like soju?
I wouldn’t say that it is my go to but it’s not too bad. It kind of reminds me of ouzo. I have some Greek friends who I’ve had that with and it tastes pretty similar.

Did you grow up around other half/mixed Koreans?
Growing up, I was around a lot of Vietnamese and Laotian. Pretty much no Korean whatsoever.

Did you ever experience any identity issues while growing up?
A little bit. My Asian friends would tell me that I look so white and then my white friends would tell me that I look so Asian.

I didn’t really know anybody Korean and didn’t know much about Korean culture like how the Vietnamese and Laotian kids knew about their cultures.

Have you been to Korea?
I went just after I was born. The only reason I know this is because I have a visa in a passport. Not that I remember it or anything.

I would definitely like to go back one day. I’ve had actually some discussions with a South Korean MMA promotion who are interested in me coming out there. I’m really excited about that coming to fruition and being able to go fight in Korea.

What do people who meet/see you think your ethnicity is?
About half think Hispanic and the other half think some sort of Asian.

Is “Yu” your maiden name?
Yu is my maiden name and my first name is Jinh Hei. Growing up, whenever I would try to tell people my name is Jinh Hei, they would think I was telling them “Jinny” and I would have to tell them, “No. It is Jinh Hei.” For some reason that was really difficult and I didn’t really like to be called Jinny so I would just introduce myself as Jinh since it was easier for people to say

I don’t know why I was so irritated being called Jinny but I hated it. I liked my name but I didn’t know why it was so difficult for everybody! But, as I said, I didn’t grow up in a Korean community so the three syllable name just blew their mind like “Why do you have three names?”

MMA Fighter

At what age did you begin martial arts?
It’s funny as I didn’t have a martial arts background. My dad was a Taekwondo instructor though. My brother did Taekwondo, my mother did Taekwondo, my dad did Taekwondo. It never really interested me and I did other sports. I guess I’ve come full circle now. I first started training when I was around 22-23.

Were you into any other sports while growing up?
I played softball, volleyball and ran track.

At what point did you decide that you wanted to become a fighter?
My first amateur fight was around six months after I started training. I’m a super competitive person. I started training not with the intent but I’m just a competitive person. I was in there every day working out and I thought to myself that I can do this.

How supportive have your parents and family been with your fighting career?
My dad had already passed away by that time and actually passed away when I was around 13-14 and I didn’t find out until I was about 19-20. My mom and I didn’t really have a close relationship anyways so it wasn’t like something that I discussed with her. My older brother thought it was cool. It’s funny now because he trains and he wants to fight. He’s older and doesn’t have much time so if he’s going to do it, he needs to pull the trigger. My nephew wrestles now and does jiujitsu. My niece does jiujitsu. So it is kind of like a huge family affair now.

When you joined Invicta FC in 2014, what were some of your goals as you joined them?
At that point, I don’t think I was thinking that far ahead because originally I never planned on fighting professionally. And then I fought professionally and told myself I would just do it until I get into graduate school. I got into graduate school but then I had so much momentum going after coming off the knockout and then Invicta was interested in me. I guess I never saw myself going this far. I joined Invicta and then I was going to fight until I finish graduate school. Then I finished graduate school but I was so close to the title. It’s like I never think that far ahead just because like I said I never expected to go this far. I keep getting this forward momentum and getting so close to being the best in the world and that is something that I want. I didn’t think of it for myself back then but I see it now.

What has your experience in Invicta been like so far?
It’s been really good and they treat everyone really well. It’s very professionally ran and I had never experienced that before. My first time out there I kind of felt like a deer in headlights because I didn’t know what to expect. The media, the photo shoots, the interviews; I had never been on a platform that big before so it was a little bit shell-shocking I guess. It took a couple times to get in the groove of it. But, the first time, was a little overwhelming. I’m typically an introverted, private person. Some people really thrive off of the attention and being in front of a crowd and a camera and that’s not me.

Are you under a contract with Invicta for a set amount of fights?
I’m under contract for a set number of fights but there is also a time limitation part to it, like this many fights or this long. But it’s not exclusive either as they give fighters permission as long as you are not being used in a competing promotion. They are pretty good about letting fighters go and fight for different promotions so you can stay as active as you want. If they plan on using me, they are obviously my first priority and would go with them. But, if they are not able to put me on a couple cards, then I have permission to go and fight out there as long as the schedules work out.

You fight at 105 (Atomweight), do you have any plans of possibly fighting at higher weight classes as well?
There is always the possibility and a lot of people have asked me that like why don’t I go to UFC and probably make more money and a little bit more mainstream. For me, those are great things but I feel like I have unfinished business at 105 and I am so close to the title. Every promotion has their world title but this is legitimately the world title and if I fight Ayaka I am literally fighting the best fighter in the world at this weight class. For me that is more important than making “x” amount of money or more people knowing who I am. That can come later. This is my goal right now. After that, who’s to say. The weight cut is getting kind of hard the older I get. But, right now, that is all I can see; the title.

Your Invicta FC 19 fight against champion Ayaka Hamasaki last September 2016 ended by doctor stoppage because of the cut above your eye. It looked as though you were arguably winning the fight up to that point. Looking back now, what are your thoughts on the fight and the stoppage?
Of course I was bummed about it because I do feel like the momentum was in my favor. I had a pretty strong first round. After you put so much into your camp and the weight cut and overcoming all of the obstacles and adversity in your camp, you just want a chance. I feel like that was kind of taken from me. But, I can kind of understand that the guy was worried about my well being but it wasn’t just any fight. It was a world title fight. I’ve definitely seen much worse cuts and injuries that are allowed to continue just because of the magnitude of the fight and what was riding on that fight. I wish they would have given me a little time and let the cutman work on it and see what he could do and let me go back out there. If I’m just getting battered and blood running in my eyes and getting split open worse and worse then I could see stopping it. They didn’t even let the cutman have an opportunity to work on it. It didn’t take him long to stop the bleeding. It wasn’t to the point of it running in my eye.

Hamasaki just fought at Invicta FC 22 and lost at the 115 (Strawweight) and has mentioned in some recent articles that she would like to fight you again. Do you hope for a rematch soon?
After she had won she had even said that she felt like we had unfinished business as well. Based oh the talks I’ve had with Invicta management, I’ve felt like that’s what is coming next and that we would have an immediate rematch. But, some stuff was going on with her and she was calling out Angela Hill because she wanted to go to UFC, which I get because she’s like 34-35. There was some verbiage back and forth between them. So, I made the conscientious decision. I could have been fighting her next if I had waited but I don’t want to sit on the shelf because this is how I make my money now since I quit my full time job. I’m not getting any younger as I’m turning 32 in the next couple months. I can’t sit around and wait eight to nine months to see what Ayaka is going to do. I’d rather stay busy and give me a tough fight at 105 and let me keep working my way to the top again.

Do you think that might be your next fight?
It’s kind of in the air. I would hope so and that is the fight I’m gunning for. But, she had a pretty devastating stoppage. Her nose was bleeding so much that I don’t know if her nose is broken. I don’t know how quickly she is going to be able to turn around for another fight. Not only for another fight but a championship fight. Five rounds is a pretty significant amount of time to be fighting. She may be ready to go or she might say she needs to take a step back for her health. It’s hard to tell. Ashley Cummins had a really good debut at 105 so I don’t know if they might give me her while Ayaka is healing up. Or, Ayaka might be ready to go and that is obviously the fight I want.

Explain to us the situation regarding your last scheduled fight this past March at Invicta FC 22 and your opponent, Janaisa Morandin, not making weight. Do you think that fight promotions should give a loss to a fighter who miss weight and/or fighter’s purse given to opponent?
Obviously, that would have been great had I got her purse as well. About half of my sponsors did not pay because I didn’t actually fight. Not counting all of the expenses that I put into camp. I bought flights and tickets for people. I actually moved my Iceland vacation flight for this fight and paid $600 to move my flight. Originally I had booked it for around the same time as the fight and the I had the opportunity to fight. I would rather fight so I moved my flight to the week after my fight. Just things like that. I’m out thousands of dollars so obviously it would have been great had to have a little more compensation.

At this level, and we are talking about top five, why are we talking about people missing weight? And it is not to say that I’m completely without blame. A couple fights ago, I missed by a quarter pound, but the point is that I did miss. Things do happen and like I said I’m not completely without blame. But, after that, it was a horrible feeling. I was embarrassed and I apologized to everybody; the promotion, coaches, my opponent. After that, I swore that I would never miss weight again and I haven’t since then. So, it’s hard for me to sit there and point fingers because I have done it too but I’m becoming less and less understanding of it because I know what’s involved and the hell I’ve been through every time to ensure that I make weight. At this level, why do people still not have the self-discipline to make it happen.

Are you familiar with other mixed Korean MMA fighter and personalities?
I did not know that Scott Coker was half Korean until I checked out the website. I knew he was probably mixed but didn’t know it was Korean. I follow most of them just because you can’t help feeling some sense of nationalism or camaraderie. I love Benson Henderson.

I know the One FC Atomweight (115) class is higher that Invicta FC’s but would a matchup with champ and fellow half Korean Angela Lee be a potential fight down the road?
If I were to move up in weight or if she were to come down, that would be an interesting match-up. Especially if the money was right, because I know that she is getting compensated pretty well.

Are you still working full-time outside of fighting/MMA training. How are you able to balance both?
I work part-time and then when I am in camp they’ll let me take off when I need. I work one or two days a week and I stay on-call at the hospital sometimes.

It’s actually good because it gives me a little time to do stuff outside of fighting and focus on something else. Before when I worked full-time, was a full time graduate student and competing, now not that I’m not doing that some days I wake up and I feel like I’m so unproductive and such a bum. All I did was get up and train, came home and slept, and then went and trained again. It’s kind of hard to deal with sometimes because I used to do so much. It kind of gives me a sense of purpose to get up and go to work and talk to people and step outside of fighting for a while.

Do your coworkers know about your fighting career?
Everybody that I work with are super excited about my fighting and follow my fan pages and stuff. For this last fight camp, my supervisor wanted me to do well for the fight and told me that if I was tired and didn’t feel like coming in to not worry about it. Everybody is supportive and checking in on me and willing to work with me with my work schedule.

Your husband, Douglas Frey, is also involved with MMA right?
He fought quite a bit, about 30 fights and wrestled his whole life. He’s been involved with it for so long. I would say he’s pretty much retired now and focuses on me and oversees my wrestling and strength and conditioning and nutritionist. He wears all the hats.

At this point, what goals are you striving for yourself in MMA?
I definitely would like to have been a world champion. I’m still on the fence about whether or not I would like to have had a spot in the UFC. I think it would be a cool experience but they are not the end all be all. I don’t really have any super long term goals but I really would like to capture that title. My husband is always asking me if I would want to teach afterwards but I don’t know if I would be a very good teacher. I can do it but I don’t know if I could convey that to people. I only know one way to workout and that is balls to the wall. Unless I was teaching people who are actively competing, I don’t think I would be a good teacher for the casual get in shape person. I only know one way and that is to go until you can’t go anymore. That type of working out isn’t for everybody and not everybody appreciates being pushed like that.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I would think that in five years I’ll be retired. I had broke my hand in one of my fights and had to have surgery but beyond that I really haven’t sustained any serious, permanent injury. I haven’t had any neck or back problems. I count myself lucky and I’d like to get out before something major happens. I’m a pretty active person and when I’m done fighting I still want to be able to go hiking and climbing mountains and still be able to use my body how I want to.

How long have you been married and how did you guys meet?
This year will be our fifth wedding anniversary this year and we dated for four years before that so about nine years. I was with some of my teammates and they were all guys and he kind of assumed that I wasn’t single. So he was hitting on my sister and I told him to go somewhere with that and worry about making weight! He was actually there for weigh-ins. Later on, we were in a small town and of course everyone went to the same place. After a couple drinks, I was a little bit more friendly.

What do you do to relax?
I like to travel. My husband and I are avid travelers. We save up money all year long and pick a place and go backpacking. We typically try to do one extreme physical challenge usually while we are there. We will try to climb a glacier or do some crazy long trek.

Anybody in particular you respect/look up to?
I would probably have to say Vasyl Lomachenko. He is the man. Watching him is like poetry in motion. He flows so well and just dances around people and make anybody look foolish. If I had the amount of talent that he has then I would just be smashing everybody.

What did you think about HalfKorean.com when you first saw it?
I thought it was an interesting concept focusing on this small community of people. Obviously it has its place and its own little niche because of the nationalism and camaraderie with the people that are half Korean. I thought it was a pretty interesting idea.

Any final words that you would like to pass on to the mixed Korean community?
I am proud of my Korean heritage and though we may be a smaller community of people, it’s great to stay connected and have a showing of solidarity for each other.

We want to give a huge thank you to Jinh for taking her time to do this interview with us and we wish her much continued success!

You can find out more about Jinh via her official Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also check out when her upcoming fights will be on Invicta FC.

Interview by: David Lee Sanders

Posted: 5/31/2017

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Jinh Yu Frey (Courtesy: Invicta FC)
 








SCS Atomweight Champion (Courtes: SCS)
 

Jinh with her Masters Degree from UTA
 

Jinh with her three brothers
 

(L to R) Douglas, Jinh, Jinh’s nephew and brother
 

Jinh’s father practicing Taekwondo
 




 
(Pictures courtesy of Jinh Yu Frey)

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