For a fighter, winning and losing is everything. For the women of “The Girl Fight
Gym” in Toms River, New Jersey, winning means more than having your arm raised after
a match. Prairie Rugilo recognized that fact and opened her all-
Along with her training partner, Jaime Philips, Prairie coaches a fight team of people that may not have ever stepped into the ring unless they were at this gym. One of those students, DeAna Mendez,
In a weird twist of fate, GIRL FIGHT: A MUAY THAI STORY is as much my story as it was for the women I filmed for 18 months.
The concept for this documentary came to me while reading an issue of an MMA (mixed
martial arts) magazine that had a monthly feature on gyms across America. Within
plans on making her amateur debut, while Prairie prepares for a shot at a championship belt that she once held and believes she was robbed of in a controversial fight.
Prairie and DeAna must overcome their personal demons through the support of their teammates and loved ones to become the champions they want to be, embarking on a journey that takes them down roads they did not expect to go through. With the backdrop of the recovering Jersey Shore in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, these two fighters battle in and out of the ring against their greatest opponent – themselves.
It took little convincing from me for Prairie to allow me to start filming at their gym on my own, and at the time I had no idea what my story would be about. Since she was a resident of the Jersey Shore, I figured I could make a sizzle reel for a spicy reality show, but I was grateful that the gym environment was the polar opposite of a certain TV show that shared the same name as Prairie’s location.
The unique thing about making a documentary is that the story you end up telling
is different from the one you expected. As I got a few months into filming, the real
tale began to blossom. This was not going to be a movie about a bunch of fights,
but a movie about overcoming obstacles, gaining confidence, and realizing self-
The two stars of this movie are polar opposites, but go on the same journey in Muay Thai with the hope of gaining the same results – understanding themselves through the martial arts. Even thought they may not have realized it, what they did in the ring mirrored what they did outside of the ring.
Documenting them and making this movie was my five-
The slogan of the “Girl Fight Gym” is “Empowering women through martial arts,” and they truly accomplish that, inside and out. These days, confidence and self-
Thanks for watching, and I hope you enjoy the journey.