As the Olympics were delayed a year, so many stories have changed in the women’s divisions of freestyle wrestling.
Saturday night, six women punched their ticket to the Tokyo Games and will wrestle from August 1-7 to hopefully become Gold medalists.
Two familiar faces will be returning to the Olympics: 53 kg Gold Medalist in the 2016 Games Helen Maroulis (who qualified a weight up at 57 kg) and Adeline Gray at 76 kg, who looks for her first medal. Joining them are Sarah Hildebrandt (50kg), Jacarra Winchester (53 kg), Kayla Miracle (62 kg), and Tamyra Mensah-Stock (68 kg).
It was February 2005 when Vanessa Porto first entered mixed martial arts. Sixteen years later she has finally found a major promotion to call home.
The now former InvictaFC champion is currently the most experienced female fighter on the roster, making her MMA debut three months before Bellator featherweight champion Cris Cyborg. Both would actually face each other their rookie years. It was only a matter of time before Bellator heard her call.
The Kansas State Athletic Commission has made available open scoring to all combat sports in 2020 and so far the results have been nothing but great according for all involved.
InvictaFC was the first promotion to request judges give score information to fight teams and the audience on a round by round basis. LFA soon followed suit. The KSAC has given the media results of the initial year of using the system and though there was a small sample size due to limited events in 2020, things are pointing positive.
It was 2007 when an 1-0 Kaitlin Young stepped into her first mma tournament and became the Hook’n’Shoot champion, fighting three women in one night.
Over 13 years later, she hopes to repeat that success in the Professional Fighters League. They announced she will fight fellow InvictaFC vet Cindy Dandois in the regular season opening round May 6th in Atlantic City, New Jersey, which will air live on ESPN.
“I feel I am in the right place in my career for a tournament right now,” Young expressed.
Young is no stranger to tournaments. Besides her Hoon’n’Shoot win, she has competed in two other MMA tournaments in her career. Young told us this one is unique in many ways, especially the round robin opening round matches.
“You got this set of fights and it’s not all just riding on one fight. It takes the pressure off a bit. You can go out have have good performances heading into the playoffs. It’s a cool structure.”
The move to lightweight was strategic for her. While having fought at bantamweight most of her career, she moved to featherweight in her return to MMA in 2018 after a four year hiatus from MMA. It took her a few years to get her body ready for lightweight.
“The PFL had asked me a couple of years ago to be a part of their tournament and at the time I felt 155 was too heavy for me. I had just gone up to 145. I think its important when you go up weight classes you do it slowly.”
Young feels comfortable at the weight and feels it an advantage in terms of her training for the tournament.
“I have always been slightly envious of the guys where there is one ‘eat and train hard division’ at heavyweights and there is not one for the ladies. At 155 I don’t think I will be ridiculously over sized…This is an awesome opportunity to let your body develop the way it wants to and hard training instead of worrying about being lighter.”
“One of the benefits of the weight being higher when you can’t be out (when in a bubble). I like to run outside and I obviously can’t do that.”
The PFL announced they would be putting Covid protocols in place for the opening events, with a bubble similar to other promotions. Young fought for InvictaFC last year, joining Kayla Harrison and Taylor Guardado as the only ones in the PFL women’s tournament to go through the experience.
“The cool thing is while I am handicapped, we are all similarly handicapped,” Young observed. “I think it is harder on extroverted fighters to be honest. I am pretty introverted and I like to isolate before a fight, so I actually kind of love it. I know it is hard for some people being locked away with their thoughts before they fight. For me it is something I really enjoy; being locked up before a fight.”
Currently one of the favorites to win the tournament, Young is excited about testing her skills once again against veteran and rookie talent alike.
“They way I like to say it, fighters bring different puzzles to the table. There is some really fun fights to be had in this tournament. In a tournament type situation the experience in a helpful thing – not just technically but mentally and emotionally.”
As combat sports have been slowly coming back, athletes are looking for a stage to shine and possibility make some money in the process.
The Artemis Submission Series was formed to give some women grappers a chance to do just that.
“I have wanted to put on a tournament since I started competing,” event founder Dani Harris I always saw guys competing for money and wanted to see more opportunities for women to do the same. I enjoy being a part of growth in the sport.”
It was four years ago we released “Female Fighting: The Time is Now”.
The past few days we have went back to clean up some editing problems we initally had with the project and now have it remastered.
The documentary talks with fighters and experts about the growth of fight, its future, and the mindset of a fighter. Interviews include Julie Kedzie, Amanda Lucas, Jillian Lybarger, Taylor Guardado, among others.
As the pandemic continues, we bring you some great content.
A returning guest, Natalya Speece is currently 4-1 and is looking to turn pro in July. The southern California native has made the trip to New Mexico to train at the legendary Jackson-Winkeljohn gym to hone her stills from some of the best coaches and athletes.
Speece was also given a preview copy of “Girls, Grappling, and Grit”, which we are launching on demand through this website for $5. After the first 1000 rentals, part of the proceeds will got to WrestleLikeaGirl.org and BeatThe Streets.org. You can rent the documentary by going here.